The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Rise of the Olympians: Mikaela Mayer and Savannah Marshall Celebrate Halloween By Winning Their First World Titles

Rise of the Olympians: Mikaela Mayer and Savannah Marshall Celebrate Halloween By Winning Their First World Titles

2 New Champions!

Marshall vs. Rankin: The Silent Assassin Dispatches Another Victim in London

There was no room left for candy in Savannah Marshall’s Halloween goodie bag thanks to the fact that she needed a safe place to store her newly-won championship belt before departing Wembley Arena on Saturday evening. Which, I’m assuming, was just fine with the woman they call ‘The Silent Assassin.’ No amount of Snickers bars or peanut butter cups could have possibly substituted for the sweetest treat being handed out that night, the WBO world middleweight title.

The battle for the vacant WBO belt between Marshall and Hannah Rankin was bookended by two other women’s bouts on the undercard of the main event pitting Dereck Chisora against Oleksandr Usyk. Somalian lightweight Ramla Ali, who in late September inked a multi-fight promotional deal with Eddie Hearn (joining Marshall on the ever-growing roster), debuted successfully in Matchroom’s six-round curtain raiser by outpointing Eva Hubmayer. Subsequently, both Amy Timlin and Carly Skelly remained undefeated while leaving the vacant Commonwealth super-bantamweight title unclaimed by scrapping their way to a stalemate.

As she had done on six occasions in accounting for her eight victories to date, Savannah Marshall eradicated any margin of error on the judges’ scorecards by putting an abrupt stop to Saturday’s proceedings with a dominant seventh-round TKO. Don’t let the cherubic smile and quiet, respectful demeanor fool you, Marshall is a stone cold killer in the ring. A 77% knockout ratio is virtually unheard of in women’s boxing unless your name happens to be Amanda Serrano, and yet ‘The Silent Assassin’ has now put seven of her nine victims away before the final bell.

If you’re in doubt as to Marshall’s firepower, all you need to do is ask Hannah Rankin, who felt as though she was being underestimated and overlooked and warned Savannah that, come Halloween night, the baby-faced Brit would be “in for a huge shock.” Within a seven-month span last year, Rankin was a short-term holder of the IBO world super-welterweight title, and had previously come up short in a bid to win the vacant WBA super-middleweight championship against Long Island’s Alicia Napoleon before going the distance with Claressa Shields for the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s WBA and IBF middleweight straps, with possession of the unspoken for WBC belt hanging in the balance. Shields, then 6-0, brought all three titles back to Flint, Michigan after throwing a perfect shutout but, while she may have made easy work of Rankin, Savannah Marshall thoroughly dismantled their common foe (they have one other shared opponent, Sydney LeBlanc, whom both defeated by unanimous decision) and put Claressa on notice immediately afterwards.

Fans of the female fight game have been waiting with breathless anticipation for a rematch between Shields and Marshall since they both joined the paid ranks. Savannah is the only fighter to have defeated Shields, outpointing her 14-8 in the second round of the 2012 World Championships in Qinhuangdao, China in the prelude to the London Olympics where female boxers competed for the very first time. Marshall would go all the way to the top tier of the medal stand in Qinhuangdao, which now makes her the first women’s boxer to win a world championship at both the amateur and professional levels. An Olympic gold medal eluded Savannah in both 2012 and 2016, whereas Claressa Shields was a two-time winner in the 75 kg division’s competition each year. After 2012, the pair never matched up again in the amateur brackets.

Despite the fact that Claressa brushes it off these days, that singular loss to Marshall eight years ago haunted her for quite some time and probably still occupies the dark recesses of her mind, whether or not she wants to admit it publicly. Both women are vastly improved versions of their already impressive 2012 selves which ensures that a middleweight unification bout between the slick-moving, trash-talking Claressa Shields and the humble but heavy-handed Savannah Marshall will make headlines and help put women’s boxing ever more firmly on the map.

“I think I’d have a murder charge if they let Marshall anywhere near me in a ring,” Shields boasted during a Halloween night Twitter rant. “I’d beat her that bad.”


Mayer vs. Brodnicka: Co-Feature on the Las Vegas Monster Show

The Savannah Marshall/Hannah Rankin title fight was supposed to have taken place two weeks prior, but had to be postponed when Marshall’s trainer Peter Fury tested positive for Covid-19 three days before the scheduled event. Mikaela Mayer had seen that movie before. In fact, she had firsthand experience with that exact type of frustration, having herself been informed of a positive test result for the coronavirus before her first attempt to tangle with Helen Joseph this summer.

The preliminaries to Mayer’s All Hallows’ Eve bout against Ewa Brodnicka was not without its own drama, but the trick was on Brodnicka who weighed in one ounce over the super-featherweight limit. Even an impromptu haircut wouldn’t help split the difference, forcing Ewa to abandon her WBO belt on the scale. With the world super-featherweight title stripped from Brodnicka, fighting beyond the borders of her native Poland for the first time in her seven-year career, and now available exclusively to Mayer, the two slugged it out over ten hard-fought rounds as the B-side to the ESPN+ Monster Show double feature showcasing Naoya Inoue, who would stomp Jason Maloney in the show closer.

Brodnicka’s in-ring repertoire consists of three primary skills—fluid movement, effective counterpunching, and frequent clinching. Sure enough, after repeated warnings, Ewa was penalized on two separate occasions for excessive hugging. Brodnicka did have sporadic moments of success wherein she was able to catch Mikaela recklessly coming forward with her defenses down, and made her taller, lankier challenger pay the price for her momentary lapses of vigilance, though not too dearly.

Mayer put her substantial reach advantage to good use by consistently sticking her long jab into the former champion’s face, ringing the front bell for some nice right hands that came crashing home through the open door of Brodnicka’s guard, or else creating a diversion for the well-placed body shots she unleashed before her offense could be snuffed out by yet another unwanted embrace. All things considered, Mayer simply outworked and outclassed Brodnicka to swipe Ewa’s title from off the scale even if she was oddly denied the opportunity to pose with her new belt after the rendering of the unanimous decision. Even so, Mikaela’s victory securing the WBO super-featherweight championship surely served as a celebratory birthday treat for her beloved longtime trainer Al Mitchell, who turned 77 on Halloween night.

Mayer wasted no time setting her sights on WBC titleholder Terri Harper, who defends against Katharina Thanderz in two weeks’ time, the same night Katie Taylor meets mandatory challenger Miriam Gutierrez. From there, Mayer’s master plan is to unify the division by collecting the belts of WBA champion Hyun Mi Choi and IBF queen Maiva Hamadouche before launching a campaign at 135.

From amateur laurels and Olympic competition to the lofty heights of professional world championships, Mikaela Mayer and Savannah Marshall have etched their names into boxing’s history books. The next challenge is building a legacy upon which they will tower over the mundane and be forever remembered among the immortals.

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