SAVANNAH MARSHALL returns to the ring for the first time since her undefeated record and world middleweight title were unceremoniously taken by Claressa Shields in October.
But despite that unanimous decision defeat at the o2 Arena on what was a momentous occasion for women’s boxing, Marshall is bouncing straight back with a crack at all four world championship belts at super-middleweight.
Her opponent up in Manchester this week is Franchon Crews-Dezurn, the Baltimore boxer whose only defeat also came at the hands of Shields. That night, both Crews-Dezurn and Shields were making their professional debuts but it was the self-styled “GWOAT” who got the nod after four-twos at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas. That was back in November 2016 and was on the undercard of Andre Ward’s first victory over Sergey Kovalev, which tells you how long ago it was since she last lost a fight.
And talk about a baptism of fire for Crews-Dezurn, but she has barely put a foot wrong in the eight fights and eight wins since. In her last outing she beat Elin Cederroos to claim the IBF and WBA titles, which completed the set for the 36-year-old.
As such, a defence of all four belts against Marshall was seen as a suitable headline slot here after the rematch between Liam Smith and Chris Eubank Jr fell through. Instead of pulling the whole show, BOXXER decided to elevate this to the main event. Smith and Eubank were initially supposed to meet again in June but the fight got postponed until this date after Smith suffered an injury. Now it is unclear whether they will even box again with Eubank once more linked to a showdown with Conor Benn instead.
Regardless, the main event in Manchester looks like it will be 10 exciting two-minute rounds between Marshall, a languid and unorthodox puncher, and Crews-Dezurn, who is all-action but can be crude. Despite being the one who is stepping up a weight class here, Marshall is the taller of the two and Crews-Dezurn will know she has to get up close to land her trademark hooks to head and body.
She might just walk onto something in the process and it will be interesting to see how Marshall’s power carries up at the 12-stone limit. The Hartlepool Olympian has ended 10 of her 12 wins inside the distance but she will likely need all 10 rounds here to win a points decision.
In the other women’s fight on the card, Marshall’s London 2012 team-mate Natasha Jonas moves down to welterweight to face Canadian Kandi Wyatt for the vacant IBF title. Jonas, 39, currently holds three belts at light-middleweight and, like Marshall, should become a two-weight world champion here.
Wyatt has lost three of her last four fights, including a seventh-round TKO at the hands of Jessica McCaskill in December 2021. She returned from that defeat to beat Kirstie Bavington in March and that was seemingly enough for her to earn a shot at a world title.
But she will do well to beat an in-form Jonas, who responded to a close defeat to Katie Taylor in May of 2021 by winning four on the spin. The last was a clear points victory over Marie Eve Dicaire in November at the Manchester Arena and she will repeat the trick under the same roof this time around.
BOXXER did not have much luck with injuries for this card with Mark Heffron withdrawing from his clash with Zak Chelli, which looked set to be a real super-middleweight barnburner. Instead, Londoner Chelli will take on the 15-0 (4) late replacement Mark Jeffers.
Chelli, still just 25, is coming off the back of the most notable win of his career: a 10-round unanimous decision victory over Anthony Sims Jr at Wembley Arena in February. He has designs on breaking into the world top 10 and beating Heffron would have been another feather in the cap. He is a big favourite against Jeffers, who has never mixed it at this level before. In fact, of his 15 fights, only four of them have been scheduled for more than six rounds. Chelli is well placed to hand him his first defeat here, and could get the job done down the stretch.
Also on the undercard is Ben Whittaker’s second fight in four months as he takes on Vladimir Belujsky in the first eight-round fight of his career. The Olympian stopped Jordan Grant inside three rounds in Birmingham in May and BOXXER wasted no time in getting him back out following a nine-month lay-off before that fight.
Whittaker has been criticised by some for his early career showmanship but you sense he will not mind one bit. Nor will he change tact for this one, either. Belujsky, also known as “Big Bad Vlad”, is by far the 26-year-old’s most experienced opponent and he went the eight-round distance with both Jack Cullen and Karol Itauma during 2022. As such, a stoppage will be seen as a mini statement for Whittaker and he should manage it.
There is also an intriguing clash for Callum Simpson, making his second appearance since signing with BOXXER, who takes on tough Boris Crighton over eight rounds at super-middleweight. Crighton caught the eye in defeat when he took Lyndon Arthur 10 rounds at light-heavyweight on a day’s notice in March and he will fancy the job of upsetting Simpson here.
Barnsley’s Simpson has impressed during his 11-0 (9) career to date but he has never really had much coming back. In fact, he has racked up those 11 wins in just 24 rounds, which shows he has emerged as something of a puncher. So it will be interesting to see how things go if Crighton can make it to the second half of the fight and land some shots of his own. Even so, this should be a victory for the touted Simpson, 26, but he may require the referee’s scorecard to secure the W.