This routine title defense could hardly have represented adequate proof of Claressa Shields’s claims to be the greatest female boxer in history, but a dominant points win over Ema Kozin has cleared the way for a unification that could still validate those claims. .
It was little coincidence that Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, who currently holds three of the middleweight belts, found himself boxing on a card in Cardiff on Saturday night. The Michigan native will now face Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshall later this year, provided the WBO champion can shake off her own mandatory challenger next month, and the pair gave a glimpse of things to come as they heatedly clashed. at ringside once the celebrations died down.
It’s a momentous prospect, full of intrigue, animosity and backstory, as Marshall inflicted the only loss of Shields’ distinguished amateur career. Following the announcement of Katie Taylor’s fight against Amanda Serrano in New York this April, it promises to be a year that will propel the female half of the sport to new heights.
However, to make sure that comes to fruition, Shields had to avoid any surprises here. His Slovenian opponent, Kozin, was previously undefeated in 24 fights as a pro, but the gulf in caliber quickly became apparent shortly after the opening bell. Shields was sharper with the blow and delivered each one with threat. Kozin was brave, but was able to muster little threat in the opposition, deflecting and absorbing a strong stream of fire.
The rounds became increasingly one-sided as the contest progressed, with an exquisite left hook to the liver in the fourth sapping Kozin’s leg strength. Another relentless flurry in the fifth pinned Kozin to the ropes, with the referee poised and considering whether to thankfully stem the tide. However, there was to be no such reprieve, and the attack continued. Shields displayed his full repertoire of punches, varying between the head and the body, throwing from range as easily as mixing hooks and hooks in close quarters. Watching from ringside, Marshall pretended to doze off, but there’s little doubt about Shields’ prowess. She dominated every second of the 10 rounds and Kozin not only standing but smiling when the final bell rang felt like a victory in itself.
In the previous bout, former Team GB amateur prodigy Caroline Dubois made her highly anticipated pro debut in a six-round decision victory over Vaida Masiokaite. Dubois, the younger brother of heavyweight prospect Daniel, is considered one of the brightest talents in British boxing, with the perfect style and temperament to transition into the professional ranks. She proved it in a consummate display and although the 21-year-old was understandably a bit anxious in the first round, her superior skill was always on display. A steady barrage in the third round nearly dropped Masiokaite to the canvas, with Dubois’ furious combinations keeping up a breathless pace, but the Lithuanian showed tremendous stamina to survive and hear the final bell.
Earlier in the evening, Swansea-born Chris Jenkins gave the Welsh crowd cause for early celebration when he outpointed a faded version of former unified world champion Julius Indongo.
Chris Eubank Jr.’s younger cousin, Harlem, scored a fifth-round knockout victory over Viorel Simion before Samuel Antwi successfully defended his English welterweight title in an exciting, if often brutal, fight against Conah Walker. .
There was also a routine win, under the radar, for Tyson Fury’s former opponent, Otto Wallin. The Swedish heavyweight, who was bitterly disappointed after his box office fight against Dillian Whyte was canceled late last year, found himself on the non-televised section of the undercard against veteran Kamil Sokolowski. His performance was somewhat laborious but at least it served as a useful warm-up.
However, the biggest heavyweight display of the night was reserved for Shane Gill. The 35-year-old, who had lost his only previous fight as a pro, summoned all of his Rocky spirit to deliver a remarkable upset against overwhelming favorite Steve Robinson. Such was the shock when the verdict was announced that Gill’s own trainer burst out laughing. A memorable night for the not so little one.