Savannah Marshall reached boxing’s highest level, fighting Claressa Shields and winning the undisputed super-middleweight title against Franchon Crews-Dezurn; takes on a new mixed martial arts challenge with the PFL and trains alongside top UFC heavyweight Tom Aspinall
The author: John Dennen, sports journalist
10:13 UK Friday 3 November 2023
Savannah Marshall is the undisputed boxing champion taking on the world of mixed martial arts.
Boxing events have featured high-profile MMA fighters, most sensationally and most recently Francis Ngannou, who put Tyson Fury under a lot of pressure in a narrow decision loss.
Marshall is a boxer who goes in the opposite direction. In addition to continuing his boxing career, he intends to host an MMA event in the PFL.
He already trains in mixed martial arts. “For the first time in a long, long time, I feel like an absolute rookie. For the first time in my life, I can really, really appreciate MMA,” he says. Sky Sports.
“Hats off to anybody who gets in that cage,” Marshall said, but added, “It’s refreshing. It’s nice, it’s new and I’m enjoying it.”
The impact of Ngannou’s introduction to boxing still reverberates through the sport.
“I think it was a shock. It was a huge shock. I think Tyson massively underestimated him. I think he massively underestimated him. I think Ngannou is a good fighter, a good boxer. But I think his performance wasn’t on a world level.” it was just against one of the best in the world that fell way short for me,” Marshall said.
“I don’t think boxing has been in too good of a light lately,” she continued. “Boxing has been taken over by YouTube boxing. So traditional boxers have to try to get one back.”
Marshall might like to become the standard bearer for boxers in MMA, but he’s the first to admit he has a lot to learn.
“I’m not under any illusions that I’m an MMA fighter. I’m not. It’s an opportunity that I’ve been given and something that I’m really, really excited about. If I can go out there and show that I’m an all-around fighter and I can do the sport, that would be great for me,” she said.
“It’s hard, it’s really, really hard. So fair play to Francis. Because nobody gave him a hell of a chance.”
Marshall trains with elite mixed martial artists such as Tom Aspinall, a rising UFC heavyweight star.
“He was coming at Hughie from time to time. I thought he was quite a rookie at the time,” Marshall said.
“He was moving a lot, and heavyweights don’t really move a lot. When I watched him fight, he was quite bouncy, where you don’t really see that in professional boxing. You can get that in amateur fights, but not really professional fights.” But then when I watch him in MMA, it works so well.
“He’s so fast, he’s so quick. His skills are unbelievable.”
Eventually, she expects to renew her feud with Claressa Shields. The American, who defeated Marshall last year in an undisputed fight for the middleweight championship, has already competed in the PFL. They could definitely fight again, but hopefully in MMA next time.
This development “puts fuel back into the rivalry”.
Marshall is expecting his first competitive MMA fight next year. “I injured my hand in the last match [when she beat Franchon Crews-Dezurn to become undisputed super-middleweight champion] so I’m slowly coming back to striking, sparring,” she said.
“I want to have another round of boxing in March. Nothing is set in stone but that’s exactly what I’m aiming for, then I’ll step into the SmartCage in June and July.”
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