WITH Claressa Shields watching on from ringside, Savannah Marshall knocked out Femke Hermans in just three rounds on Saturday (April 2) in Newcastle. The same Hermans who Shields failed to halt in 2018 and the same Shields who Marshall is so eager to challenge.

“You’re next,” hissed the winner to Shields after taking precisely six minutes to demolish the WBO middleweight title challenger. One hopes it at last sets up a confrontation with the self-annointed Greatest Woman Of All Time. Or GWOAT, if you prefer.

That is assuming both parties agree on a summer date and, more pertinently, a location. It might not be straightforward as Shields appeared reluctant to return to Newcastle where, predictably, she was the pantomime villain every time she appeared in public view or was seen on the big screen. While her unwavering self-belief will have been in no way dented, witnessing Marshall’s show of destructive power may well have registered as the “Silent Assassin” took out her target. Not so silent anymore, however.

The opening exchanges were lively with the 32-year-old Hermans in no way overawed by the size of her task inside the Utilita Arena. Hermans connected with some sharp right counters and was even happy to trade in the third round. But the Hartlepool fighter, who switched seamlessly between orthodox and southpaw, was beginning to exert her authority.

A stiff jab and a right drove her opponent back and while Savannah missed with a right, her left hook thudded into the exposed head of Femke, who crashed heavily to the canvas. Referee Howard Foster called it off instantly on the 2-00 mark.

Hermans, thankfully, recovered quickly, allowing Marshall, who once shied away from crowds, to savour every second of acclaim from the raucous audience.

Savannah Marshall

There was a statement win too for Florian Marku, who stopped Chris Jenkins at 1-41 of the fourth of a scheduled 10 rounds. The London-based Albanian, enjoying a rare outing outside his adopted home city, wowed the Geordies with his own eye-catching finish to a gripping welterweight contest, before calling out Amir Khan. Marku, though, should perhaps set his sights on a boxer who is active and at their best.

Jenkins produced some beautiful movement and boxing, his jab and head combinations scoring well, none more so in the third after Marku was cut to the left eye after a head clash. Florian had boxed well himself, proving effective in a southpaw stance, but the end came from a booming orthodox overhand right to the Welshman’s temple. The ex-British and Commonwealth champ somehow stayed up, but when he attempted a retreat he was in bother and after Marku drove in two further rights, referee Steve Gray correctly intervened.

An overhand right was a significant feature of Zak Chelli’s entertaining super-middle battle with late sub Jack Kilgannon, another bout which failed to reach the final bell. After Diego Costa could not make the weight, the unbeaten Oldham boxer stepped in and was a formidable foe who simply refused to budge under heavy fire.

That was until the sixth when he was felled by a right-left-right combination from the Londoner.

Zak, out of action for 12 months, was clearly keen to impress and had a penchant for the overhand right which duly landed with the follow-up punches putting Kilgannon down. Referee Darren Maxwell waved it off at 2-59. It was set for eight.

There was further progress for Brad Rea, who was a 78-73 winner over Namibia’s Lukas Ndafoluma, from referee Ron Kearney. After winning a thriller against Jez Smith on Boxxer’s previous Tyneside event, this eight-rounder was more restrained, but no less rewarding as the Stretford middleweight picked some great shots against a seasoned operator. One such punch came right at the end of the fourth round he was behind in, when he decked Ndafluma with a short left hook to the chin. Lukas was ambitious and busy throughout and won points early but Rea’s quality took it. 

Londoner Michael Likalu launched Team Fury’s clean sweep with his first pro victory in the show-opener, keeping his shape nicely before a cut to Carl Turney’s left eye prompted referee Neil Close to stop the Bognor Regis man at 0-36 of the fourth of six.

A trio of North-East talent registered their best wins in six-rounders. Howdon super-welter April Hunter, with Peter Fury in her corner for the first time, boxed with aggression and accuracy to outpoint Ester Konecna, from the Czech Republic, ref Maxwell scoring it 60-54. Georgia O’Connor impressed in her second paid contest, defeating ambitious Argentinian Erica Alvarez, Durham’s ex-Team GB middleweight getting a 60-55 verdict from Maxwell with Close inside the ropes.  Middlesbrough’s powerhouse cruiser Michael Webster recorded his fifth stoppage success on the spin when he put down Hamburg-based Kosovan Erdogan Kadrija twice in round three, with Kearney halting it at 1-58.

Luke Cope, back after a three-year absence, was given a tough argument by Derbyshire’s Lee Connelly, but the Hartlepool super-lightweight came through 39-37 from Kearney, with Close refereeing.

There were two little v large heavyweight four-rounders, large prevailing in both. Coventry’s Matty Harris ended his with a stunning right upper cut which floored Estonia’s Mait Metsis, Maxwell halting it at 1-47 of the first. Wolverhampton’s Hosea Stewart, all 344lbs of him, won a gentle-paced affair with Swindon’s Phil Williams, a mere 253lb, Kearney scoring it 40-37.   

Those who stayed to the end were treated to an entertaining show-closer as Chloe Watson outpointed  Bournemouth’s game Gemma Ruegg, the Birkenhead girl winning 40-36 from Kearney, with Close in charge.

The Verdict Savannah Marshall appears to be getting better by the fight under trainer Peter Fury.