SAVANNAH MARSHALL’S proposed super-fight with Claressa Shields has moved a giant step closer after the Hartlepool fighter successfully defended her WBO World Middleweight title with an explosive second-round stoppage of Lolita Muzeya at Newcastle Arena on Saturday night.

Marshall claimed the ninth knockout victory of her 11-fight professional career as she proved much too strong for her Zambian opponent, who adopted an attacking approach of her own in front of a crowd of around 11,000 North-East fight fans.

The Hartlepool Olympian is now firmly established as one of the world’s leading female fighters, but her career would reach stratospheric levels if she was to take on unbeaten American Shields, widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the women’s game.

Shields, whose only defeat as either an amateur or professional came against Marshall at the amateur World Championships, watched Saturday’s fight from the US and taunted her UK rival via video call. “Congrats! See you next year, girlie. Show you what a real fighter and real champion fights like,” she jibed.

Marshall’s response, in front of the Sky TV cameras, was emphatic. “Claressa couldn’t last two minutes with me, never mind two rounds,” she roared, drawing huge crowds from the capacity crowd.

Marshall and Shields are now set to appear on the same BOXXER-promoted card in December – although not fighting against each other – and provided they both won their contests on that bill, they should face each other in early 2022 in a fight that would be the biggest trans-Atlantic showdown in women’s boxing history.

Marshall is adamant she is ready for it, with her weekend display once again showcasing her awesome punching power. Muzeya came out with all guns blazing in a chaotic opening round, but Marshall parried the majority of the African’s blows before quickly turning the tables to land a series of her own punches.

By the start of the second round, she had Muzeya in serious trouble, and by the midway point of the round, the referee was stepping in with the Zambian reeling on the ropes.

“I knew she would come (at a fast pace),” said Marshall, who has now made two successful defences of her World title. “When I went back to the corner after the first round, Peter (Fury, trainer) said, ‘Just weather the storm – she’ll die after a couple of rounds’. Well, she only lasted one more.

“He said, ‘Just tuck up, catch her shots and just pick your own’. And he was right. As soon as I went back out, I started catching her and put her on the back foot,. But fair play to her because she came at me like a bat out of hell.”

Marshall’s previous defence of her World title had come behind-closed-doors, and the 30-year-old was delighted to be able to show off her skills in front of a raucous hometown crowd.

“I’m absolutely overwhelmed,” she said. “I can’t get over it. At the end of the day, I am still a woman in a man’s sport, and to have this amount of support is amazing. I’m on cloud nine.”

On the undercard, Hughie Fury put himself back into the heavyweight title mix with a convincing win over German Christian Hammer, while Chris Eubank Jnr successfully saw off Wanik Awdijan.