IT has been quite a year for women’s sport. The Lionesses triumphed at Wembley, paving the way for Beth Mead to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the Red Roses reached the final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup before going down narrowly to New Zealand, Eve Muirhead and the rest of the women’s curling team won GB’s only gold medal at the Winter Olympics, and Jessica Gadirova was crowned World gymnastics champion on the floor.

Savannah Marshall didn’t achieve everything she wanted to in 2022, but in October, the Hartlepool fighter played a starring role in a sporting occasion that marked another huge milestone in the evolution of female sport in this country. In the biggest women’s boxing contest in history, in front of a sold-out crowd at London’s O2 Arena and a television audience of millions on Sky, Marshall suffered a narrow points defeat to American Claressa Shields, whose victory saw her become the undisputed World Middleweight champion.

When Marshall first took up boxing at the Hartlepool Headland Club at the age of 12, she was regarded as something of a freak, a girl stepping into an arena that had previously been reserved for boys and men. Now, almost two decades later, she has helped spearhead a sporting transformation that has seen the status and profile of women’s boxing completely transformed. Today, female fighters have not just become normalised, they are promoted and championed every bit as enthusiastically as their male counterparts.

“I do take pride at how far we’ve come,” said Marshall, who was a star of the amateur ranks before turning professional in 2017. “When I look back and think of what it was like when I was first starting here in Hartlepool, when you hardly ever saw a girl boxer in the gym and when it was pretty much impossible to get a fight or get on a bill, it means a lot to know those days have changed and other girls are going to have a different experience now.

“You only have to look back three or four years, and female professional boxing wasn’t even a thing in the UK. Now, we’re selling out arenas. It’s amazing how far it’s come, really, and how many doors have been opened up that were closed to female boxers before.

“It feels like an awful lot has changed. I’m not saying that all the work has been done, because it definitely hasn’t, but it does feel as though female boxing is right up there now. Females are on all the top cards, the pay is getting better and it’s starting to feel as though we’re genuinely being treated as equals. It’s coming on in leaps and bounds.”

Marshall’s super-fight with Shields confirmed as much, with October’s contest more than living up to the hype as the pair threw the kitchen sink at each other throughout the course of ten rip-roaring rounds.

Plenty of respected boxing pundits have selected the showdown as their Fight of the Year, and excitement is already building around the prospect of a blockbusting rematch in 2023.

Marshall has activated a rematch clause in the original contract, and would like to stage part two at St James’ Park in Newcastle in the summer. Shields’ team say there are ‘exploring the possibility’ of a second fight with Marshall, but have hinted they would push for a rematch to take place in the United States.

Either way, it would be one of the biggest boxing dates in the 2023 calendar, and while Shields’ technical excellence ultimately proved decisive in the autumn, Marshall is confident she could turn the tables if they were to meet again.

“I think the rematch would be different because I think I’ve seen the best version of Claressa,” she said. “I don’t think she’ll get any better than that, I really don’t. But I can only get better if I do a few little things differently. So, yeah, I do think it’ll be different this time. I’ve got a second stab at it, and I’m going to go for it.”

Even though she finished on the wrong side of the verdict, Marshall’s profile outside the boxing world has soared in the wake of her World-title defeat.

She was a guest of honour as Newcastle United’s women’s side played at St James’ Park last month, and was proud to help support women’s sport in the North-East, and confirmed the activation of the rematch clause during an appearance on Sky Sports’ Soccer AM show last weekend.

Her friend and subsequent Queen of the Jungle, Jill Scott, was part of her ring-walk at the O2 in October, and the pair are now firmly established as part of North-East sporting royalty.

“There’s a lot of opportunities that are coming my way now,” said Marshall. “I probably would have got a lot more opportunities if I’d won, but I’m still moving forward and the opportunities are still there. I’m still yet to achieve my dream of becoming the undisputed champion, but it’ll come.”

That steely focus means there will always be a degree of regret about what happened in October – “In the end, it’s all about winning isn’t it,” is a line that forms part of our conversation – but in her more reflective moments, Marshall can still take a huge amount of pride from her starring role in a stellar year for women’s sport.

“I’ve seen how much boxing has changed, but it’s not just been the boxing,” she said. “It’s been a big year for women’s football and women’s rugby, and even when you’ve been watching the men's World Cup, it’s been great to see all the female presenters and pundits.

"That wouldn’t have happened a few years ago, but it is now."