After Savannah Marshall’s emphatic one-punch KO win over Femke Hermans, there was a lot of hype around the matchup between Hartlepool’s Marshall and undefeated American Claressa Shields. They were both keen on doing that fight next and to some surprise, the feeling around the broadcast represented the potential of a Shields vs Marshall fight landing at 50k capacity St James Park on Sky Sports Box Office.
I don’t mean to speak badly about this fight or women’s boxing in general (both of which I’m a big fan of), but let me bring some of you back into reality about this fight.
Women’s Boxing is not as marketable Yet
Women’s boxing has been rapidly growing ever since Katie Taylor turned professional with Matchroom/Sky and Claressa Shields started headlining ShoBox – both double Olympians and 2012 Olympic Gold medalists. Cecilia Braekhus became the first woman to fight on HBO in 2018, shortly followed by Katie Taylor becoming the first to headline a major arena in the UK.
Despite this vast and rapid growth, Women’s Boxing is nowhere near as marketable as its male counterparts. Showtime embarrassingly feature virtually zero female fighters, TR has only Mikaela Mayer and BT Sport has not put on a female boxing match since Nicola Adams 2 1/2 years ago. The vast majority of female boxers are situated with just DAZN and Sky and it is not at a stage yet where a women’s fight can successfully headline a UK PPV, especially one without Katie Taylor.
Too Many PPVs Scheduled
In the late June and July period, there is the chance we will see Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2, Chris Eubank Jr vs Kell Brook, and Joe Joyce vs Joseph Parker all behind a Pay-Per-View platform. 3 PPV events in a 5/6 week period is already excessive and therefore there is no market for another PPV event, especially one that is significantly smaller than two other events on the same platform ie Sky Sports Box Office. (Eubank Brook Could also land in September)
It is very likely that in excess of One Million people will purchase Usyk vs Joshua 2. Out of those same people, another 400k may buy Eubank vs Brook, maybe half of those will purchase Joyce vs Parker so how can you expect that same audience to purchase Shields vs Marshall – another PPV event in the same timeframe?
Shield vs Marshall Purse Demands Do Not Warrant PPV
The Box Office platform is for the fights that cannot be afforded on a regular subscription budget. There is a strong argument that Shields vs Marshall is no one of those fights. Claressa Shields told Marshall’s ex-promoter Eddie Hearn publicly in 2021 that her purse demand was ‘750k’. Shields claimed had never earned above 350k in her career.
Savannah Marshall holds just one belt compared to Shields and is not as big as a name globally, meaning, neither is she a massive draw. If she takes less than Shields, there is no reason why Sheilds vs Marshall cannot happen without PPV. Boxxer/Sky Sports made both Taylor Catterall and Eubank Williams without PPV. Josh Taylor reportedly made double of Shields’ purse demand to fight Jose Ramirez with limited crowds.
Viewing Figures Do Not Equal PPV Success
Claressa Shields has never headlined in the UK before and has only fought in the UK – a co-main event slot to Eubank Williams. Marshall has never headlined under the Matchroom banner and only headlined under the Boxxer banner. Boxxer does not have the same ‘name’ headliners as Matchroom and there is case that she would never have headlined if she was still with Matchroom.
In her last outing against Femke Hermans, she averaged 76k viewers on Sky Sports Main Event for a 3-hour broadcast. While that is a very respectable number, it does not equal a major draw. The likes of Chris Eubank Jr, Conor Benn, Katie Taylor, and Josh Taylor can do 3-4x the viewership.
Shields vs Marshall: Here’s What I think
Shields vs Marshall is a fantastic regular Sky Sports Boxing Main Event. It will be a hotly anticipated night probably surpassing Taylor Catterall and Eubank Williams and will be a massive leap forward for women’s boxing but it is not a PPV event. Shields vs Marshall would sell out the Utilita Arena in Newcastle and do good numbers in London or Manchester if they want to go somewhere neutral.
The reality is there isn’t a need for this fight to be behind a paywall and therefore it should not. It would do so much more for women’s boxing for this fight to be on regular sky available for everyone to see.