This past Saturday was a wonderful day to be a boxing fan, with multiple cards throughout the day littered with compelling fights. From Claressa Shields moving one step closer to a showdown with Savannah Marshall to Keith Thurman's impressive return from a lengthy layoff to beat Mario Barrios, there was plenty of intriguing action for boxing fans of all stripes.
While Thurman vs. Barrios drew the most attention of the weekend's slate of events (read our complete coverage of the fight here) even the most dedicated boxing fan may have had trouble catching every bit of the action. With that in mind, let's take a look at all the most important things to know coming out of a busy weekend inside the ring.
Shields cruises again, confronts Marshall
There was little concern that Shields would struggle to pick up a win over Ema Kozin when the two faced off in Cardiff, Wales. And, as usual, Shields cruised to a unanimous decision win, taking all three official scorecards 100-90 and defending her WBC, WBA, and IBF middleweight titles in the process. Shields hadn't fought at middleweight since 2019 and hadn't boxed in nearly a year, having focused on her mixed martial arts career over the majority of 2021. The struggles she'd encountered in the MMA cage -- which included her first loss as a professional fighter -- didn't seem to shake her confidence in any way when it came to returning to the boxing ring. Shields had done her usual pre-fight talk of scoring a knockout, but her knockout drought now is extending back nearly five years. The Michigan native has scored only two stoppages in her career. Of course, it would be almost unfair if Shields had devastating power to go along with her elite technical skills.
The win over Kozin was mostly important in moving toward a four-belt unification with WBO champion Savannah Marshall, which is one of the biggest fights that can be made in women's boxing. Shields called for the fight after her win, saying Marshall just needed to take care of business in her March 12 fight with Femke Hermans and the fight would happen. Marshall and promoter Ben Shalom then entered the picture, suggesting a June date for the fight before Marshall and Shields began firing off trash talk.
Chris Eubank Jr. knocks down Liam Williams four times
Eubank and Williams met in a grudge match in the main event of the card that featured Shields' win. Eubank could hardly have impressed more early, scoring three knockdowns in the opening four rounds. The problems for Eubank came when he couldn't get the finish, and whether he admitted it or not, allowed Williams to battle back into the fight down the stretch. Eubank scored a fourth knockdown late and certainly deserved the decision, but the fight was closer than it should have been considering the four knockdowns.
Eubank has six straight wins and wants to get in the title mix at middleweight, but the performance against Williams leaves some lingering question marks. One route toward earning a title shot could be rematching Billy Joe Saunders. Saunders won a split decision in a bout for the European, British and Commonwealth middleweight titles in their November 2014 meeting and the pair still don't like each other. After Eubanks' win, Saunders suggested that he'd be up for the fight and would have no problem, even if he had to drain himself to cut weight.
"He hasn't got what it takes to beat me," Saunders said in an interview. "He'll box when I'm ready. He hasn't really done anything in the game apart from his dad's name where you can let someone call the shots. Anybody with any brain knows it'll be Saunders-Eubank."
Jesse Rodriguez becomes boxing's youngest champion
When Srisaket Sor Rungvisai was forced out of his rematch with Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC super flyweight title, Jesse Rodriguez answered the call on short notice. It was a bold move for Rodriguez, who was already scheduled for a flyweight bout on the card. The risk of stepping up both in weight and level of competition paid off for Rodriguez, who put on a truly brilliant performance in a very good fight to win his first world championship while improving to 15-0.
The win also earned Rodriguez the notable accomplishment of becoming the youngest current world champion in boxing at just 22 years old. Super flyweight is a talent-loaded division and Rodriguez is in a space where he can fight at any weight from 108 to 115 pounds. That leaves some very appealing options for a young fighter who has a very fan-friendly style. On the list of potential fights Rodriguez mentioned after his victory is a showdown between the winner of the Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and Julio Cesar Martinez bout on March 5.