Claressa Shields Wins Clash of Warriors and Hammer Dominates
By David A. Avila
America’s Claressa Shields survived a shocking early knockdown to win the WBA and IBF middleweight world titles and WBC and WBO middleweight titlist Christina Hammer retained her place in line on Friday to set up a potential showdown.
Shields will meet Hammer as many predicted but it wasn’t easy.
Shields (6-0, 2 KOs) knew ahead of time that Costa Rica’s Hanna Gabriels (18-2-1,11 KOs) was her most talented opponent to date and discovered very quickly why at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, Michigan. The dropping down in weight had a price.
A first round right uppercut-left hook combination by Gabriels dropped Shields early and let the fans in the audience and the viewers on television know that dropping down a weight could be dangerous, especially when it comes to talent and speed. It was the first time in Shields pro career she had been knocked down let alone lost a round.
“It didn’t change my manner. She is very fast and she does have a lot of power,” said Gabriels about scoring a knockdown.
Shields said it did not faze her.
“For her to come up she is strong, she caught me with a shot in the first round,” said Shields adding that she was ready for the follow-up. “She’s going to move and try to catch me with a big shot. I thought to myself you still got to be smart, tire her out.”
Shields eventually regrouped after the second round once she adjusted to Gabriels speed.
Her trainer John David Jackson re-directed her to target the body more and use feints instead of diving in. It proved to be good advice.
Shields used her four and five punch combinations but found Gabriels too elusive defensively. After the first two round eruptions of blows by both fighters, the rest of the fight was more controlled.
By the fifth round Gabriels seemed very tired and fewer punches were coming from her direction. The younger Shields continued to fire salvos and though not all were landing enough connected to win the rounds.
The sixth round saw both fighters erupt once again as Shields connected with an overhand right and followed with two lead rights. Gabriels retaliated with a strong four-punch combination and the two exchanged with a flurry of blows until the bell sounded.
Gabriels turned on the juice in the seventh round after Shields connected with two rights, the Costa Rican countered with two left hooks. Gabriels was still punching until the bell. It was her best round since the first.
After years of spending her pro career as first a 147-pounder, and then a 154-pounder, Gabriels was accustomed to facing speedier opposition. Maybe not as fast as Shields but the difference helped her contend with Shields who normally had fought much slower super middleweights. The loss in weight may also have drained the former two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Shields regained control of the fight from the eighth round until the end with her ability to win the exchanges. Time after time she would land the very last blow during exchanges. After 10 rounds the judges saw it 97-92 twice and 98-91 for Shields who now has won world titles in the middleweight and super middleweight divisions.
It’s quite an accomplishment.
“I can be put on my ass, get up and fight 10 rounds,” said Shields. “She (Gabriels) has a heart and she fought her ass off. She showed she’s a champion.”
When asked what made Shields the winner, Gabriels easily knew the answer.
“It was a great fight. The difference was she is big,” said Gabriels who will return to super welterweight. “She’s powerful.”
In the past WBC and WBO titlist Hammer (23-0, 10 KOs) moved around the boxing ring as if on skates. But against the shorter Tori Nelson (17-2-3) she mostly stood her ground and used her size, reach and jab to keep the challenger at the end of her punches. And she landed a whole lot of punches to win by unanimous decision after 10 rounds.
Hammer had more than five inches in both height and reach advantage and in the opening round showed a stiff jab followed by sometimes three, four and five-punch combinations at the rushing shorter Nelson. It was a template the German based fighter used in every round.
Nelson showed the grit and determination that had caught the admiration of Shields when they fought. But the Virginia-based fighter just didn’t have the experience that comes from an extensive amateur background to counter the length and size of Hammer.
After 10 almost identical rounds all three judges scored heavily in favor of Germany’s Hammer 100-90, 99-91 twice. Now the German girl will be facing Shields for all of the middleweight world titles before the end of the year.
“The best answer would be a KO but I’ll accept it,” said Hammer about winning by decision but not by knockout. “She (Nelson) can get so many punches. She is tough. I’m the champ.”
Now the world will see Hammer versus Shields. Expect the extraordinary.