Showtime results: Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer win, set up middleweight showdown
Claressa Shields became a unified titleholder in her second weight class, Friday night, once earning a unanimous decision (97-92 twice, 98-91) over Hanna Gabriels, after the toughest fight of her young career. The contest was the main event of a Salita Promotions card held at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, Michigan, and televised live on Showtime.
“She’s strong. Caught me with a shot in the first,” Shields said in the post-fight interview with Showtime’s Steve Farhood, before describing how she out-landed and out-willed her Costa Rican opponent. “I see, in the sixth round, she started to get tired. I fought her some more. She had some heart and she fought her ass off and showed she was a champion.”
Fighting out of nearby Flint, Shields, 6-0 (2), looked shocked to be on her backside, with a little less than a minute to go in the first round. Gabriels, 18-2-1 (11), who started out aggressive, put her there with an uppercut/left hook combo, that caught Shields off-balance and knocked her down. Shields was fixated on the mouthpiece that trickled out of her mouth, and onto the canvas, as this was the first time ever being in this situation. Once getting up, Shields’ tone changed and so did the confident home crowd, that cheered wildly every chance it could.
Gabriels, the WBA/WBO titleholder at junior middleweight, had a very loose approach to fighting Shields. With her hands down, most of the fight, Gabriels took chances by rushing on the inside and her aggressiveness seemed to catch Shields off-guard, at times. Heated exchanges started to happen in the second, and, once the round ended, Gabriels was already starting to breathe out of her mouth. Her volume dwindled in the middle rounds but Gabriels mustered enough energy in the seventh and eighth rounds to make them interesting. Gabriels took plenty of shots in the fight and proved to be tough, showing no signs of being seriously hurt or in trouble, just tired midway through, and made Shields focus hard for the entire 10 rounds.
“I’m the greatest woman of all time. I can get out on my ass, get back up, go 10 rounds and win,” Shields proclaimed.
After the knockdown, Shields, 23, showed great composure, especially starting in the third round. The two-time Olympic gold medalist kept her guard up, trusted her jab and used her hand speed to get the better of exchanges. It helped tire out Gabriels midway through but maybe this had more to do with the sustained offense Shields was able to maintain. There was no slowing down on her end but Shields wasn’t dominant enough to make the fight a one-sided beatdown. With the shocking start setting the precedent, the fight was hotly contested and had enough leather thrown to keep it interesting. Perhaps more importantly, Shields was given real competition in Gabriels – which happens so rarely in female boxing – and Shields may become a better fighter having gone through it.
“I’ll accept my loss with dignity. I gave my all,” Gabriels said after the loss. “I’m still a 154 (-pound) champion. You have to stand tall.”
Shields vs. Gabriels was merely a steppingstone toward a bigger and better opponent for the American darling.
“Where’s Hammer? I’ll whoop her ass right now!,” Shields proclaimed to end the post-fight interview.
Christina Hammer defended her unified WBC and WBO middleweight titles after receiving a wide unanimous decision (100-90, 99-91 twice) over Tori Nelson.
Making her American debut, Hammer, 23-0 (10), controlled the fight with an accurate jab that Nelson couldn’t find her way around. Nelson, 17-2 (3), who had a distinct height and reach advantage against Hammer, tried to force a fight in the inside and, when finally getting a shot off, the champion from Germany had the ability to spin her around and let off a combination of her own. Hammer’s hand speed started to come into play, in the later rounds, but Nelson was tough enough to make it to the final bell.
“She was a tough fighter and can take punches,” Hammer said in the post-fight interviews. “I hope the U.S.A. is good with this and I’m the champ.”
Hammer, who has held her WBO middleweight title for eight years, has been in the works to face Shields since the American made her debut on Showtime. With a viable opponent now built for her, Hammer can now cement herself in female boxing history, by upstaging Shields.
“I’m very interested in this fight,” Hammer said before Shields’ win. “I’m ready for the fight, whoever is the winner.”
In the opening bout of the Showtime telecast, Umar Salamov stopped Brian Howard in the ninth round, to erase an otherwise frustrating night. The light heavyweight contest was scheduled for ten.
Salamov, 21-1 (16), had trouble getting much rhythm going against a defensive-minded counterpuncher, who was winning actionless rounds, with one clean punch. In the second and seventh rounds, Howard, 13-2 (10), had a counter rights that were the only memorable punches, through a sloppy affair, with Salamov over-reaching against the shoulder roll. In the ninth, Salamov, 24, landed a few right hands to set up a perfect one-two that sparked Howard, and it was seemingly the first time the Russian landed a flush shot. The 38-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, stood stiffly and motionless before crumbling to the mat and eventually getting counted out.