NOTE: The Shields vs. Habazin fight has been cancelled as of Friday, October 4 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
See the updated article for more news: Shields fight cancelled after opponent’s trainer attacked before weigh-in
San Diego, Calif., October 3, 2019 – After Claressa Shields put on the best performance of her professional boxing career in April to unify the women’s middleweight division for the first time in boxing history, the WBA/WBC/IBF titleholder declared herself ready for a new challenge.
Shields (9-0, 2 KOs) kept her promise. The 24-year-old will go after her second division title by dropping to the super welterweight (154 pound) division to face Ivana Habazin of Croatia (20-3, 7 KOs) with both the vacant WBC and WBO world female super welterweight titles on the line. The women fight in the main event, taking place in Shields’ hometown of Flint, Michigan and airing on Showtime Boxing Saturday at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
If Shields wins her tenth pro fight Saturday, she will be the fastest fighter in history to conquer three divisions, and also the first to do it while going down in weight rather than up. (168-160-154). The current record holder is fellow two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasiliy Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs), who won his third world title in his 12th professional bout.
Is Shields the #GWOAT?
Shields said she took the fight because she’s cleaned out the middleweight division, after starting her career at super middleweight. “Every time I came out of a division, there’s someone telling me I’m not the greatest woman of all time. I love when they says that, because I want you to come show me I’m not the greatest woman of all time. Ivana is here to do that.”
Habazin knows she is the underdog, but says this makes her the most dangerous kind of opponent: one with nothing to lose. “I only can change everything and if not now, then when?” said Habazin. “So I’m ready, I’m 100% ready. I’m really focused on that … One punch can change everything. You can be good all fight, but you can finish on the floor in the last second. So everything is possible. Claressa is a great fighter, but I believe in myself and that’s it.”
“I don’t know what Ivana came here to do, but I’m telling you right now, it’s going less than five rounds,” promised Shields. “She said her game plan was to stand there and bang with me. Not with muscles like this. She’s going to sleep and her coach is going to be carrying her out on a pillow.
“I watched every fight of hers. Her last six or seven fights, nothing changes. It’s the same combinations. Same hand speed. Getting caught with the same shots. When you see me box, you see improvement. I’m not coming here to Flint to play no games with her.
“I’m a 168 fighter. And I have to keep coming down to these girls’ weight because they’re scared to come see me. So I came to 154, and I came to see her. I’m going to show her. As you can see, this is the Claressa Shields show. It’s about me. There’s no friction in my camp. We are about business and we’re about the money. Pay me.”
Habazin: ‘I came here to win’
Habazin, who has fought in four title fights including a loss in 2014 to Cecilia Braekhus, won the vacant IBO world middleweight title. She says none of the pre-fight talk bothers her.
“I’m not going to make a big show and trash talk. For me, this is just part of the job of what I have to do before I fight. All that matters is what is going to happen in the ring.
“This win on Saturday is going to change my life. This is my biggest fight ever. She’s right now the top women’s boxer, so there couldn’t be a bigger victory. I didn’t come here to lose. I came here to win.”
The fight also offers up a first rate trainer matchup. Shields is trained by John David Jackson, Habazin by Ali Bashir. Habazin says she worked harder during her camp in Colombia in the last four months than she has in her entire boxing career. She has sparred with Raquel Miller, Chris Namus, and Kali Reis, plus several Colombian fighters. “They really pushed me and that was really, really hard. I’ve never sparred hard before like this and I feel ready. I’m really confident and I’m coming to win. This preparation makes me much more confident that October 5 is going to be my night.”
Shields accepts her assignment as a role model
In the fight lead up, Shields has stepped up as a role model for her hometown, an assignment she eagerly accepts. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver thanked Shields for coming back home and making a mark in her community.
“I’m bringing the fight back to Flint, and I feel like me becoming a three- time division world champion, the best time to do so is now,” said Shields. “I just feel like right now is the right time to just inspire the city and inspire the kids.”
“I’m only 24 years old and I think that women’s boxing has been quiet long enough. I feel like we haven’t got our due just because we haven’t spoken up enough about it.
“I don’t really feel the need to have to be quiet and has to be whatever they call lady-like. Like I’m a lady, and I spoke a lady, and I’m going to do what I want to do and that makes me feel good at night. The day that you can hear me not talking, something is wrong. So I’m going to do what I want to do.
“I feel like I’m a great role model and I just want to tell everybody to be who they are, and don’t try to pretend to be somebody you’re not for social media or for cameras. You’ll never have to keep lying about who you’re not. So it’s about me being comfortable with myself, and just being who I am and doing what I’m most comfortable doing. And I feel like I’m being a great role model if I’m doing that because a lot of girls look up to me and they say, “You being so confident makes me confident,” so why would I stop being confident?” asked Shields.
Shields has never lacked for confidence as a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Her technique, accuracy, punch selection and power has greatly improved thanks to trainer Jackson. The wild looping punches are gone. By learning how to break down opponents in a systematic way instead of swinging for a knockout, Shields has been able to dominate good opponents.
Unless the weight loss takes an unexpected toll on Shields, expects her to break down a game Habazin just as she did Christina Hammer in April, winning decisively whether or not she gets the stoppage to make women’s boxing “herstory.”
Undercard features Michigan heavyweight prospect Jermaine Franklin
The broadcast undercard features fellow Michigan native and heavyweight prospect Jermaine Franklin (19-0, 13 KOs) of Saginaw, who also appeared on Shields’ previous fight card in April. He will face Pavel Sour of the Cazechh Republic (11-1, 6 KOs). Unbeaten welterweight prospect Jaron “Boots” Ennis of Philadelphia (23-0, 21 KOs) takes on Argentina’s Demian Daniel Fernandez (12-1, 5 KOs).
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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