SAN DIEGO, Calif., January 10, 2020 – The twice delayed, long-anticipated super welterweight title fight between current unified middleweight women’s champion Claressa Shields of Flint, Michigan (10-0. 2 KOs) and Ivana Habazin of Croatia (20-4, 7 KOs) turned out to be a one-sided coronation of the fighter many believe is the queen of the sport today.
Shields dominated an overwhelmed Habazin, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 100-89, 100-90, and 99-89. Shields also scored her first legitimate knockdown via a right hook to the body. It seemed to delight her even more than the realization of her goal: to win three division championship titles in the fewest number of fights. Shields did it in ten fights, bettering the record set by another two-time Olympic gold medalist, Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“It wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m happy with the improvement. I dropped her with a body shot, of all shots. I have so many champions here. It feels great. I did it in ten fights. Now I’m number one, the fastest boxer in history to become a three-division world champ, going backwards in weight,” said Shields.
Shields earned her titles at super middleweight, middleweight, and now super welterweight. She did so with surprising ease. According to CompuBox, Shields landed 141 of 516 punches (27 percent) and Habazin connected with just 49 of 285 (17 percent).
Shields continues to improve her fundamental skills, mixing up punches and moving nicely and easily in the ring. Habazin spent so much time protecting herself. she produced little offense to trouble Shields. Trainer John David Jackson was an excellent choice to work with Shields. He’s a patient, steady presence, keeping his instructions simple and encouraging in the corner.
“I wanted victory. I think Ivana can take a piece of humble pie, go back to Croatia and become a world champ again against someone else,” said Shields, whose dislike of Habazin is impossible to hide. The history between the teams including the unfortunate attack alleged against Shields’ brother Artis Mack against Habazin’s trainer James Ali Bashir at the pair’s August weigh-in which canceled the second attempt at a fight left both sides permanently at odds. Shields and Habazin can move on, while Mack must face his day in court at some point.
Shields is running out of worthy competitors in the higher weight divisions. Lightweight Katie Taylor and unified welterweight champion Cecelia Braekhus would give up a significant size advantage against Shields. Emerging talent from the 2020 Olympics will be several years’ away. Give us a rematch between Shields and WBC super middleweight champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn, who gave Shields her toughest fight as a pro in her debut.
Elin Cederroos scores upset win over Alicia Napoleon-Espinosa
New York native Alicia Napoleon Espinosa was favored to win the opening bout on Showtime and tee up a future fight with Shields. But the favored Napoleon-Espinosa fell to Swedish IBF super-middleweight champion Elin Cederroos (8-0, 4 KOs) in a narrow unanimous decision. Scorecards all read 95-94 in favor of Cederroos, who picks up the WBA title by defeating Napoleon-Espinosa (12-2, 7 KOs).
Cederroos scored a knockdown against Napoleon-Espinosa in the second round, and it ended up being the difference maker on the scorecards. “I’m so happy,” said the elated Cederroos.“I showed that I can box and take a war. But when I relaxed, the punches just came. It feels so wonderful. Alicia was a great opponent. She’s so professional. We had a fight in the ring and I hope now we are friendly.”
The fight delivered exceptional action through all ten rounds. Cederroos was able to use her five-inch height advantage and her reach to dart in, do damage, and move out. But Napoleon-Espinosa found success moving forward and pinning Cederroos at times, letting her hands go. Both managed to buzz the other with hard hooks to the head, the American with her right hand, the Swede with her left. Napoleon-Espinosa suffered a cut over the right eye, and she got her revenge by bloodying Cederroos’ nose in the ninth round.
I didn’t think I lost,” said Napoleon-Espinosa. “I thought that it was fairly close, but I thought I was ahead. It is what it is, but I don’t think that I lost this fight.”
Cederroos admitted she isn’t ready to take on Claressa Shields. But there’s a far better option. Who wouldn’t like to see a rematch of this fight?
Jaron Ennis blasts out Eyubov in four rounds
In the co-main event, Philadelphia welterweight prospect Jaron “Boots” Ennis (25-0, 23 KOs) blasted through Bakhtiyar Eyubov of Kazakhstan (14-2-1, 12 KOs) with ease. Ennis knocked Eyubov down twice in the first round. It was hard to imagine the fight lasting much longer. The tough-minded Eyubov kept coming at Ennis, either hoping he’d land a lucky haymaker, or wait for Ennis to punch himself out. Neither strategy worked. In the fourth round, New Jersey State Athletic Commission Larry Hazzard instructed referee Benjy Esteves to stop the fight for a TKO victory.
“We knew he was coming to fight, coming with pressure. So we mixed it up,” said Ennis. Ennis said when he felt Eyubov wasn’t that strong, he went right at him. “When a guy is little like that, you have to shoot to his chest,” explained Ennis. “I just had to calm down, I was too hyper a little bit. When I calmed down, that was it. I appreciate him for taking the fight; a lot of guys don’t want to fight me.”
It’s time for Ennis to get matched with opponents at a higher skill level. Ennis says he’s been ready for some time, saying the competition is running from him. “They can’t keep running, baby” said Ennis. After 25 fights, these beat downs prove little and aren’t allowing Ennis to use his potential to keep improving. The welterweight division is full of talent at all levels and Ennis must move up the ladder.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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