UNDISPUTED champions in boxing are a rare breed. Cecilia Braekhus has unified all the welterweight titles, the magnificent Oleksandr Usyk did so at cruiserweight and the winner of the Claressa Shields vs Christina Hammer clash will do so at middleweight when they fight on Saturday (April 13) at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Hammer, unbeaten in 25 professional contests, holds the WBO middleweight crown. Shields, who has had only eight pro bouts, has already won two world titles at super-middle and already has the WBC, WBC and IBF middleweight titles. When you consider the two Olympic gold medals the American has already won, she is a special fighter. Her own description: “A word for myself, destroyer.”
Shields knows that this bout, scheduled for 10 two-minute rounds, could be her most important yet. “Right now we are one and two of the top boxers at middleweight. So for us to have this fight, for her to be completely healthy and me be completely healthy and she’s 28 and I’m 24, this is a great fight to be made right now,” Claressa said. “When you’re saying I’m the greatest of all time I can beat any kind of fighter – a fighter that moves, a fighter who’s standing there, a fighter who can do both. Being the greatest woman of all time comes with being able to win those fights that people say that you can’t win. She’s 24-0 11 knockouts. I’m 8-0 with 2 knockouts.
“Everybody’s like how can a person who’s been professional only two years beat a person who’s a professional ten, eleven years and they’re the reigning champion nine, eight years and all this stuff like that. And that’s what the greatest woman of all time can do. Just like I beat Hanna Gabriels I’m going to beat Christina Hammer.”
Shields is only young still. But she notes, “They can say I had holes in my game but I’m not a perfect fighter. But just know that I’m getting there. Every fight I get better. Every fight I add something to my arsenal. And I’m going to get better on my own schedule, on my own time. I’m not going to do what everybody think I should do just because I got knocked down [against Gabriels]. Who doesn’t get knocked down?”
She is an aggressive fighter by inclination and is also quite happy to remain outspoken. “Right now with me being the face of women’s boxing, I just always have to be reminded to keep being me. All the women before me they all had this way of what they think is promotion or the way or what a world champion is,” Shields said. “And the truth is a world champion is a world champion. We’re all different. Some of us are quiet. Some of us don’t talk trash. Some of us don’t have confidence. Some of us have a lot of confidence. Some of us are ignorant. I mean, some boxers are ignorant and I can say that. But I’m not one of those boxers.
“All this trash talking is actually fun to me. No matter if she’s spreading fake rumours to the fans saying that I missed weight or saying that I’m overweight, I’m going to have a hard time making weight, I fought 160lbs in my last two fights. I didn’t miss weight any of them, so I don’t know where she gets that from.
“She’s just saying something that she thinks is going to bother me when it doesn’t. It doesn’t. I’m just enjoying this time right now while we have this platform. And if she wants to talk trash, we can talk trash. As long as she doesn’t get too disrespectful, we’re good. I don’t think it went to the point of like the Anthony Joshua – Jarrell Miller disrespectful. Now, when it gets there, then you’ll see, maybe something different out of me. But till then, I’m all good.”
She has also received high profile backing. “I love that Errol Spence [her London 2012 Olympic team-mate], that he stands behind me and doesn’t want me to change. Same thing with Andre Ward. One of the best things that Andre Ward told me was continue being who I am. Despite people saying a woman talking trash is not classy or it’s not cute and women shouldn’t be like that, you should be more soft spoken. I’m just so happy that when I had that conversation with Andre Ward he was like sis, be who you are, like if you talking trash is really who you are, if you’re being confident with who you are, then he said keep doing it. Don’t be fake for nobody,” Sheilds said. “And that’s what I continue to do. I’m going to be the kind of world champion that I want to be. I’m not trying to be like nobody else.”