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Claressa clobbers Habazin, makes history

By Robert Ecksel on January 11, 2020


If competition is the lifeblood of the sport, a transfusion of some sort might be in order.

In a fight televised live Friday night on Showtime from Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, unified middleweight champion Claressa Shields (10-0, 2 KOs), the self-professed GWOAT (Greatest Woman of All Time) from Flint, Michigan, moved down in weight to destroy overmatched Ivana Habazin (20-4, 7 KOs), the former IBF welterweight champion from Zagreb, Croatia, to win the vacant WBC/WBO junior middleweight titles.


The final scores after 10 one-sided rounds were 100-89, 100-90, and 99-89.


Shields’ bona fides are a given. She is the only American boxer, male or female, to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals, and by manhandling Habazin as she did, she won a world title in a third weight class in just her 10th fight, besting Vasiliy Lomachenko in that regard, as she insists on reminding us, who needed 12 fights to achieve that feat.


But comparisons between the two fighters, such as they are, need to stop there.


Based on her performance, Habazin had no business being fighting Shields. However resilient she may be, her skills are limited, her experience inadequate, and her offensive output and defensive capabilities almost nonexistent. Claressa dropped her in the sixth round with a body shot, the first time Habazin had been on the canvas during her decade-long pro career, before hitting the Croat while she was down, which should have disqualified her, had the rules of the sport been enforced. But the referee, Sparkle Lee, let it slide, neither penalizing Shields for the infraction, or offering even so much as a warning.


With a solid team behind her who know the ins and outs of the fight game, Shields has accomplished much and will likely accomplish more in the years to come. She has every reason to be proud of all she has achieved. And while she’s not a pioneer, since women have been fighting amongst themselves forever, she has been anointed, perhaps prematurely, as the face of women’s boxing, which is slowly edging its way into the mainstream.


Fortunately, Shields has some skills. She has a solid jab, lets her hands go, and she threw and landed more punches, 141 of 516 to 49 of 285 for Habazin. And while she appears to lack knockout power, a drawback in a martial art which prizes demolition, the fight was a mismatch from the opening to closing bell.


I have and always will support women’s boxing. As history has shown, patriarchy has its limits, and anything which keeps women down needs to be dispensed with while there’s still time. But Friday night’s main event often felt like a glorified Golden Gloves contest, what with all the flailing about by both participants. If there’s a different standard for excellence in men’s and women’s boxing, someone in authority should let us know. And, more important, if competition is the lifeblood of the sport, a transfusion of some sort might be in order.

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