Friday Night Fights: Shields vs. Habazin

By Robert Ecksel on January 9, 2020

“I’ve taken the same challenges that Lomachenko has taken and I’ve done it faster.”

This Friday night, in a fight televised live on Showtime from Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Claressa Shields (9-0, 2 KOs), the former WBC/IBF super middleweight and current unified middleweight champion from Flint, Michigan, moves down in weight to face Ivana Habazin (20-3, 7 KOs), the former IBF welterweight and current IBO junior middleweight champion from Zagreb, Croatia, for the vacant WBC/WBO junior middleweight titles.

 

The women were supposed to fight on October 5, but Shields’ brother, Artis Mack, sucker punched Habazin’s trainer, 68-year-old James Ali Bashir, at the weigh-in, landing Bashir in the hospital and forcing cancellation of the bout that was subsequently rescheduled. Shields, who is not her brother’s keeper, did not condone the attack, but some thought her halfhearted apology was less than sincere.

 

At the final press conference in New York City on Tuesday, Habazin, who is the B-side of the promotion, took to the podium to say, “Claressa Shields is not the greatest woman of all time,” a claim that Shields makes repeatedly, “but she is the greatest bully of all time.

 

“I welcome this opportunity and look forward to giving the bully a massive dose of humility and showing her what real boxing skills look like. You can expect to finally see someone actually box the bully. She still fights like she's in the amateurs. She just hasn't met anyone not intimidated by her BS yet, someone who's going to fight back and school her. She talks about disrespect, but doesn't have a clue what that means. Every time she opens her mouth, she's disrespectful. In fact she's all bark and no bite. She's a disgrace to women's boxing and sports in general.”

 

Rather than defend herself in public, Shields was whisked to Sporting News downtown where she said, “I don’t bully nobody. I don’t even know why she said that. I haven’t had any interaction with her since the fight got cancelled in Flint.

 

“After I made a statement, I think a day later she made her statement, and her statement was she called me a thug and said my family was thugs and that I need my thugs to protect me. I just blocked her on all social media because I don’t take stuff like that lightly.”

 

Officially, the only thug in Shields’ family is her brother, who Claressa halfheartedly condemned, and has instead turned her ire against 30-year-old Habazin.

 

“She’s just using the situation that happened in Flint to build her own career and to build herself up,” Shields said. “Yeah, you can care about your coach and use him for motivation, but for her to keep saying that—oh, now she’s saying I’m a bully, at first I’m a thug and then I’m stupid, I don’t know how to read and all this crazy stuff, she is embarrassing herself.

 

“Whether we have bad blood or not, I’m still going to kick her ass.”

 

The bookies agree. The odds for the fight are 80:1 in Claressa’s favor.

 

One needs a healthy ego to climb into the ring, and 24-year-old Shields, the only American boxer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals, has plenty of ego to spare.

 

“It would mean a lot to become the fastest boxer to claim three divisions,” she said. “It’d mean a lot because women can fight, women can box, and the fact that I’ve taken the same challenges that Lomachenko has taken and I’ve done it faster, I feel like it puts me … if they ever talk about this, he’ll always be second on the list.

 

“It’s about a woman being first ahead of the men.”

 

If Shields says that’s what it’s all about, then maybe that’s what it’s all about.