Claressa Shields slugged her way through 10 spirited rounds against Hanna Gabriels – then looked ready to fight another opponent right afterward.
Christina Hammer – the unbeaten German who had won the bout immediately before Shields’ – made her way into the ring after Shields beat Gabriels in a unanimous decision. That led to a bit of a commotion.
”I don’t go over there in Germany and jump in the ring when she wins a world title,” Shields said. ”She comes over here, she’s been to three of my fights, sitting ringside, jumping in the ring. … I’m out to prove that I’m the greatest woman of all time, and I’m going to do it step by step, round by round.”
Before she could focus on a possible fight with Hammer, Shields first had to deal with Gabriels, an experienced fighter from Costa Rica who knocked Shields down in the first round with what looked like a solid right uppercut. The two-time Olympic champion got up off the canvas, and with a partisan crowd at Masonic Temple cheering her on, Shields recovered quickly and remained undefeated .
”I’ve never been knocked down before,” Shields said. ”I’ve never got an 8-count.”
Gabriels said she didn’t expect to knock Shields down, and she felt the fight was closer than it was scored. The judges gave it to Shields, 97-92, 98-91 and 97-92.
”I don’t think I lost for so many points. I don’t know if I lost at all,” Gabriels said with a laugh. ”But I respect the opinion of the judges.”
Gabriels seemed pleased with the show she and Shields (6-0) put on. Shields appeared to have the upper hand by the end of the sixth round, but the 23-year-old from Flint had to work hard against Gabriels, and there were plenty of wild exchanges to keep the crowd engaged.
Shields was already a champion at the super middleweight level, and Gabriels (18-2-1) is a champ at 154 pounds. They met in this bout as middleweights, and Shields took the vacant IBF and WBA titles with her win.
Now the talk immediately turns to a possible fight between Shields and Hammer, who defended her WBC and WBO middleweight titles by outpointing Tori Nelson (17-2-3) in a 10-round fight Friday night, right before the Shields-Gabriels fight.
”Hopefully it’s next,” Shields said. ”I don’t need no rest.”
Hammer (23-0) spoke briefly to reporters after her victory and before Shields’ fight. Hammer said if she fights Shields, she’d want it to be at a more neutral site than Detroit. It seems obvious to everyone how big a Hammer-Shields matchup could be.
”Game changer,” Hammer said. ”I think that will be the biggest fight ever.”
Even Gabriels seems intrigued by the possibility.
”Hammer has to work a lot on her condition, because I heard she looked tired a little bit with Tori,” Gabriels said. ”She will have to work a lot with her conditioning. Her jab is really good, and she can keep people away. I don’t know. It’s a fight that I would like to see.”
Before Hammer and Nelson fought, Umar Salamov (21-1) stopped Brian Howard (13-2) in the ninth round for the IBF North American light heavyweight title.
Earlier on the undercard: Aslambek Idigov (13-0) outpointed James Ballard (10-2) in a 10-round light heavyweight fight; Leon Lawson (7-0) outpointed Javier Frazier (8-3-1) in a six-round super welterweight fight; Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-0) stopped Nicholas Givhan (21-2-1) in the seventh round for the USBA Great Lakes region welterweight championship; Ja’Rico O’Quinn (9-0-1) stopped Yaqub Kareem (14-10-1) in the fourth round of a bantamweight fight; Joseph Bonas (4-0) stopped Michael Klekotta (1-3) in the first round of a welterweight fight; and Apti Davtaev (15-0-1) stopped Cory Phelps (16-11-1) in the second round of a heavyweight fight.