Claressa Shields isn’t confident she’ll be able to get undisputed women’s welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus to move up for the type of fight Shields seeks.
Alicia Napoleon-Espinosa apparently is more than willing to move down to face the undefeated Shields. BoxingScene.com has learned that Napoleon-Espinosa, the WBA women’s super middleweight champion, has agreed to box IBF 168-pound champ Elin Cederroos on the Shields-Ivana Habazin undercard January 10 at Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
If Shields and Napoleon-Espinosa win fights Showtime will televise next month, they’re expected to fight later in 2020 for Shields’ IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO women’s middleweight titles. That’d require Napoleon-Espinosa to move down eight pounds to battle Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
The 33-year-old Napoleon-Espinosa (12-1, 7 KOs), of Lindenhurst, New York, won the WBA 168-pound championship by out-pointing Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (8-4, 1 KO) in their 10-rounder in August 2018. In Rankin’s following fight, she lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Shields.
The 34-year-old Cederroos (7-0, 4 KOs), of Vasteraas, Sweden, won the IBF super middleweight title by scoring a majority-decision victory over Belgium’s Femke Hermans (9-3, 3 KOs) on March 22.
Shields has dropped down from 160 pounds to 154 to face Croatia’s Habazin for the vacant WBC and WBO 154-pound championships in the main event January 10.
If the 24-year-old Shields (9-0, 2 KOs) beats Habazin (20-3, 7 KOs), she’ll become the fastest fighter, male or female, to win world titles in three weight classes. That distinction currently belongs to Ukraine’s Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) and Japan’s Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 10 KOs), each of whom accomplished that feat in his 12th professional fight.
Shields and Habazin were supposed to fight October 5 in Shields’ hometown of Flint, Michigan. Their fight was postponed October 4 because Habazin’s trainer, James Ali Bashir, was viciously assaulted just before they were supposed to weigh in at Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center, the initial site of their fight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.