By Keith Idec
ATLANTIC CITY – Claressa Shields backed up virtually every provocative word Saturday night.
The brash, unbeaten women’s middleweight champion proved her superiority in what was supposed to be the most difficult fight of her two-year pro career. Shields’ speed, power, aggression and defense earned her a convincing victory over long-reigning middleweight champ Christina Hammer at Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Theater.
All three judges – Lynne Carter, Guido Cavalleri and Robin Taylor – scored eight of the 10 rounds for Shields in the main event of a Showtime tripleheader. Shields (9-0, 2 KOs) nearly knocked out Hammer in the eighth round, but she settled for a unanimous-decision win in what was promoted as the biggest fight in women’s boxing history.
Cavalleri and Taylor scored the one-sided eighth round 10-8 for Shields, and thus had it 98-91 for her. Carter scored Shields a 98-92 winner.
“Well, first of all, I can say I am the greatest woman of all time,” Shields told Showtime’s Steve Farhood in the ring. “Give me that! Give me that! Y’all told me I couldn’t do it. Y’all said she was 24-0, 11 knockouts. Ain’t no way Claressa will beat her. She 8-0, two knockouts. Claressa’s gonna get knocked out. Claressa don’t hit hard. Come on.”
Shields defended her IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight titles and won the WBO championship from Hammer. Germany’s Hammer had owned the WBO 160-pound title since October 2010, approximately 22 months before Shields won the first of two gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Shields, of Flint, Michigan, also joined welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus as the only woman to own the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO titles at the same time.
Hammer, of Dortmund, Germany, lost for the first time as a pro (24-1, 11 KOs, 1 NC).
According to Showtime’s unofficial punch stats, Shields landed more than twice as many punches overall as Hammer (112-of-387 to 49-of-366). Shields was especially dominant in power punching (94-of-212 to 24-of-136), whereas Hammer had a slight edge in jabs (25-of-230 to 18-of-175).
Shields, 24, and Hammer, 28, were supposed to square off November 17 at Boardwalk Hall. Hammer’s undisclosed stomach ailment caused them to postpone perhaps the most meaningful fight in women’s boxing history for nearly five months.
Their fight started Saturday night with both boxers showing respect. Before long, though, Shields’ speed and power separated her from a more experienced opponent whose jab was supposed to give her a chance to offset those disadvantages.
Hammer caught a reckless Shields with a left hook on the inside during the second half of the 10th round, but that was the one clean power punch that seemed to stun Shields. Still, Shields quickly responded by blasting Hammer with an overhand right and backed up the former champion.
An assertive Shields drilled Hammer with power punches early in the eight round and continued a vicious assault right up until the bell sounded to end that round.
Hammer held and moved as best she could to avoid getting knocked out in that one-sided eighth round.
Shields thought she had won by stoppage once the eighth round ended because she mistook referee Sparkle Lee stepping between when the bell sounded for a stoppage.
“I knew I could hurt her,” Shields said. “It was times when I hurt her and I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t wanna finish it yet. Hold on.’ I thought I finished her in round eight. I thought I saw a white towel come in the ring. That’s when I was like, ‘Oh, sh*t! We got a knockout.’ But I thought the fight should’ve been stopped. She was holding on to me, pushing off me. She held me excessively. You know? But I just told myself, ‘Stay cool, stay calm.’ … I wanted to be the first one to get her out of there. I did everything I wanted to do. They said 98 to 92. Give me 100 to 90. Give me my credit. I beat her every round.”
Hammer also lost her mouthpiece during the eighth round. She asked Lee for a chance to put the mouthpiece back in, even though there wasn’t necessarily a break in the action that warranted it.
Shields connected with power shots during the final minute of the seventh round. Hammer tried her best to move away from Shields, but an aggressive Shields kept applying pressure and causing Hammer to hold her.
Shields hit Hammer with a right and left while they fought from the inside during the sixth round. A right hand by Shields backed up Hammer early in the fifth round and caused her to hold.
A left hook by Shields connected during the fourth round. Shields also landed a couple left hands as Hammer attempted to hold her.
Lee warned Hammer about excessive holding toward the end of the fourth round. Lee told Hammer she’d take away a point from her if she kept holding.
Shields slipped several power punches thrown by Hammer during the third round. Hammer attempted to work off her jab in the third round, but Shields mostly kept her distance from those as well.
Shields drilled Hammer with two right hands during the second half of the second round. That second shot made Shields go after Hammer because she thought a retreating Hammer was hurt.
Shields connected with a counter left hook just prior to the end of the first round. Shields made Hammer miss with a combination of punches just after the one-minute mark of the first round.
A few rounds later, Shields settled into a rhythm and took control of her most meaningful fight. Shields still credited Hammer for testing her.
“Thanks to Christina Hammer and her team,” Shields said. “Man, yo, they said she had a hard jab. Sh*t, they wasn’t lying. Her jab was off the chain. She’s probably left-handed, real talk. She can fight.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.