Claressa Shields delivered a dominant performance in front of thousands of adoring fans in her home state Saturday night.
Shields completely out-classed late replacement Maricela Cornejo and won their 10-round main event by unanimous decision at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit. The undefeated Shields shut out Cornejo on the scorecards of judges John Basile (100-89), Waleska Roldan (100-90) and Robin Taylor (100-90).
Shields stunned Cornejo with numerous right hands and showed superior speed, skill and power throughout a bout that wasn’t the least bit competitive. Los Angeles’ Cornejo displayed a lot of toughness, though, and forced Shields to go the 10-round distance in a 10th straight fight.
The 28-year-old Shields (14-0, 2 KOs), of Flint, Michigan, retained her IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO middleweight titles. The three-division champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist maintained her position as the best fighter, pound-for-pound, in women’s boxing as well.
“I felt great,” Shields told DAZN’s Chris Mannix in the ring. “You know, I was landing my shots. I won every round, like I knew I could. I pressed for the knockout. I went for the knockout I don’t know how many times in the fight. Maricela is tough, had a good right hand herself and was very smart and sturdy when I started hitting her and knew how to survive. So, she did a great job. And, you know, congrats to me again.”
Cornejo (16-6, 6 KOs) fell to 0-4 in world title bouts, but she has not been knocked out in 22 professional fights. Prior to her loss to Shields, she lost two super middleweight championship contests on points to current undisputed 168-pound champ Franchon Crews and dropped a split decision to Kali Reis in a middleweight title match.
Cornejo, 36, took the most challenging fight of her career on only 10 days’ notice because Shields’ original opponent, Hanna Gabriels, tested positive for a banned substance early last month. Cornejo was training for another fight that was scheduled for June 6, which was why she was confident enough in her conditioning and preparation to take the Shields bout.
Cornejo entered the ring as the number one contender for Shields’ IBF, WBC and WBO belts, which made her a logical substitute for Costa Rica’s Gabriels (21-2-1, 12 KOs). Gabriels dropped Shields in the first round of their June 2018 fight in Detroit, but Shields recovered and beat her convincingly on all three scorecards (98-91, 97-92, 97-92).
Shields pursued a knockout in the 10th and final round Saturday night, but she couldn’t connect with a shot hard enough to send Cornejo to the canvas.
Shields landed fewer flush punches in the ninth round than in prior rounds, but she still dominated Cornejo in those two minutes.
Cornejo tried to stay out of Shields’ punching range during the eighth round, but Shields still managed to landed a few right hands to her head and a left hook to Cornejo’s body.
Shields teed off on Cornejo in the opening minute of the seventh round, when she kept Cornejo on her back foot. Shields rocked Cornejo with another right hand toward the end of the seventh round and tried to finish her stunned opponent.
Another right hand by Shields snapped back Cornejo’s head with just over 40 seconds on the clock in the sixth round. Cornejo couldn’t mount any offense against an assertive Shields during the sixth straight one-sided round of their bout.
Shields rocked Cornejo with a right hand that knocked the challenger into the ropes with 35 seconds to go in the fifth round. An aggressive Shields landed several more right hands before the fifth round ended.
Shields showboated in the final minute of the fourth round, but Cornejo backed off when Shields tried to lure her into a counter shot. Shields countered Cornejo with a right hand 50 seconds into the fourth round.
Shields backed up Cornejo with yet another right hand that landed about 55 seconds into the third round. An aggressive Shields drilled Cornejo with two more right hands after she backed Cornejo into a corner with about 30 seconds to go in the third round.
Shields landed numerous right hands in the second round, when it seemed Shields was intent to score a knockout. Several of those punches knocked Cornejo backward.
Shields’ success in the second round prevented Cornejo from throwing many punches.
Shields attacked Cornejo as soon as their fight started, but Cornejo stood her ground and traded punches with Shields. About a minute into the first round, Shields landed a hard right hand that got Cornejo’s attention.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.