Unified Women’s Super Middleweight World Champion Claressa Shields and unified 154-pound champion Hanna Gabriels spoke to the media at a workout session in Detroit just days before the two clash to decide the IBF & WBA Women’s Middleweight World Championships this Friday on SHOWTIME. (photos by Stephanie Trapp).
The SHOWTIME BOXING: SPECIAL EDITION telecast begins at 10 p.m. ET/PT and features the No. 1 fighter at 168 pounds facing the No. 1 fighter at 154 pounds as they both attempt to become champions for the first time in the middleweight division. The telecast also features unified women’s middleweight champion Christina Hammer defending her WBC & WBO titles in her U.S. debut against former world champion Tori Nelson. Also, light heavyweight prospects Umar Salamov and Brian Howard will meet in a 10-round matchup that will open the tripleheader from Masonic Temple in Detroit.
Tickets for the event, which is promoted by Salita Promotions, are available at Ticketmaster.com or at the Masonic Temple Box Office at (313) 832-7100. VIP tickets are priced at $300, ringside tickets at $125, and remaining tickets at $75, $50 and $35.
Here is what Shields and Gabriels had to say today at the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit:
“It’s been seven weeks of really hard work. A lot of people don’t know and I really don’t like to be open about it, but I got to 183 pounds after my last fight in January and now I’m 160. That’s 23 pounds. I was in camp running and getting ready for the fight and having to focus on weight was very different for me.
“I feel good and ready to go. I’m happy that she made it in safe and all that but now I’m just excited. You all know how I get before fights. The champ is here.
“So much has changed since I first turned pro. In my first fight, I was frustrated against Franchon (Crews Dezurn) during our fight. I was frustrated throughout camp and I really couldn’t handle everything that was going on. Now I know how to handle the media, the workouts, the interviews and still remain disciplined. The fact that I had to lose so much weight this camp only added more discipline.
“It makes me so happy and it just touches my heart to see four female fighters on the main fight poster. I was so happy that they decided to put them on TV. They have put me on before but it’s always been my goal to put other women on so when they decided to put Tori Nelson and Christina Hammer on I was so excited because this has never been done before. Women’s boxing is going somewhere.
“I always knew that it would take me to turn professional for women’s boxing to go to a higher level. That’s why I waited to win a second Gold Medal before I turned professional. To be the one to be the leader is special. I feel like I go out there every fight and give my best and show that I can box better than 90 percent of the men that box. If you have a choice to make a man the main event or me the main event, I always want them to choose me.
“There’s always mutual respect between me and my opponents. I’m thankful for them because I can’t do this by myself. I thank Hanna for stepping up and it’s mutual respect until Friday. I start getting really mean on Thursday, Friday is the fight and then after that we can exchange numbers and be friends.
“I expect her to use her gifts. She’s really good on her legs and she’s strong up top. I think she lacks in speed so I expect her to try to counter me and try to force me to make mistakes with her movement. I think she underrates my power.
“I never said that I wanted to get more knockouts. I’m perfectly fine being 5-0 with two knockouts. At the end of the day, I’m fine with that. The longer I’m in the ring boxing, the better. The more they get to see me on TV, that’s fine. Of course I would love to get the big knockout but look how disappointed Errol Spence Jr. was to get such a quick knockout of Ocampo. That didn’t please his fans. If the knockout comes, it comes.
“This will be my toughest fight. She’s the most skilled and has the most experience. She’s a three-time world champion. I’ve fought former world champions but she’s a three-time world champion to date. The girl that beat her, Hanna avenged that loss. I’m looking forward to her coming out and putting 100 percent in and I hope for us to have a great fight.
“I’m always confident going into fights. I’m not leaving the ring without having two new belts.”
“I think that this is a time right now where women can have this type of platform. Claressa is a great champion and I have faced great women’s champions. I think it’s a great time for boxing fans to enjoy a quality fight. She’s a champion. I’m a champion. This will be a great matchup.
“You are going to see a very technical and aggressive fighter. That’s the only way that you can fight Claressa because she’s so aggressive herself and so tough, you can’t go in the ring passive against her. You have to put your life on the line in there and that’s what I’m planning to do.
“I feel honored to be on such a great card. This is a great opportunity and I just hope everybody sees this the way that I do. We trained hard. In my case, I wanted to bring the very best out of myself so the fans could leave the arena feeling great. This is what boxing is all about. Bringing entertainment and emotions that most other sports don’t bring to people.
“This fight means a lot to me. Every person that I love is going through a hard time right now, including my family. I just want to lead by example and show everybody that all odds are nothing. You can still fight the battle with as many resources or as little resources as you have. I’m dedicating this fight to all my loved ones because I promise there will be better times for us.
“When I was five years old I was sexually abused so my teenage years were tough. Sports always took me away from that. When I got an injury and I had to stop competing in track, I thought my life was over. For the next five or six years, I was very destructive and felt like I didn’t have a purpose. When I turned 24, I started a different passage and learned that everything that happened to me just made me the person I am today.
“We don’t really focus on anybody’s weaknesses because we believe if you’re a good professional and you are dedicating your life to this, you are supposed to get better at your weaknesses. So we focus on her strengths and I think we have a great plan. They say that she’s been underestimating me a lot but I think it’s part of her game and part of what she does.
“I think her strengths are pretty obvious. She has great feet. I don’t know if she punches hard but she’s very explosive. She must have a lot of power and she’s very defensive. She keeps her distance and she’s so big and I’m so small that we will have to risk a lot of things. Her confidence is one of her biggest strengths.
“This will probably be my toughest fight so far. I never had an amateur career, I had just one fight. Claressa has fought 80-something times so my schooling has been in the professional environment and I have had to learn in the process. Every fight has been a hard fight because I have to solve problems and I think she is definitely the toughest opponent because she’s so tall and so fast. She must walk around normally at 185 pounds and I’m not as big so we were a little worried at the beginning at how we would reach her body but we finally were able to figure that out in training and I’m confident that my game is going to surprise her a lot.
“Hopefully we can bring a surprise and people will get to see me and let everybody know that there are more great boxers out there that aren’t getting the same exposure or marketing that Claressa is getting. I don’t feel disrespected, I see this is an opportunity to show what I’ve been working on. Let them plan. Maybe those plans will fall.
“It’s going to be a great fight. She’s coming for the victory and I’m coming for the victory as well. She’s in for a big surprise.”