By Keith Idec
Claressa Shields senses Christina Hammer might’ve gained a false sense of security after seeing Shields get knocked down in the first round of her last fight.
Hanna Gabriels landed a right uppercut that floored Shields for the first time in Shields’ short professional career just 2:12 into their middleweight title fight June 22 in Detroit. Shields quickly recovered and clearly out-boxed Gabriels to win a 10-round unanimous decision.
Shields discussed that knockdown on a conference call Tuesday, when the Shields-Hammer middleweight title unification fight officially was announced. Shields (6-0, 2 KOs), of Flint, Michigan, and Hammer (23-0, 10 KOs, 1 NC), of Dortmund, Germany, will meet November 17 at Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Theater in Atlantic City.
“Maybe it gave her some kind of confidence that she could do it,” Shields said. “I don’t know. You can ask her that. Maybe she thinks I don’t have a chin or something.”
Hammer admits the knockdown gave her even more confidence in her ability to beat the two-time Olympic gold medalist when they fight for Shields’ IBF and WBA and Hammer’s WBC and WBO titles.
“She never fought an opponent like Hanna Gabriels,” Hammer said. “Hanna Gabriels is a strong woman. She showed Claressa Shields is beatable. And the uppercut and left hook was a great combination, and there’s a good way to continue this.”
The 23-year-old Shields wishes she hadn’t suffered that knockdown, but it helped her learn an invaluable lesson.
“Maybe in a couple years I’ll be thankful for it, but right now, no,” Shields said. “I really have to say it’s like 50-50. I’m really happy it happened, and I was able to show that grit. But then it’s like if you didn’t know I had that grit already, then do you really know me as a fighter? Because I’ve already fought through adversity already. So I would prefer to go through a fight without getting dropped, absolutely.”
Shields attributed that knockdown mostly to her lack of focus during the first round against Costa Rica’s Gabriels (18-1-2, 11 KOs).
“Just leading up to the fight,” Shields said, “being in Detroit for three, four days, you know, with people reaching out and everything, it was very difficult to focus the way that I wanted to. And I think that’s why I wasn’t as focused as I should’ve been the first round. But the first round definitely woke me up and I got focused as hell after that.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.