Ivana Habazin certainly has the attention of Claressa Shields and her team—and along with it, a hard deadline on which to agree to proceed with their planned fight in present form.
As the war of words rages on between the two, their now thrice-scheduled title fight remains on course of Jan. 10 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. However, Croatia’s Habazin (20-3, 7KOs) had plenty to say in a story recently published on BoxingScene.com, verbally firing back at claims made by Shields through a recent Instagram live video chat, along with her team’s belief that they are no longer being given a fair shake in the terms in place for their 154-pound title fight.
The new date came about after plans for their Oct. 5 bout in Shields’ hometown of Flint, Michigan crashed and burned one day prior at the pre-fight weigh-in. The rest of the show moved forward, but with the original main event pulled after Habazin’s head trainer, James Ali Bashir was viciously assaulted and hospitalized to treat a broken jaw and orbital bone. Shields’ brother, Artis Mack—not an official member of Shields' boxing team—was named as the alleged suspect and apprehended by police hours later. He was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, for which he can face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Meanwhile, efforts have been made to salvage the title fight which was already postponed from its previous Aug. 17 date—also in Flint—and now set to headline the first Showtime telecast of 2020. Habazin’s comments and claims did not sit well at all with Shields’ team, who felt the need to clear the air.
“Claressa and Ivana both signed agreements and were scheduled to fight in Flint, Michigan on October 5,” Dmitriy Salita, Shields’ promoter explained to BoxingScene.com in an immediate reply to Thursday’s story. “When the bout was postponed [for a second time], we moved immediately to reschedule the fight within the four-month period permitted by the bout agreements' standard rescheduling clause. Although we were under no obligation to do so, we agreed to an increased purse for Ivana in consideration of the fact that she incurred expenses in training for the October 5 fight and would have to re-incur costs to prepare for the rescheduled bout.
“In October after the postponement, her representative indicated in writing Ivana’s agreement to the new purse amount. We rescheduled the fight for January 10 in Atlantic City on Showtime and informed her team. In addition, Ivana and her team provided a quote for Showtime's press release announcing the fight last week.”
Shields—a two-time Olympic Gold medalist—has claimed title wins at super middleweight and middleweight through just nine pro fights. In her most recent appearance, the 24-year old scored a 10-round virtual shutout of Christina Hammer to become undisputed World middleweight champion and now looks to make HERstory. A win on Jan. 10 will make her a three-division titlist in just her 10th pro fight, surpassing the mark shared by Vasiliy Lomachenko and Kosei Tanaka, both of whom accomplished the feat in their 12th fight each.
The chosen opponent for the assignment was Habazin, a former welterweight titlist who has now been out of the ring since a Dec. 2018 win over Eva Bajic in her native Croatia. All that she has been able to celebrate thus far in 2019 is her 30th birthday, which came last month.
A second chance at winning a junior middleweight title is in play for Habazin, although her team’s recent actions could cost her the fight.
“[Wednesday], after the press release announcing the fight, and with just seven weeks to go until this world title fight, Team Habazin called me and indicated that she intends to withdraw from the fight unless the purse is renegotiated,” Salita insists. “Very simply, this is not how Salita Promotions conducts business.
“Today [Thursday, Nov. 21] we sent notice to her team that unless they inform us in writing by tomorrow that Ivana intends to move forward with the January 10 bout, we will have no choice but to move forward with another opponent. Salita Promotions wants this fight. Claressa Shields wants this fight. We hope Ivana and her team respond affirmatively by [Friday].”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox