Claressa Shields picked up the IBF and WBA middleweight titles with a wide decision win over Hanna Gabriels on Friday night, coming off the canvas in the first round to score the victory.
Shields (6-0, 2 KO) was dropped in the opening frame but won on scores of 97-92, 97-92, and 98-91, dominating the fight after the knockdown.
“Once I went down, I took a deep breath and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m about to whip this girl,’” Shields said. “I just remember thinking let’s use the jab and be smart.”
Gabriels (18-2-1, 11 KO) said, ““I trained to go the distance but my heart betrayed me, because after that first knock down, I was looking for another one. I wanted to show everyone I had a warrior’s heart.”
In the co-feature, Christina Hammer (23-0, 10 KO) stayed undefeated and retained her WBC and WBO middleweight titles with a one-sided win over Tori Nelson (17-2-3, 2 KO) on scores of 99-91, 99-91, and 100-90. After Shields’ win in the main event, she came into the ring to confront the American, which she’s done in the past.
The two are clearly on a collision course, which would fully unify the middleweight division and be a big fight for women’s boxing.
“I’m really looking forward to fighting Claressa,” Hammer said. “She will try and fight me on the inside but my footwork and my reach will make the difference. The fight with Claressa will be a game-changer. It will be the biggest women’s fight ever. I would like to fight her at a neutral site.”
“I’m just tired of Hammer disrespecting me all the time,” Shields said. “She comes into the ring after all my fights, talks trash, and then she goes in there and looks like shit against Nelson. I’m sick of it. But I let her know I’m more than ready for a fight against her. She wanted me to lose tonight, but I wanted her to win because I want to fight her. We have to unify now.”
In the opener, light heavyweight prospect Umar Salamov stopped Brian Howard in the ninth round with a right hand, improving to 21-1 (16 KO). Howard dropped to 13-2 (10 KO) with the loss.
“I was hurt a little bit in the second round from one of his shots, but I didn’t let it bother me because this is my U.S. debut,” said Salamov. “I just kept fighting. After I got hit with that punch, I started coming forward and as soon as I did that, the fight changed.”