You can debate what fighter won the weekend.
Was it Claressa Shields, the Friday night headliner in Detroit and on Showtime? Or did Josh Taylor’s class against not-ultra-faded vet Viktor Postol in Scotland most sway you during the Friday-Saturday stretch? Miguel Berchelt fans maybe think their guy’s stoppage of Jonathan Barros Saturday in Mexico gets the brightest gold star. Or Vergil Ortiz’s power base was your top takeaway from the slate?
Me, I think Shields’ win over Costa Rican Hanna Gabriels will be the most enduring victory of import, as we look back on the weekend’s action. Shields’ manager Mark Taffet will agree, we think.
I touched base with the ex-HBO exec to get his post-fight thoughts, after allowing his mind to marinate on the UD-10 for the 23-year-old Michigan-based boxer, now 6-0 and owner of some 160 titles.
She had to contend with what Taffet regards as “The Knockdown,” in round one of the contest put together by Dmitriy Salita and Salita Promotions. He said that he sees that instance as a growth accelerator for the young hitter.
“When Claressa was knocked down in the first round of her fight with Hanna Gabriels, I immediately smiled and said ‘our two-time Olympic gold medal winner just became a fighter. Now we get to see what greatness is.’ And she did just that, took a breath, dusted herself off, got up, and showed the world what a true champion she is, both inside and outside the ring,” Taffet told me.
“As she sat on the canvas for a brief few seconds, it reminded me of a rocket launching from Cape Canaveral. There was a sense of peace as she sat the first second or two, then you could see the fuel building in her body, you could feel the rumble from her soul, her eyes glared with the determination that has gotten her through life, to the gold medal podium twice in the Olympics, and to a professional world championship. And when she stood, the rocket launched and soared for the remaining nine rounds.”
Poetic analysis from the ex-cable bigwig! He delved in deeper into her effort, and what she needed to do to get back on track against the more experienced as a pro Gabriels.
“When a 23-year-old fighter with just five professional fights faces adversity in the ring and has to dig down deep, your instinct might be to worry from where they are going to find the reservoir of strength to deal with the situation,” the manager continued.
“The truth is, Claressa Shields has spent her whole life being knocked down and getting back up, so at that moment I knew there was no one in the world more ready and prepared to face that challenge. And to me, Claressa proved she is a fighter for the ages when she quickly gathered herself and came back stronger than ever against an experienced and talented world champion in Hanna Gabriels, winning in very exciting fashion in what I believe was the best performance of her professional career. Boxing fans love to see heart and courage in their fighters, and Claressa Shields showed a whole lot of both on Friday night.”
Taffet was still exulting in the glow on Sunday.
“Friday night was an historic night of women’s boxing, with three unified world champions in the two main fights on the Showtime telecast. There was a lot of pressure on both Shields and Christina Hammer going into the fights, each knowing they had to win to earn the right to face one another in the fall.
“First Hammer showed why she is considered one of the best female boxers in the world with her performance, becoming the first German champion to successfully defend a world title in the US since Max Schmeling defeated Young Stribling in Cleveland, Ohio in 1931.
“Then Claressa Shields showed the heart of a lion in winning a world title in her second weight division after just six professional fights, staying step-for-step with Lomachenko in their march toward history. With so much on the line and emotions running so high, with the undisputed middleweight championship and what I believe will be the biggest fight in women’s boxing history upon them, it is understandable that these two great competitors were so intense when they set eyes on one another in the postfight interview in the ring.”
Indeed. Did you see the post-fight beefing? It looked like it was maybe going to get uglier, but passions were reined in.
“Women’s boxing is center stage, and that stage couldn’t be better occupied than by these two champions carrying the torch toward a mega-fight this fall. When Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer meet in the fall, women’s boxing will hit new heights.”
You tell me, friends. Who won the weekend for you? Maybe you saw 37-year-old Walter Wright (17-4), in his fourth fight since 2010, upset 21-0 Mark DeLuca in New Hampshire? Maybe that effort earned your highest marks! Talk to me about who won the weekend.