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Shields vs Habazin: Staff picks and predictions

Claressa Shields and Ivana Habazin kick off 2020 in boxing with Friday’s main event.

Claressa Shields v Ivana Habazin - Press Conference Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

This Friday night on Showtime from Atlantic City, Claressa Shields looks to win titles in a third weight class, as she moves down to 154 to face Ivana Habazin for the vacant WBC and WBO junior middleweight titles.

With this being the first really notable fight of 2020, our staffers are back at it to pick the winner.

Scott Christ

I think maybe if Shields is so weight-drained she can barely stand, and Habazin gets a lucky shot in, and the referee is kind toward Habazin about a stoppage, Habazin can win. Other than that, Habazin isn’t winning a minute of this fight, let alone the whole thing. Shields is fundamentally better than Habazin in every way; I checked out what I could of Habazin last year, before this fight’s original August date, and there’s just no reasonable way to predict this being competitive, let alone an upset.

You may not like Claressa or the way she goes about things, but she’s been two levels above everyone she’s fought so far, and that’ll hold on Friday. I think she really might get a stoppage here if she puts enough punches together to force the referee’s hand, because Habazin doesn’t look like she’s even among the five best opponents Shields has faced to date. I’ll take the Shields stoppage, not so much from any devastating shots but maybe a referee tired of watching Habazin get battered around and doing too little in return. Shields TKO-7

Wil Esco

Here’s the thing, the talent level in women’s boxing is extremely sparse. That means when you have some really good fighters around, it can be difficult to find truly competitive fights for them. I don’t think Shields is an exciting fighter to watch, but she’s certainly strong, confident, and more experienced at fighting at a higher level than most of her counterparts. And that doesn’t bode well for Hazabin.

Now there is some drama surrounding this fight following the ugly scene the last time they were supposed to square off, before Hazabin’s trainer was violently attacked, forcing a cancellation. Will Hazabin come into this fight with added motivation, looking to avenge her trainer? Will Hazabin be more emotionally involved which might throw off her game plan? And will any of those things matter? Ultimately I don’t think so, as Shields is just the better fighter here. Shields UD-10

Patrick L. Stumberg

I began my tape study with Habazin’s 2016 fight against Mikaela Lauren, coming away dumbfounded that the Croatian had managed to rack up double-digit pro victories. The answer, of course, is matchmaking; 17 of her 20 wins have come against opponents with even or losing records. While this is an expedient means to get someone into a title fight they didn’t earn, it also leaves them wholly unprepared for said fight. In this case, Lauren was able to simply walk forward and unload both hands with little in the way of deterrent.

Habazin seems unable to sit down on her punches, constantly switches stance despite an inability to fight well from either, and really has no answer for pressure. I’ll be stunned if she takes a round from Shields; as soon as “T-Rex” realizes there’s nothing stopping her from just teeing off, it’s a matter of time. Shields TKO-5

Lewis Watson

It’s a case of third time lucky for this fight, with this women’s junior middleweight clash finally around the corner. I say “finally” like I have been eagerly anticipating this one for months – in reality, I’d take anything at the moment after a barren start to 2020!

I can’t claim to have seen anything much of Habazin. She’s lost three of her previous four big “step-ups” amassing an interesting interrail around European cities. Shields is too big, too strong and, fundamentally, too good for the Croatian. It’ll be interesting to see “T-Rex” at this new weight, but I think that’ll probably be about as interesting as it gets. Habazin may stick around – Shields doesn’t finish many of her opponents and may have a little less pop down at 154. Shields UD-10

And the staff winner is...

Claressa Shields v Christina Hammer Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Claressa Shields (4-0)!

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