Croatia’s Ivana Habazin will be a massive underdog when she enters the ring on Friday night in Atlantic City to face two-division titleholder Claressa Shields, with a pair of vacant 154-pound titles at stake.
Habazin, a former welterweight titleholder, says that Shields is a bully, and she’s looking to serve up some humility to her rival.
“I welcome this opportunity and look forward to giving the bully a massive dose of humility and showing her what real boxing skills look like,” said Habazin. “You can expect to finally see someone actually box the bully. She still fights like she’s in the amateurs, she just hasn’t met anyone not intimidated by her BS yet. Someone who’s going to fight back and school her.
“She talks about disrespect, but doesn’t have a clue what that means. Every time she opens her mouth, she’s disrespectful. She’s a disgrace to women’s boxing and sports in general. She self-anointed herself the GWOAT. But, anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of the sport knows that Christy Martin, Lucia Rijker, Laila Ali, and Ann Wolfe would have wiped the floor with her.”
Habazin (20-3, 7 KO) was originally set to face Shields (9-0, 2 KO) last August, but Shields pulled out with a reported injury, rescheduling the fight for October. The two weighed in for the fight in Michigan, only for an attack on Habazin’s trainer to result in the cancellation of the bout on a day’s notice.
Steve Upsher Chambers, who fought from 2003-18 with a career record of 25-6-1 (6 KO), will serve as Habazin’s chief second for this bout.
“We have a connection,” Habazin said of her new trainer. “As soon as I met him, I said, ‘OK, you’re coming with me.’ He was definitely the best choice. He’s had a lot of ring experience in big fights and I definitely learned a lot of new things. He changed my style, so it wasn’t easy at the beginning, but we made it. I am very happy to be working with him and we are going to shock everybody Friday because I am a totally different fighter in the best shape of my life.”
“She surprised me with how good she already was,” Chambers said. “Implementing and tweaking the things she already does wasn’t that difficult. We did a few different things, but the ultimate goal is the same and the game plan is pretty much the same. Of course, we miss Bashir. His personality brings something out of fighters, but we had a good camp and got the job done. She is very confident going in. We are planning on this fight being a complete shock from the very first round on.”
Chambers admits this is his first time training in what is seen as a big fight, but says he has a lot of experience working in the gym that he can call upon, including his work with his brother, the heavyweight Eddie Chambers, who fought from 2000-16, notably challenging Wladimir Klitschko in 2010.
“This is pretty much my first time as the head trainer in a big fight, but people familiar with my brother and I know that we didn’t have a trainer after a certain point,” Chambers said. “All we had is what we talked about with each other. We had our manager work our corners, but my brother and I basically trained ourselves. So I have already been on the big stage training my brother and myself. I was in the corner when my brother fought Wladimir Klitschko in front of 60,000 people, so this is nothing new to me. I’m not panicking.”
Habazin believes that Shields is looking for an easy mark, and that she’s picked the wrong fight this time.
“She took this fight only because she thought it was easy pickings to get another undeserving title,” she said of Shields. “This time she bit off more than her big mouth could chew. She talks about knocking me out. Please, you’ve had women stand right in front of you for 10 rounds and didn’t do shit. I’m going to give the bully a boxing lesson and shut her mouth with a dose of humility.
“Let me extend an apology to Mark Taffet, Dmitriy Salita, Amanda Nunes, Dana White, Stephen Espinoza, Gordon Hall, and boxing fans who were fooled into believing this bully had some real pedigree, when in fact she’s all bark and no bite. Is that being disrespectful you ask? No, that called being honest and telling it like it is. She can dish it out, but folds like a chair when someone stands up to her. Typical bully!”