Claressa Shields will return to action on Saturday, June 3, facing Hanna Gabriels in a rematch for Shields’ undisputed middleweight championship in Detroit.
Shields (13-0, 2 KO) basically has nobody to fight at 160 lbs, if we’re all willing to be honest about the depth of that division and the fact that she has now dominated it twice over; in a way, her win over Savannah Marshall last October in London, which made Shields a two-time undisputed middleweight champ, was sort of a “series finale” on anything interesting Shields has to do in boxing, because she has simply been too good, and she has run through everyone there has been to fight in the last six years and change.
She’s won world titles at super middleweight, twice gone undisputed at 160, and gone undisputed at 154. The current top fighters at 154 are really 130 lb fighters (Natasha Jonas and Terri Harper), and other than a Marshall rematch, there isn’t much there for her, either. A 168 lb rematch with undisputed champ Franchon Crews-Dezurn — the two turned pro against one another in 2016 — seemed her biggest option other than Marshall.
And it may have been. Gabriels (21-2-1, 12 KO) has fought once in the last four years, a bout in Costa Rica where she beat an 11-9 opponent for the WBA light heavyweight and WBC heavyweight titles, two divisions that simply do not really exist in women’s boxing. The 40-year-old Gabriels is a former multiple-time titlist at 154 lbs.
The “heat” for this fight may be that Gabriels scored a knockdown against Shields in the first round of their 2018 bout, which was Shields’ sixth pro fight. Shields went on to win on scores of 97-92, 97-92, and 98-91.
This really just comes down to numbers, and the fact that there just aren’t many quality women’s boxers over 140 lbs. Those at 147 or currently campaigning at 154 are too small to be particularly interesting Shields opponents. If you think I’m exaggerating, check the BoxRec listings at 160 and 168; there’s really nobody notable she hasn’t already beaten, other than Shadasia Green and maybe Raquel Miller.
Some critical fans are calling it a “cherry pick” on social media, but the truth is there’s almost nobody around that Claressa Shields hasn’t already beaten, and convincingly. If she’s going to keep boxing — and remember that she is still just 28 years old — then yeah, we’re probably going to be getting into more reruns after this.