By: Sean Crose
“I’m just ready to beat Christina Hammer up and make her shut up.”
So said Claressa Shields, two time Olympic Gold medalist and current IBF, WBA, and WBC women’s middleweight champion. Shields was on a conference call to promote this Saturday night’s title unification bout against WBO middleweight champion Christina Hammer. The bout is being promoted as the biggest women’s fight in boxing history. That may or may not be true, but the 8-0 Shields, and the 24-0 longtime champ Hammer are most certainly at the top of the pecking order.
“I’m thankful for this opportunity,” Germany’s Hammer claimed. “It’s a big step for women’s boxing, and a big step for me.” The two were supposed to fight last November, but a Hammer injury pushed the battle back to this weekend in Atlantic City (“I still would have won”said Shields). The truth is that Shields isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers, but she also makes it clear that she knows big talk is part of the big business that is boxing. It’s something Hammer concurs with. “I think it’s normal,” said Hammer of the trash talk. “That’s boxing. That’s business.”
“We both talk trash,” Shields admitted. “I can say I don’t like her as much as she doesn’t like me. But at the end of the day, after the fight, I’ll give as much sportsmanship as I can.” Both fighters made it clear that their fight is nothing if not a huge event. Undefeated, young, and decorated, both athletes realize that there’s a lot of bragging rights that come with winning this weekend, though both are already acclaimed in their own right. “Just keep being me,” Shields said in response to the assertion she’s “the face of women’s boxing.” Shields mentioned a piece of advice Andre Ward gave to her: “Just be who you are.” If being who she is brings about a win on Saturday, it will be sound advice indeed.
Although Shields only has eight professional fights to her name, she expressed confidence leading up the bout. “I’m going to whip her ass up all night,” Shields said. “All night.” Yet Shields also showed something of a reflective side during the call. “I’m not a perfect fighter,” she admitted, “just know that I’m getting there.” Not yet twenty-five, it’s clear the former Olympian has a mindset she’s comfortable with. “I just get in there, and win.”
Although Shields may come across as rougher around the edges, Hammer showed that she can subtly and aggressively press buttons. For it was Hammer who interrupted while Shields was answering a question, then laughed when Shields responded.