By: Jake Donovan
Claressa Shields proclaimed during fight week ahead of her pro debut that she’d be ready for the likes of top boxers Christina Hammer and Cecilia Braekhus by her 7th pro fight.
Ever the prophet, the two-time Olympic Gold medalist and reigning middleweight queen remains true to her word—and just two years into her already booming pro career.
Photo Credit: Showtime
Shields and Hammer are officially set to collide on November 17 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Their scheduled 10-round bout will air live on Showtime, topping a special edition of the network’s long-running ShoBox: The New Generation series.
Given the significance, the titanic middleweight clash is more befitting the network’s “Showtime Championship Boxing” series as the winner will become just the second female boxer in history—and just the fifth overall—to lay claim as undisputed champion (WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO) in the four-belt era.
“I’ve worked hard my whole life to overcome every obstacle, represent my country and win two Olympic gold medals, and win world championships in two weight divisions as a pro,” Shields said in a press statement. “I want to be part of the biggest fight in women’s boxing history, I want to be undisputed world middleweight champion.”
Shields (6-0, 2KOs)—who captured Olympic Gold in 2012 and 2016—carries two middleweight belts in tow. The 23-year old from Flint, Mich. claimed both in a 5th round stoppage of previously unbeaten titlist Nikki Adler in their Aug. ’17 clash, marking just her fourth pro fight.
Two successful title defenses have followed, including a 10-round win over Hanna Gabriel in her most recent outing this past June. That show set the stage for this forthcoming clash, with Hammer (23-0, 10KOs) appearing in the Showtime-televised co-feature in a 10-round decision victory of her own, besting Tori Nelson (whom Shields outpointed in January).
It was clear from the moment the show was scheduled that the intention was to lead to a head-on collision.
Hammer—a two-division champion from Germany by way of Kazakhstan—won her first belt in just her seventh pro fight, way back in Oct. ’10 as she serves as the longest reigning active major titlist today, female or male. The 28-year old has racked up 14 title defenses, along with pit stops at super middleweight—where she bested previously unbeaten Zita Zatkayo in their May ’13 vacant title fight—and a super welterweight title win over former pound-for-pound queen Anne Sophie Mathis that was later changed to a No-Contest.
Despite her lengthy title reign, a desire to become the absolute best prompted a change in scenery. Having spent her entire career in Eastern Europe, Hammer made her stateside debut on the aforementioned shared card with Shields in June. The goal was to land the American boxing star in the ring, and now gets her wish.
“I am beyond excited and motivated to fight Claressa,” said Hammer. “I am the best middleweight in the world and will make that point very clear when we get in the ring. It’s been my dream to fight in the biggest women’s fight of all time and raise women’s boxing to an all-time high. I will be crowned the undisputed middleweight queen on November 17.”
The winner will join Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, reigning pound-for-pound queen Braekhus and pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford as the only boxers in history to simultaneously own all four major belts in the same weight division.
There have been higher profile female boxing events in history—most famously the June ’01 slugfest between famous offspring Laila Ali (Muhammad Ali’s daughter) and Jackie Frazier-Hyde (Joe Frazier’s daughter), as well as the Aug. ‘03 lopsided money grab between Ali and Christy Martin, the latter whom is credited for restoring notoriety in women’s boxing.
Where that side of the sport has fallen miserably short is securing historic matches, as women’s boxing was for too long limited as a sideshow attraction on major shows.
Now in an era where females are more empowered than at any other point in history, women’s boxing gets the dream matchup it has long deserved—and has no plans at stopping just there.
“Shields vs Hammer will break all the barriers and lift women’s boxing to a new level,” Mark Taffet, Shields’ manager assured BoxingInsider.com “It’s that rare, can’t miss fight between two undefeated, unified champions in their prime. All of boxing should be proud of these two women and take the example from them; when the best fight the best, there are no losers.
“It’s the biggest and best matchup in women’s boxing history. Laila Ali never fought Ann Wolfe; Christy Martin never fought Lucia Rijker. Hats off the Shields and Hammer for raising the bar for others to follow!”
Taffet and Shields joined forces straight out of the 2016 Olympics with this very blueprint in place. With a win on November 17—almost two years to the day of her pro debut—Shields will not only break new ground, but continue to lead by example.
“I want women’s boxing to reach new heights, and the only thing standing between me and the achievement of all those goals is Christina Hammer,” Shields notes. “I will defeat Hammer on November 17, and I will do it in a way that will leave no doubt who is the best in the world.”