By: Oliver McManus
The self-styled ‘greatest woman of all time’, Claressa Shields (9-0) returns to her home city of Flint this Saturday for a long awaited homecoming bout. Waiting for her in the ring will be Ivana Habazin (23-3) of Zagreb, Croatia, with the WBO and WBC ‘Diamond’ super welterweight titles on the line.
Shields has been a dominant force in women’s boxing since making the decision to turn professional in 2016: she’s been a world champion since her third fight and became ‘undisputed’ in her most recent. Habazin is somewhat of a stalwart in the European scene, a bit like Shields’ last opponent Christina Hammer, having boxed professionally since 2010. The 29 year old has had limited success at world level with one win (three if you count the IBO) to counter her three losses – against Mikaela Lauren, Eva Bajic and Cecilia Braekhus.
Her confidence is high going into this postponed contest having recently avenged the loss to Bajic and comfortably won the IBO middleweight title. Dropping down to super welterweight suits Habazin well – it is her more natural weight class – but it’s likely she’ll be the smaller fighter on the night with Shields likely to gain more in the rehydration process.
The lure of any potential knockout finish to proceedings should be minimal. Couple that with more methodical approaches from the protagonists and you could be forgiven for labelling this fight an ‘intriguing chess match’, ‘a battle of wills’ or any other such well-worn cliché. It is an approach that has served Shields well, however, with a brash confidence to expose her opponents through sheer technical superiority.
Against Hammer we saw Shields respond to Hammer’s more upright, rangy style by cutting the ring off effectively. The movement of Shields loosened as the fight progressed and that’s when the ‘showman’ or ‘show-woman’ aspect of her boxing came to the fore Hammer began the fight as the instigator looking to disrupt a rhythm but it was Shields who was dominant and that’s the sort of game-plan you’d expect her to take against Habazin.
Not really a ground-shaking opponent to return her home city with but few are really on a palpable level when it comes to Shields. Should be routine but at least is has sentimental value.
The undercard will see Jaron Ennis taking on Demian Daniel Fernandez over the course of a ten round welterweight contest. The unbeaten (23-0) Philadelphian has impressed here at Boxing Insider since making his debut at the age of 18. Now 22 it’s safe to say he’s served his apprenticeship and is looking to creep closer to a world ranking; he’s already got a foot in the WBC’s door via their USNBC Silver title.
No such additional trinket will be on offer for his but on Saturday but Fernandez (12-1) is the ‘interim’ WBO Latino champion so is likely to be a fair gauge of his current ability. Indeed the 30 year old Argentine was particularly impressive against, fellow Argentine, Diego Ramirez last October when he refused to buckle under the planted feet of his compatriot. He ultimately won the contest 96-94 (x2), 97-93 against the man who would go on to defeat, former British champion, Bradley Skeete.
Ennis will look to replicate that aggression of Ramirez, with better results albeit, as he looks to continue his run of 13 early finishes.
A heavyweight co-feature has Jermaine Franklin (19-0) battling Pavel Sour (11-1) in a fight which has potential to throw up ANYTHING. It could be a re-run of Dubois vs Tetteh from the weekend – a clear gulf in levels – or it could result in a thrilling slug fest a la Ibeabuchi-Tua (admittedly hyperbolic but you get the point). Franklin has underwhelmed for a long time now and his progression has significantly stagnated; a split decision against Jerry Forrest in July was particularly painful to watch.
Nonetheless Dmitry Salita perseveres with the 25 year old who continues to promise he’s ‘the next big thing’ whilst offering up little supporting evidence. Sour doesn’t make such bold claims and, by all accounts, the 36 year old is happy with his lot but clearly sees this as an avenue to more testing contest and, importantly, more lucrative purses. The sole blemish on his record was a 1st round knockout loss to the ever-ferocious Filip Hrgovic. Since then he has claimed, and defended, the Czech national title against Vaclav Pejsar and a subsequent defence against Tomas Salek. A puncher, but against untested opposition, his best hope is that Jermaine Franklin well, does yet another ‘Jermaine Franklin’.
The main event looks to provide the main talking point from the show and, certainly, if Claressa Shields has her way it’ll be her cries of “I AM the Greatest Woman of All Time” that ring in our ears as we try to sleep. The party in Flint, Michigan, if she wins will run for some time longer.
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