Claressa Shields defeated Ivana Habazin via unanimous decision on Saturday night at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J., for the vacant WBC and WBO 154-pound world titles.
Shields, 24, from Flint, Mich., dominated the contest from the opening bell to become the fastest professional boxer ever, male or female, to win world titles in three different weight classes. It was a wildly one-sided fight with only Habazin’s grit and determination keeping her on her feet for the duration of the contest.
Judges at ringside scored the bout 99-98, 100-90 and 100-89 for Shields.
Shields employed fast, straight jabs right from the start, and the American decimated Habazin with her faster reflexes and more powerful punches. To make matters worse for the underdog, Habazin’s punches just didn’t seem to have any effect on the champion.
Even after the 30-year-old from Croatia caught Shields with a hard right hand in the sixth round, Shields walked through the punch to land her own devastating body shot that eventually sent Habazin down to one knee after the American went there again with a left hook moments later.
Habazin was able to beat the count, but her strength was sapped. Shields kept the pressure on her opponent, and the challenger bravely fought through the rest of the round. The two traded punches for the rest of the fight, but Shields always got the better of the exchanges.
After the bout, Shields told Showtime’s Jim Gray during the post-fight interview that she still believes she can become an even better fighter someday soon.
“It wasn’t what I wanted,” Shields said. “But I’m happy with the improvement.”
Shields Couldn’t Score Knockout Win
Shields seemed to be miffed that she couldn’t quite score the stoppage.
Entering the contest against Habazin as a former 168-pound titleholder and the reigning undisputed middleweight champion, Shields was moving down to the 154-pound junior middleweight division to face Habazin for two vacant titles.
So it seemed Shields would have the kind of size advantage in the fight that would ultimately lead to her scoring the knockout win. But it didn’t happen.
Instead, the undefeated three-time champion is now 10-0 with 2 KOs and hasn’t scored a knockout in six straight fights.
“I just want to become a better fighter,” said Shields. “That’s all. I want to grow women’s boxing.”
Nunes Not In Attendance But Shields-Habazin Bout Finally Happened
While there were rumors that UFC two-division champion Amanda Nunes would be in attendance at the fight, that apparently was just something floated to the media by the event’s promoters.
In fact, Nunes was supposed to have been invited to Shields-Habazin on Saturday night, but it doesn’t appear the invitation was accepted if it was sent out at all.
But at least the Shields-Habazin fight finally happen.
The two were originally scheduled to fight on October 5 in Flint, Mich., but the bout was called off less than 36 hours from the opening bell after an altercation at the official prefight weigh-in resulted in an injury to Habazin’s trainer, James Ali Bashir.
Shields brother, Artis J. Mack, was eventually charged with assault for allegedly attacking Ali Bashir at the event. It was the second time something outside the ring kept the fight from happening.
The two fighters were first scheduled to meet back in August 2019, but Shields had to withdraw from that fight due to a minor knee injury.
Is Crossover Fight Against UFC’s Amanda Nunes Next?
Shields has been trying to lure Nunes into a crossover boxing match since February 2019 when she told TMZ Sports she’d knock Nunes out if the two ever faced each other. The two-time Olympic boxing champion said the same thing five months later and told Sporting News in August that she was interested in facing Nunes both in the boxing ring and inside the Octagon under MMA rules.
Shields attended UFC 245 in December, and UFC president Dana White expressed interest per TMZ Sports in making some kind of crossover event happen. Earlier this month, Shields said she was still planning to try her hand at MMA later this year.
For her part, Shields believes she’d be able to compete with Nunes, even under MMA rules.
“I think I’m gonna do great, because I thought wrestling would be the hardest part for me, but I did maybe a two-hour session with Adeline Gray and when I left, I wasn’t annoyed because she was grabbing me and I kind of had to get out of stuff,” Shields said via DAZN News. “She showed me how she did everything, and I had to do it back on her, and I just remember it being so fun.”
Nunes Recently Warned Shields Against Pursuing Fight
Still, beating Nunes at her own game would be a huge upset.
Nunes is considered by many to be the greatest female MMA fighter ever. She’s currently one of only four fighters to have ever become UFC champion in two weight divisions at the same time, and one of only two to remain that way.
Nunes is the current UFC champion at bantamweight and featherweight.
In December, Nunes told TMZ Sports that Shields would not be able to compete with her in MMA. Moreover, Nunes revealed that she had no interest in boxing Shields in what would essentially be the female version of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor superfight that saw Mayweather stop McGregor in the tenth round in August 2017.
“I’m not a boxer. I’m an MMA fighter,” Nunes said. “If I wanted to be a boxer, I would be.”
Still, it seems Shields is doing everything she can to lure Nunes into a fight one way or the other. The boxer recently revealed that her team would offer Nunes a $2 million payday to make the fight happen inside a boxing ring, and her promoter, Dmitry Salita, told BJPenn.com last week that his team’s intent was serious and that the more interesting fight between the two champions would happen in the boxing ring.