Adler vs. Shields Preview

By Caryn A. Tate on August 3, 2017
Adler vs. Shields Preview
If Claressa tries too hard to play to the crowd and get a KO, Adler could make her pay.

Since turning pro, Claressa Shields has continued to impress and has done what she’s supposed to do: win…

On Friday, August 4, WBC super middleweight world female champion Nikki Adler (16-0, 9 KOs) will take on Claressa “T-Rex” Shields (3-0, 1 KO) on SHOWTIME’s ShoBox series. The vacant IBF super middleweight female world title will also be up for grabs. It’s a great match-up between a seasoned champion and a young two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Shields is challenging for a world title in only her fourth professional fight—should she win, it will be a loud statement to the entire sport of boxing.

But Shields winning isn’t a given here. Adler, who has been the WBC champion for nearly four years, is a solid fighter with good fundamentals that she puts to use. Also, a note about her record: In the current state of women’s boxing, an undefeated record is uncommon and typically indicates amateur experience—which many female fighters don’t have. Similar to professional boxing in Mexico, many fighters “learn on the job” during their pro career. Hence the sometimes deceiving number of losses on a fighter’s pro record.

Adler is no exception—she had a solid amateur career, resulting in 24 wins and 5 losses. She won the International German Championship in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, as well as the Croatian Championship in 2008.

Claressa Shields, on the other hand, achieved the highest level possible in her amateur career when she won Olympic Gold twice: once in 2012, the first year women were allowed to compete in boxing at the Olympics, and again in 2016. Her amateur record stands at 78 wins with only a single loss.

As an amateur, Shields’ technique was a thing of beauty and nearly flawless. She showed great defense and punishing offense, often looking like a cross between a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. and a prime Roy Jones Jr. with her flashy yet very effective skills. It often appeared she was going to knock out her opposition even with headgear on—if it weren’t for the headgear and the two minute rounds, she very likely would have achieved more knockouts than the 19 she got as an amateur.

Since turning pro, Claressa has continued to impress and has done what she’s supposed to do: win. But in her first three fights, she tended to throw wild punches and seemed to have a tendency to go to war more than box. Her punch selection was often composed of too many wide, looping shots, which don’t take advantage of her lightning fast hands. With Shields’ hand speed, when she throws straight, she’s not likely to miss.

In her last fight, versus Sydney LeBlanc (4-2-1), Shields started out in a similar, wild fashion. But her coach, Jason Crutchfield, shouted the occasional instruction to her, and she listened—this made all the difference. He reminded her to use fundamentals like the jab, and as soon as she did it, it turned the bout from an unnecessary war (albeit one Shields was dominating) into a display of beautiful boxing and a clear gulf in ability. Hopefully Shields and Crutchfield are prepared to use the two-time Olympic Gold Medalist’s superb skills and ring IQ in the fight Friday with Adler, because she’s going to need them.

If Shields keeps a cool head, doesn’t go to war with Adler, and boxes the way she knows how, she should win the fight. When she keeps her technique tight and efficient, there isn’t a champion in women’s boxing near the super middleweight division who should be able to beat her.

But if Claressa tries too hard to play to the crowd and get a knockout, Adler could make her pay. The WBC super middleweight champion isn’t flashy, but she is sound—she uses her jab effectively, often doubling or tripling it and hiding her power hand behind it, and moves fairly well on her feet. She keeps a level head and fights smart; not only does she use the golden ticket, the jab, but she also makes up for her relatively slow hands by typically firing straight. This is another reason Shields needs to be sure not to throw too many looping punches—if she fires straight, there’s no doubt she gets there first.

It’s likely Adler gives Shields more of a challenge than she’s had since turning pro. I suspect Claressa will have to think in there, and show more of her winning mentality and discipline than perhaps we’ve seen since the Olympics. That’s a good thing for both the fans, who want to see fighters challenged, but also for Shields, to help keep her learning and sharp.

It would be a mistake to overlook Adler, who had a good amateur run and has had an impressive professional career. Fundamentals are a key ingredient to winning tough fights, and Nikki has those. Plus, the champion is no stranger to fighting away from her adoptive home country of Germany—while this will be her first pro fight in the United States, she has fought in Russia three times. So it’s unlikely she’ll have visitor jitters.

Adler vs. Shields is an enticing bout that will likely help garner women’s boxing more of the attention it deserves. In all likelihood, Shields pulls out the win in an exciting fight; but it’s highly doubtful she walks through Adler, who has the experience to possibly throw a hitch into things.

Follow Caryn A. Tate on Twitter@carynatate

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  1. The Barker 01:23pm, 08/04/2017

    Looking forward to this one.

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