And the New: Shields Wins World Titles in Fourth Bout

By Caryn A. Tate on August 4, 2017
And the New: Shields Wins World Titles in Fourth Bout
She has been groomed to be a champion and a role model. (Stephanie Trapp/Showtime)

From the start, Claressa Shields’ hand speed, ring IQ, athleticism, and fundamentals were on display…

On Friday night from the MGM Grand Detroit, WBC super middleweight champion Nikki Adler (16-1, 9 KOs) faced Claressa “T-Rex” Shields (4-0, 2 KOs) on SHOWTIME’s ShoBox broadcast. It was great that SHOWTIME had famed announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. on hand in honor of this important night for women’s boxing—and really, with Shields being a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, the main event was an important fight for all of boxing. Not only was Adler’s WBC title up for grabs—the IBF super middleweight strap was too, and Shields was challenging for the belts in only her fourth pro fight.

Before the bout, SHOWTIME’s Steve Farhood and Barry Tompkins discussed whether a win by Shields would put her in the conversation with such greats as Christy Martin and Laila Ali. Farhood responded in the negative, stating that the super middleweight division in women’s boxing is very thin ( only lists 23 total female fighters worldwide in that division), and that perhaps a win over middleweight champion Christina Hammer would bring Claressa closer to that level.

While it’s a fair point that the super middleweight division isn’t exactly a murderer’s row, Farhood’s statement made light of Adler’s skill and her achievements. It’s incredibly rare for any female pro fighter to be undefeated, much less to be a world champion for any real length of time, so it’s simply unfair to say that the winner of this fight didn’t achieve that much.

In my preview of the Nikki Adler vs. Claressa Shields fight, I stated, “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.”

Shields kept a cool head.

From the start, Shields’ hand speed, ring IQ, athleticism, and fundamentals were on display. She stunned Adler from the get go with combinations that Adler didn’t seem to see coming—or have an answer for. Nikki became reluctant to let her own hands go because she was getting pummeled every time she even started to drop her guard.

It was so bad that in round 2, referee Michael Griffin asked Adler if she was all right in the middle of the action. Occasionally Adler would attempt to throw something, but rarely connected and definitely didn’t do anything effective.

In round 3, Shields went to the body, hurt Adler and backed her away. Claressa put her hands up as if to say, “What?!” Adler attempted a punch, but Shields slipped it and countered with a beautiful shot just before the bell.

Claressa used angles to very good effect, so that even when Adler periodically tried to move her feet, it wasn’t enough and she couldn’t escape Shields’ onslaught. Claressa threw snappy, straight punches. Shields dropped her hands in the fifth and seemed to be daring Adler to throw something—anything.

After more of the continued beating, the referee called a halt to the action in round 5. Adler wasn’t in the fight from the very first bell, and that is not a knock against her talent or accomplishments—rather, it’s a statement of how many levels above most other boxers Shields is.

After the bout during her post-fight interview, Farhood asked Shields how winning her two Olympic Gold Medals compared to this. Shields said, “I can say I feel happier now. Maybe it’s I’m on TV, I’m getting paid some money—it feels good to win, and also win when you’re the underdog. I’m happy.”

Farhood asked Claressa what she felt she’d conveyed to middleweight WBO and WBC world champion Christina Hammer, who traveled to Detroit from Germany to challenge the winner, and had entered the ring after the bout. Shields’ response was priceless—and, honestly, true.

“I think I told Christina she better keep her hands up.”

Farhood asked Hammer what she thought of the bout. “It was a good fight, but it wasn’t good for me. I beat you both.”

Shields retorted, “You say that while you’re in a dress, and I’m in gear. Go put your gear on and I’ll kick your ass right now.”

Shields has been groomed to be not only a champion, but also a role model. In addition to winning two Olympic Gold Medals, and now these two world titles, she’s a beacon to her city—an example. In this fight, her trunks bore the picture of a young woman named Kanasha Thomas, who was killed at a block party in Flint, Michigan. Thomas and Shields were friends from high school, and Claressa dedicated ( ) the fight to Thomas in a call to stop the senseless violence in her hometown.

                                                                * * *

Earlier, in the opening fight of the broadcast, super bantamweights Jesse Hernandez (8-1, 6 KOs) and Vladimir Tikhonov (16-0, 9 KOs) squared off. Tikhonov, a southpaw who trains out of the famed Kronk Gym, employed that style by jabbing effectively and occasionally throwing his power hand. Hernandez, on the other hand, switched stances periodically and did a good job moving his upper body—and his feet—to get inside on Tikhonov and land the occasional effective hook downstairs. Hernandez shows real promise—he just needs more experience and more practice at what he does.

The commentators mostly talked up Tikhonov for the first three rounds, rarely commenting on Hernandez’s successes. But Jesse was very effective by taking the fight to Tikhonov on the inside, or at least mid-range, and use his fast hands to throw varied combinations. Hernandez dogged Tikhonov and brought him a fight the Russian just didn’t have an answer for.

In round 3, Tikhonov appeared to headbutt purposefully but it was hard to say for sure. But later, in round 5 when Tikhonov was in serous trouble from Hernandez’s pressure, he clearly intentionally headbutted his opponent. The referee warned him but didn’t take a point, which was the correct course of action. Hernandez was cut Later in the same round Tikhonov headbutted again.

But it ended up not mattering much, as Hernandez continued to pressure Tikhonov, snapping his head back repeatedly with punches, until the referee waved it off in a good stoppage. Hopefully we’ll continue to see Hernandez regularly on ShoBox and the like, because he has some real talent.

Follow Caryn A. Tate on Twitter@carynatate

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ShoBox | Nikki Adler vs. Claressa Shields Highlights

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  1. CHARLES PARRIS SR 03:50am, 08/09/2017


  2. Charlie Gard 01:12pm, 08/05/2017

    The stats were wrong….Adler did not land a punch! Her left glove touched Shields’ person a couple of times but nothing landed that qualified as a punch.

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