Shields Dominates Hammer for Undisputed Middleweight Championship

By Caryn A. Tate on April 13, 2019
Shields Dominates Hammer for Undisputed Middleweight Championship
Shields is a special talent who is changing women’s boxing single-handedly. (Showtime)

It was an absolutely terrific performance by the trailblazing Shields in a top level fight of the utmost importance…

In what was without a doubt the most important contest in the history of women’s boxing, world middleweight champions Claressa Shields (9-0, 2 KOs) and Christina Hammer (24-1, 11 KOs) faced off for the undisputed crown of the division.

Entering this bout, Shields was the unified IBF, WBA, and WBC world middleweight champion. Hammer was the eight and a half year WBO world title holder. Both were undefeated and in their primes.

On top of two Olympic gold medals, as a professional Shields won her first world title in her fourth bout and was a two-division champion after six fights. As I discussed in detail in my breakdown of the fight, Shields also has the superior versatility and elite fundamentals that enable her to defeat her opponents regardless of style or range.

Importantly, Shields also possesses a grittiness, a doggedness, that often makes the difference at the top level.

When Shields was knocked down for the first time last year against the excellent Hanna Gabriels, she got back up and fought, winning with an impressive and dominant performance. When Hammer was dropped by legal punches to the side of the head by Anne Sophie Mathis in 2014, she didn’t try to get up (and the referee incorrectly ruled the bout a no-contest).

People often say that the way a fighter deals with adversity in the ring says a lot. It’s a valid truism and these examples of Shields and Hammer having to deal with being hurt or knocked down revealed a lot about their character and how they will respond in the future.

In the first, Hammer predictably utilized lateral movement yet didn’t throw much early on. Shields stood relatively flat-footed, but with good foot positioning, and countered when Hammer did throw. In the second, Shields came on ever stronger, landing some hard, clean punches that not only got Hammer’s attention but had the German champion looking highly uncomfortable.

In the third, Shields had effectively pulled Hammer into more of a fight, not a boxing match, and also had taken away Hammer’s jab for the most part. Hammer had begun moving consistently but hardly letting her hands go. She seemed at a loss for how to deal with Shields. In the corner between rounds, K2 Promotions head man Tom Loeffler provided the translation for Hammer’s corner talk.

Claressa utilized exceptional defense, moving her upper body to expertly avoid being touched. It was reminiscent of her second Olympic gold winning performance in 2016. Hammer seemed perplexed by this; when she did let her hands go, Shields slipped the punches most of the time or even anticipated the shots and stepped back to make Hammer fall short.

Simply put, the difference in the level of Shields’ ring IQ and experience versus Hammer’s was glaringly obvious. Heading into this bout, many people talked up Hammer’s footwork and her jab, suggesting Shields may not be able to contend with those skills. In reality, Shields doesn’t have flashy feet but they are educated, and she knows—as do all great fighters—that what matters is superior positioning. Shields showed tonight that she didn’t have to move much to achieve that positioning to land her own offense and slip Hammer’s. Her expert ability to use angles that confused Hammer was obvious throughout the night as well.

As the middle rounds progressed, Hammer’s excessive holding held up the action. Referee Sparkle Lee continued to allow it, and worse, would break the fighters even when one (usually Shields) had a hand free and was trying to fight. It was incredibly frustrating, as many times Shields was in the middle of landing some nice body punches on the inside when the referee stopped the action to unnecessarily break them.

Hammer was lost on the inside, not surprisingly based on her style and history, while Shields is at home there. Shields’ constant pressure and use of superior foot placement to land her punches almost whenever she pleased absolutely rattled Hammer. As mentioned earlier, Hammer has never dealt with pressure particularly well, and tonight was no exception. She often looked to the referee when Shields made her way inside, as if looking for someone to stop Shields’ assault.

At one point, Hammer again held Shields on the inside. Shields had a hand free and landed a couple of shots upstairs, to the side of the head, reminiscent of Hammer’s run-in with Mathis. Hammer looked not only hurt but aghast, turning to appeal to the referee to call the shots illegal. Of course that didn’t happen, as the punches were absolutely legal, but it was another telling thing from Hammer.

In the eighth, Shields landed nearly everything she threw with such accuracy, consistency, and sharpness that Hammer began to look wobbly. She clinched. Shields went back to work, but with the silly two-minute rounds in women’s boxing, Hammer survived. Regardless, it was a clear 10-8 round in my view, as Shields did everything but drop Hammer.

At one point, Hammer was taking punches from Shields and began to spit out her mouthpiece while on the ropes in what seemed to be an effort to buy herself some time. Shields, however, continued working and landed a clean right hand upstairs, surprising Hammer. The mouthpiece came all the way out. Unfortunately, the referee stopped the action to replace the mouthpiece, despite the fact that the ref is supposed to wait for a lull in the action to do this.

In the end, Hammer was able to survive but not much else. There’s no question in my mind that, if they had the full three-minute rounds like men do, Shields would have stopped her opponent. Regardless, it was an absolutely terrific performance by the trailblazing Shields in a top level fight of the utmost importance. She couldn’t have been more dominant or done anything more than what she did. That’s all we can ask of any fighter and it was fantastic to see a young, elite boxer give that in a historically important bout that the world was talking about.

Oddly, the official judges scored the bout 98-92 on all three scorecards. It’s difficult to fathom what two rounds they could have scored for Hammer. Personally, I had it a shutout, though it’s feasible to have scored the first for Hammer. Two rounds, though, is out of the question.

After the contest, Shields told Showtime’s Steve Farhood, “I am the Greatest Woman of All Time…Her jab is off the chain. They weren’t lying. She’s probably left handed. I was calculating 1) what was her jab like? 2) How fast is she? I seen her jab was a little slow. I started picking her apart.

“98-92?” she said, regarding the poor scorecards. “Give me my credit. I beat her in every round.”

I agree completely.

As far as what the 24-year-old star wants next, Claressa said, “I want to fight Cecilia Braekhus at 154. If not her, give me Savannah Marshall.”

Whatever is next for Shields, it’s clear we’re looking at a special talent who is changing women’s boxing single-handedly. In only nine professional bouts, she is undisputed middleweight champion on top of all of her other achievements. She won’t be ignored and she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Prior to the main event, Jermaine Franklin (18-0, 13 KOs) faced Rydell Booker (25-2, 12 KOs) in a 10-round heavyweight contest. They started off somewhat slow, with Booker displaying the better defense and seeming to surprise Franklin with his versatility. By the second, though, the action was heating up and Booker had begun landing on Franklin and hurting him, while applying James Toney-esque slipping style defense to avoid being touched by much coming back from the younger, undefeated fighter.

By the fourth round, Franklin had lost his mouthpiece twice, certainly the result of the clean punches from Booker. As the rounds continued, Booker tired and Franklin began outlanding him. That trend continued, though Booker did have his moments and still exhibited a solid defense that prevented him from taking many clean or damaging punches.

In the end, Franklin came away with a unanimous decision and will move on to bigger things, hopefully learning a trick or two from Booker.

In Showtime’s opener, heavyweights Otto Wallin (20-0, 13 KOs) and Nick Kisner (21-4-1, 6 KOs) faced off in a ten-round bout. We didn’t get far into the first round before an accidental headbutt occurred and the referee, clearly inexperienced, didn’t seem to notice. Before long, both fighters were bleeding and dabbing at their faces. Kisner was squinting his right eye and said audibly, “I can’t see.”

The referee paused the action and had a doctor inspect both men. Despite Kisner again saying he couldn’t see, the doctor allowed him to continue. In the corner, Kisner repeated himself to his corner and, finally, the fight was stopped with a no-decision result (the rules state that if an accidental foul occurs with a resulting injury before four rounds have completed, the fight is ruled a no-contest).

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  1. Your Name 12:59pm, 04/18/2019

    Shields is an awful post-fight interviewee. Plus her voice is awful. Plus she is very ugly. Plus she has no pop in her punches.

  2. Koolz 02:40pm, 04/14/2019

    That’s what happens in Sports!  You can’t stand someone and they WIN!
    Thought Hammer would Jab from the outside and keep Shields from getting in the inside.

  3. ceylon 09:24am, 04/14/2019

    i dont think franklin is going very far.

  4. ceylon 09:22am, 04/14/2019

    oh man, and the difference in ring IQ, as noted, was quite a bit. as many of us did, i expected more from hammer. shields was dialed in for sure.

  5. ceylon 09:20am, 04/14/2019

    didnt expect to see the cus d’amato movement out of shields. yeah, i know she can move, but that was somethin else she slipped those combinations so dam good. expected hammer to be much better. seems hammer is a bit one dimensional, whereas shields unpacked a few retooled tools from her toolkit. seems that the gabriels fight really was her toughest test.
    after last night, alicia napoleon gonna in even less of a hurry to face the top fighters at 154 & 160.

    the boxing powers that be need to drop the fuckery of 2 min rounds that so severely restrict/limit these women KO victories.

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