Shields beats up Hammer, wins undisputed title
A few days before Claressa Shields met Christina Hammer for the undisputed women's middleweight world championship on Saturday, Shields made clear how the fight would go and what she wanted people to say when it was over.
"When I beat Christina Hammer on Saturday, I want everyone's headline to say, 'Shields nails the Hammer,'" Shields said.
Shields did just that, as she backed up all her trash talk and then some with a masterful performance in the culmination of the collision course she and Hammer had been on for more than a year as Showtime built toward the fight.
Shields dominated and beat up Hammer en route to a one-sided, unanimous decision to claim the undisputed title in one of the most significant fights in women's boxing history at the Adrian Phillips Theater at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Two judges scored the bout 98-91, both giving Shields a 10-8 score in the eighth round, even without a knockdown, because she was dominant. One judge had it 98-92 for Shields.
Shields unified her three major belts with the one she took from Hammer in a fight originally scheduled for Nov. 17 but postponed because Hammer was ill.
"I am the greatest woman of all time," Shields said. "I did it. She didn't win a round. I almost knocked her ass out. I swear, I feel like I'm dreaming right now. Thanks to Christina Hammer and her team. They said she had a hard jab, and they weren't lying. Her jab is off the chain."
Shields (9-0, 2 KOs), 24, of Flint, Michigan, who was 77-1 as an amateur and won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016, became the second woman of the four-belt era to win all the major world titles in one division. The other is reigning undisputed women's welterweight world champion Cecilia Braekhus, whom Shields called out for a historical summit meeting that she would like to have on pay-per-view.
There have been only four men to hold all four belts at the same time: cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who accomplished the feat last year, junior welterweight Terrence Crawford and middleweights Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins.
Shields, making her third defense, dominated on the scorecards and in the CompuBox statistics, as she landed 112 of 387 shots (29 percent). Hammer landed just 49 of 366 (13 percent). Shields outlanded Hammer 31-3 to the body.
Hammer (24-1, 11 KOs), 28, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Germany, saw her impressive run come to an end. Hammer, who won a world title at super middleweight, had held a middleweight title since 2010 and was making her 13th defense.
"I didn't fight very good or fast," Hammer said. "That's boxing -- anything can happen. I wanted this fight. She won, respect to her. She's a tough, strong woman, and that's all I can say. She's fast, she comes forward, she has fast hands. I couldn't land my jab as good as I expected. That's boxing. I'll come back, and I'll be back stronger."
Hammer got off to a good start by landing several clean, straight shots in the opening round as Shields was seeing what she had in front of her before taking over the fight.
"I was just calculating -- what is her jab like? How fast is she? I was just calculating in the first round, and after that I started picking her apart," Shields said.
Shields, who previously unified two belts at super middleweight before moving down in weight, picked up the pace in the second round and began to land a lot more punches, including a solid right hand. When Hammer unleashed a flurry of punches in the third round, Shields dodged and ducked and avoided virtually all contact in an impressive display.
While Shields avoided most of Hammer's punches, she landed solid right hands and had taken Hammer totally out of her game by the middle of the fight. Hammer wanted to go forward but wound up backing up because she was met by so many of Shields' shots to the head and body.
In the eighth round, Shields caught Hammer along the ropes with a hard left hand that dislodged her mouthpiece. Referee Sparkle Lee called timeout to replace it, but it was only a brief respite for Hammer. When the fight resumed, Shields was right back in Hammer's face, nailing her with a hard right hand to the cheek and a left hook. Hammer was in full retreat as Shields swarmed her and blasted her with another right hand. It was a huge round for Shields.
"I knew I could hurt her. I thought I finished her in round eight. I thought the fight should have been stopped," Shields said. "She was holding on to me. I just told myself, stay cool, stay cool. I was trying to get the perfect punch to get her out of there."
Hammer took several deep breaths in the ninth round and looked exhausted as she took more punishment courtesy of Shields' right hand. Hammer continued to take punches in the 10th round, and when it was over, Shields raised her hands to declare victory. Hammer did not.
"I did everything I wanted to do," Shields said. "They say 98-92. Give me 100-90. I won every round. I am the greatest woman of all time. Give me that. You all said I couldn't do it. Come on."
Shields wasted no time looking ahead to the next big fight she wants -- either Norway's Braekhus (35-0, 9 KOs), 37, or England's Savannah Marshall (5-0, 3 KOs), 27, a super middleweight, who was the only woman to defeat Shields in an amateur fight.
"Women's boxing, we're on fire. I cannot wait to see the next super fight," she said. "Right now I'm the undisputed champ. Give me Cecilia Braekhus at 154 (pounds). That's who I want next. Either her or Savannah Marshall."
Franklin outpoints Booker
Heavyweight prospect Jermaine Franklin, making his television debut, notched a workmanlike unanimous decision over Rydell Booker. Franklin won 99-91, 98-92 and 98-92.
It was mostly a slow, methodical fight, but the action finally picked up late in the seventh round, when Booker had Franklin against the ropes and ripped him with two uppercuts before he retaliated and nailed Booker.
Franklin, the busier, more accurate and heavier puncher throughout the bout, split Booker's guard with a perfectly timed right uppercut that snapped his head back in the ninth round.
According to CompuBox statistics, Franklin landed 146 of 541 punches (27 percent), and Booker landed 94 of 351 (27 percent).
"I think I had a decent performance. There's some stuff I could work on. I overcrowded myself a little bit. I was a little overanxious," Franklin said. "He had a lot more experience than me and used it to his advantage. He could see what I was doing. I learned to stay more patient because I had him hurt a few times, but once I got overanxious, my whole game plan went out the window. I started messing up and making crazy mistakes I shouldn't have."
The 6-foot-1, 245¼-pound Franklin (18-0, 13 KOs), 25, of Saginaw, Michigan, a pro since 2015, was a standout amateur and a 2014 National Golden Gloves champion. He elected to go pro after that rather than compete for a berth on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.
The 6-foot-3, 238¾-pound Booker (25-2, 12 KOs), 38, of Detroit, was once a promising prospect, but after suffering his first loss, a decision to James Toney in 2004, he went to prison for 12 years for trying to sell 35 pounds of cocaine and did not box again until 2018. He won decisions in three six-round fights in his comeback before being vanquished by Franklin.
"I felt he out-hustled me, but it was a lot closer than what it was (on the scorecards)," Booker said. "He was missing me a lot more than it looked. I slipped a lot of shots and hit him clean. I knew he would bring the pressure, but he needs a lot of work. He stays too centered with his head. He's all right. What he has on his side is youth."
Wallin-Kisner ends in no-decision
In the disappointing opener of the tripleheader, Swedish heavyweight prospect Otto Wallin (20-0, 13 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw, and Nick Kisner (21-4-1, 6 KOs), 28, of Baltimore, fought to first-round no-decision.
The fight had barely begun when they clanked heads hard, a collision that opened a cut over Kisner's right eye and a cut on the side of Wallin's head. The 6-foot-5, 227¼-pound Wallin, who was making his United States debut, was bleeding but was OK. Kisner, however, complained that he could not see, and referee David Franciosi called timeout so the ringside doctor could examine the wound.
The fight eventually continued, but the 5-foot-11, 221-pound Kisner, 28, of Baltimore, complained again about vision problems in his right eye in the corner after the round, prompting Franciosi to stop the fight upon advice of the ringside doctor.
"To me, his cut didn't look that bad," Wallin said. "It's a shame because I trained really hard for this fight and was looking to put on a show for fans in America. I just didn't have time to get going. I'd like to get back in there soon and show what I can do. I'm going to take this as a learning experience."
Said Kisner: "I caught a head-butt, and the referee came to me. He saw me swiping at my eye and said, 'Can you see?' I said, 'Soon as I get the blood out of my eye, sure.' I feel horrible after training so hard. I felt good in the first round. The judges probably gave him the first round, but I always take off the first round, but I was feeling like I could get to him eventually. You saw me land my overhand right."