Claressa Shields shuts out Femke Hermans on HBO boxing finale
CARSON, Calif. – Claressa Shields capped the second full year of her professional career with a victory that opened HBO’s final live boxing broadcast on Saturday at StubHub Center.
Shields (8-0, 2 KOs) retained her WBC, IBF and WBA middleweight belts with a lopsided unanimous decision over one-beaten Femke Hermans, a tall-and-rangy stick-and-mover from Londerzeel, Belgium, who earned the vacant WBO super middleweight title in May.
Shields won by unanimous scores of 100-90 but her fourth and final bout of 2018 was not her sharpest boxing performance. The 23-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist may have been guilty of loading up too much with each shot in pursuit of a knockout, as her excellent jab was not used as much as it normally is, but her aggression and the threat of her big counter punches kept Hermans (9-2, 3 KOs) tentative and on her backfoot for most of the fight.
The victory sets up a high-profile middleweight showdown between Shields and Cristina Hammer, the WBO titleholder and former WBC beltholder who is very popular in her adopted country of Germany. Shields and Hammer (23-0, 10 KOs) were scheduled to unify all four major women’s 160-pound belts in October in Atlantic City but Hammer had to pull out due to illness, which caused the WBC to list her as its “Champion in Recess” and award its belt to Shields when the Flint, Michigan native outpointed Hanna Rankin on Nov. 17.
The Shields-Hammer unification bout is expected to take place in April in the U.S. and will be televised on Showtime.
On the undercard:
Tiny but mighty former titleholder Louisa Hawton picked up another belt (the WBC’s interim atomweight title) when her entertaining scrap with Lorraine Villalobos was stopped after five rounds. Villalobos, a late substitute for Brenda Flores (who won a controversial 10-round decision over Hawton in September), was better than her 2-1 record indicated but she was continually beat to the punch by the quicker, sharper, busier standout from Perth, Australia. Hawton, AKA “LuLu,” improved her record to 9-2, 2 KOs.
Junior middleweight prospect Serhii Bohachuk received some professional resistance from Carlos Garcia Hernandez, of Trujillo, Puerto Rico, but the unbeaten Ukrainian systematically broke the young journeyman down with steady pressure, rights to the body and left hooks to the head. It was a hook that put Hernandez (15-20-1, 12 KOs) down in Round 5 of the scheduled six rounder. Bohachuk, who trains with Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, California, improved his record to 12-0, 12 KOs.
Bohachuk, a 360 Promotions fighter who fought six times in 2017 and six times this year, is one to watch in 2019.
Japanese junior flyweight amateur standout Shokichi Iwata made his pro debut with an entertaining four-round decision over Joel Bermudez (0-2). Iwata, who hails from Tokyo, is signed with Teiken Promotions.
FAREWELL TO LIVE BOXING ON HBO
There are too many great bouts that occurred on HBO during the U.S. premium cable outlet’s 45 years in the sport to mention in one article, but it must be mentioned that it was home to more Ring Magazine Fight of the Year winners than any other network:
Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns I (1981), Hagler-Thomas Hearns (1985), Hagler-Leonard (1987), Julio Cesar Chavez-Meldrick Taylor (1990), Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield I (1992), Arturo Gatti vs. Gabriel Ruelas (1997), Ivan Robinson (1998) and Ward I and II (2002, 2003); Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales I and II (2000 and 2004), Juan Manuel Marquez-Julio Diaz I (2009), and we could on and on.
There were legendary multi-fight series (Bowe-Holyfield, Barrera-Morales, Gatti-Ward, Pacquiao vs. Morales and Marquez), upsets and KOs (Mike Tyson-James “Buster” Douglas, Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman I, Michael Moorer-George Foreman, Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad), and a parade of pound-for-pound stars (from Pernell Whitaker to Roy Jones Jr. to Oscar De La Hoya to Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.) on the self-proclaimed “Network of Champions.”
Nobody produced or presented the best fighters and fights like HBO, now gone but never forgotten.
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer.