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Claressa Shields has patiently waited to make more history on Friday night

Claressa Shields (left) and Ivana Habazin. Photo courtesy of Showtime
07
Jan

She’s 24 now, though there’s still that twig of a little girl in her voice when Claressa Shields speaks. Don’t let it fool you. Shields is every bit of a grown woman, who’s matured right before our very eyes. She at one time, she admits, used to be volatile in a blink. She at one time, she admits, had no patience in dealing with adversity.

Consequently, in the minds of some, that petulant feisty teenage girl still exists.

The reality, however, is slightly different.

There’s been in a lot of pent up frustration, Shields admits, these last three months. She’s waited patiently to take on Ivana Habazin for yet another title, this time at 154 pounds, and nothing. she vows, will derail her.



It never has.

Shields (9-0, 2 knockouts) is already the undisputed middleweight champion, which includes The Ring title. She’s won the WBC super-middleweight title and now she’s looking to add the vacant WBC and WBO junior middleweight belt when she meets the 30-year-old Habazin (20-3, 7 KO) on Friday night at the Ocean Resort Casino, in Atlantic City on Showtime Boxing: Special Edition (9PM ET/6PM PT) 2020 debut. It’s a card that will also feature welterweight sensation Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22 KOs) against Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-1-1, 12 KOs) and titlist Alicia “The Empress” Napoleon-Espinosa (12-1, 7 KOs) taking on Elin Cederroos (7-0, 4 KOs) in a super middleweight unification bout.

But the focus will be on the headliner—Shields, who was supposed to have a homecoming fight against Habazin in Flint, Michigan, in October, 2019, which was cancelled when her brother, 28-year-old Artis J. Mack, allegedly struck Habazin’s trainer, 68-year-old James Ali Bashir, on Oct. 4 at a pre-fight weigh-in.

On October 16, prosecutors charged Mack with one count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder.

The problem was Shields was dragged down by the whole sordid affair, when two witnesses told The Ring Shields wasn’t even in the room when the alleged transgression occurred.

Shields was contrite in the aftermath, and still wishes Bashir a quick recovery.

Afterward, she stated publicly: “I don’t condone any kind of violence outside the ring. I signed up for boxing to do the boxing inside the ring. Anything outside the ring, I don’t really get involved in, and I don’t want anybody associated with me to be involved in. I had a chance to talk to coach Bashir Ali today, he knows I had nothing to do with what happened and I let him know I’m sorry about everything. He said the same and he let it be known he wasn’t upset with me. I’m glad we had a chance to talk and pray he has a speedy recovery.”

In the meantime, she’s distanced herself from what went on.

And, Shields actually deserves credit for handling a very unfortunate situation very well. She apologized to her fanbase, to Habazin’s team, to Showtime and to Flint.

She took accountability of a matter that she wasn’t directly involved in.

“The last four months I’ve concentrated on staying focused and not really listen to what the media, social media, or anything Ivana has been saying,” Shields said. “Ivana was scared to fight anyway. When the fight cancelled, I stayed in camp and stayed off the internet. People were telling stuff she was saying like I was a thug, I don’t know how to read or comprehend. But, while she was doing all of that talking, I was in the gym training. Every day. Twice a day.

“I have done a lot of growing up. I learned to always stay calm from the situation. Coach Bashir was saying stuff and pushing. I stayed calm. I remember looking at Bashir and sat down. Things could have been a lot worse and wish coach Bashir all of the best and I hope he gets better. My focus is making the weight. I made the weight then—and I’ll make it now. It’s never comfortable losing weight, but I’ve done it the right way.”

Shields is trim, her body fat is down.

Four days from the fight, Shields stated she felt great and her power is still there. John David Jackson, her trainer, says she’s hitting as hard as she did when she weighed 168. She sparred Andre Dirrell eight rounds last week and looked strong.

“This is a big year for me,” admitted Shields, the Boxing Writers Association of America 2018 female Fighter of the Year. “I only fought once in 2019. In 2018, I built myself and last year I established myself. I didn’t fight as many times I wanted to, but this year, I want to fight at Madison Square Garden, I want to fight in Las Vegas and I want to be one of those female fighters that can fight in those places.

“Ivana is a good fighter. They’re not going to put me in the ring with a tomato can. She’s re-established herself, and she owes a lot to coach Bashir. He changed her whole boxing style. I’m a student of boxing. She doesn’t like pressure and she covers up a lot, but she’s a better fighter because of coach Bashir.

“But once a quitter, always a quitter. She’s lost three times, and quit in two of them.”

Jackson likes how Shields looks.

“It should be an easy fight,” Jackson said. “Claressa will be patient. She’s work behind the jab and break Ivana down. There’s no one who puts as much pressure on her opponent, men or women, than Claressa. Claressa fights like a man. I mean that as a compliment. What you’ll see Friday is an ass whupping. Claressa will take her time.

“She’s at a nice place in her life right now.”

In and out of the ring.

 

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