Claressa Shields makes history as the fastest fighter to win titles in three divisions
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ —Underneath the glittery, gold armor she wore into the ring, it looked like Claressa Shields. Once the fight began, she fought like Claressa Shields. It actually was Claressa Shields. Just a deflated version of the two-time Olympic gold medalist.
It seems 154 pounds fit the two-division champ just fine. Well, make it three-division titlist, after Shields thoroughly dominated Ivana Habazin Friday night to win the vacant WBO and WBC junior middleweight titles at the Ovation Hall in the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City.
Shields (10-0, 2 knockouts) has now collected titles at 154, 160 and 168, making history as the fastest boxer—male of female—to win titles in three weight classes. It took “T-Rex” 10 fights to reach that lauded distinction, beating the record of Vasiliy Lomachenko and Kosei Tanaka, who each won three titles in 12 fights.
Shields also became the second female fighter to win those three belts in descending weight order (168, 160, 154), with Naoko Fujioka being the other.
“We spent so many months in camp for this fight,” Shields said. “It wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m happy with the improvement. This feels great – I did it in 10 fights. Now I’m number one, the fastest boxer in history to become a three-division world champion.
“I was (trying to punish her). I wanted victory. Hopefully on her next try she can become a champion against somebody else. I just want to become a better fighter. That’s all. I want to grow women’s boxing. I want to share a card with Deontay Wilder and Errol Spence.
“Andre Ward said, ‘Sis, take her to the body.’ I was throwing all body shots in the first minute and then boom, she went down.
“I’d love to face Elin Cederroos. I’d love to fight her. None of these girls are ready for me. I’m the GWOAT.”
Shields pecked away at Habazin (20-4, 7 KOs) in the first round with the jab, and showed an athleticism she didn’t have as a middleweight or super middleweight. It was evident early that Habazin couldn’t match her handspeed.
In the second, Shields opened up a little more. Working behind the jab, she plowed a few rights off of Habazin, who shoved Shields against the ropes at the end of the second.
The third began sloppy, with both fighters clinching and getting tangled. But by the end of the third, Shields found a rhythm and began connecting.
Shields landed big rights in the fourth and through the initial four rounds, “T-Rex” appeared firmly in control.
An overhand right rocked Habazin in the fifth, and she stumbled forward and looked like she was in some trouble. But Shields didn’t press the action.
Still, after five, it was easy to see Shields pitching a shutout.
In the sixth, Shields began landing body shots. A right to the body, followed by a left forced Habazin to take a knee.
By then, it seemed a matter of time before Shields would stop Habazin.
Shields tried mightily to do that in the seventh, pounding Habazin with a barrage of shots.
The final two rounds cemented what Shields had done the first eight.
Judges Debra Barnes (100-90), Lynne Carter (99-89) and Robin Taylor (100-89) all saw the same thing as everyone else.
In the co-feature, Jaron “Boots” Ennis made easy work of rugged Bakhtiyar Eyubov in a scheduled 10-round welterweight fight that was over before it started.
Ennis (25-0, 23 KOs) twice knocked down Eyubov (14-2-1, 12 KOs) in the first round en route to a fourth-round stoppage on accumulated punches.
Eyubov did connect with a right in the first, and definitely scores points for trying to fight back, even though he was terribly outclassed.
The only thing ugly about Ennis, 22, was his ring attire. His trunks were fluorescent green and orange. If the lights went out at Ovation Hall, Ennis would have been easy to pick out, since his trunks and green boots would have probably glowed—like Ennis is right now.
Between the third and fourth rounds, New Jersey state boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard gave the gutsy Eyubov one more round. He didn’t even get that.
Referee Earl Brown wisely stepped in and waved it over at :34 of the fourth round.
“We knew he was coming to fight and bring pressure so we mixed it up,” Ennis said. “He was a good fighter but he wasn’t really that strong. I was getting hit a little too much but that’s how we did it to get the knockout.
“We were just setting him up for power shots. I just had to calm down, that’s all. I was too hyped. Once I calmed down and got into my rhythm that was it. He was taking a lot of punishment. He definitely was great fighter though. I appreciate him taking the fight because a lot of guys don’t want to fight me.”
When asked if he was ready for a title shot, Ennis said, “I’ve been ready. We have been wanting all the guys. They keep running. They can’t run no more. I’m right here.”
In the first TV fight, Alicia Napoleon-Espinosa (12-2, 7 KOs) and Elin Cederroos (8-0, 4 KOs) put on a bloody mess. In the end, Napoleon-Espinosa was bleeding from the nose, and Cederroos’ face was red from a bloody nose.
Napoleon-Espinosa was knocked down in the second, but managed to battle back and make it competitive.
But the knockdown proved to the difference, as judges Mark Consentino, Larry Layton and John McKaie all scored it 95-94 in favor of Cederroos, who unified the WBA and IBF super middleweight titles. All three judges awarded each fighter five rounds each.
“I’m so happy,” Cederroos said. “I showed that I can box and take a war. But when I relaxed the punches just came. It feels so wonderful. Alicia was a great opponent. She’s so professional. We had a fight in the ring and I hope now we are friendly.”
When the subject of Claressa was brought up, Cederroos said: “I’m focused on this fight. I’ll go home to Sweden to get back to training. I want more belts. I need to build up my name.”
Obviously, Napoleon-Espinosa thought she won, and if not for the knockdown, she had an argument.
“I didn’t think I lost. I thought that it was fairly close but I thought I was ahead. It is what it is, but I don’t think that I lost this fight. Congratulations to my opponent. Congrats on the fight with Shields, because that was what I was looking forward to.
“I know she was strong, but I wanted a tough fight. I know that Elin is an athlete. I don’t feel that I lost. I feel like it was close.”
On the undercard, Russian heavyweight prospect Apti Davtaev (19-0-1, 18 KOs) stopped Keith Barr at :38 of the third round in a scheduled six-rounder. Junior middleweight Joseph Bonas (7-0, 5 KOs) stopped Glenn Mitchell (3-5, 3 KOs) at 1:55 of the second round in a scheduled four-rounder. Welterweight Jacob Bonas (6-0-1, 2 KOs) won a four-round decision over Christian Rivera (1-1-1).