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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 14 April 2021

Shields and Hammer finally confirmed for arguably the most significant fight in women's boxing history

Olympic legend and current professional trailblazer Claressa Shields will face fellow middleweight champ Christina Hammer for all the belts in April.

Christina Hammer (L) and Claressa Shields (R) will finally meet for all the belts in April.
Christina Hammer (L) and Claressa Shields (R) will finally meet for all the belts in April.

IN WHAT WILL be one of the most significant events in the history of women’s professional boxing, middleweight world champions Claressa Shields [8-0, 2KOs] and Christina Hammer [24-0, 11KOs] will square off for the undisputed 160-pound championship in Atlantic City, USA, on 13 April.

The feverishly anticipated and long-discussed bout for all the belts will take place in the Adrian Phillips Theater at Boardwalk Hall at what will be the second time of asking: Shields and Hammer were scheduled to meet at the same venue on 17 November last year only for Hammer to withdraw with an undisclosed medical issue.

Flint, Michigan woman Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and twice-unified world champion in two divisions as a professional, defended her belts twice while waiting for Dortmund’s Hammer to recover.

The Kazakh-born German made her ring return last Saturday night, strolling to a facile second-round stoppage of the overwhelmed Elene Sikmashvili in a non-title fight in her adopted homeland.

Their bout will be broadcast live on Showtime in the States, where Shields has built upon her 2012 and 2016 Olympic success to become one of two true leading lights in women’s boxing alongside Ireland’s Katie Taylor.

“Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer, both champions, both in their prime, are not only taking on the biggest challenge in their respective careers by meeting each other in the ring, but are breaking barriers for boxing and for women in sports,” said promoter Dmitriy Salita.

His fighter, Shields, has long declared herself ‘The GWOAT’ — or Greatest Woman of All Time — and believes her ascent to truly transcendent stardom will continue apace in April.

“I always seek the biggest challenges and set the highest goals,” said Shields, 23.

I will be ready like never before and will defeat Christina Hammer on 13 April. Nothing will stop me from becoming undisputed champion and continuing my journey to carry women’s boxing to never-before-seen heights. I want to be the greatest of all time and change the game forever for all women in sports, and 13 April is an important step on that road to history.

Added Hammer, 28, who currently holds one middleweight world title to Shields’ three:

I have waited a long time for this moment. I am bigger, stronger and more experienced than Claressa Shields. I am undefeated and have been a champion for over eight years. I can’t wait to show the world that I am the best and undisputed middleweight champion of the world.

The advent of TV coverage for female pugilists and a recent culture shift within the wider sport of boxing dictates Shields-Hammer is among the biggest fights ever to happen in the female code, if not the biggest, such is the lowly echelon in which it has languished for generations.

Even during its brief early-to-mid 2000s heyday, the two biggest fights in the sport — Laila Ali v Ann Wolfe and Lucia Rijker v Christy Martin — failed to come to fruition for various reasons.

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In the modern age, however, the arrival of Shields, Taylor and other former Olympic stars to the punch-for-pay ranks has transformed the women’s game, bringing to the fore prodigiously talented, ready-made stars and, in turn, unprecedented credibility.

Katie Taylor Katie Taylor has her own superfights lined up in 2019, but must first see off Rose Volante in March. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Showtime Sports has a long history of featuring the best in women’s combat sports, whether it was with Laila Ali and Christy Martin in boxing, or Gina Carano, Cris Cyborg and Ronda Rousey in MMA,” Showtime’s Gordon Hall said.

“More recently, since 2016 we have featured today’s elite with Claressa Shields, Christina Hammer, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. We have two of the best pound-for-pound female fighters in the world facing each other with all four middleweight titles at stake. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Shields’ manager, Mark Taffet, predicted that the fight “will be marked as the moment in history when women’s boxing broke the barriers.”

It’s unlikely to be the only women’s superfight to occur in 2019, either. Provided Katie Taylor can overcome Rose Volante in their world-title unification fight in Philadelphia on St Patrick’s weekend, the Irish icon is expected to square off with Belgium’s Delfine Persoon in a bout for the undisputed championship 25 pounds south of Shields and Hammer’s division.

A bout between Taylor and seven-weight champion Amanda Serrano is also tentatively pencilled in for the autumn, and would likely eclipse all that comes before it given theirs is a rivalry so uncurbed that even the typically serene Taylor has fired a few verbal barbs.

Imago 20171018 Norway's Cecila Braekhus is the only undisputed champion in women's boxing history, and could conceivably fight either Claressa Shields or Katie Taylor before retirement. Source: Imago/PA Images

The winner of Shields-Hammer will become only the second-ever female fighter in the four-belt era (WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO) to hold all the major titles within the same division. Undisputed World welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus of Norway, another prospective opponent for Taylor, was the first.

There are several ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ to overcome in the meantime, but The42 has long understood that Taylor’s intention is to become undisputed lightweight champion before meeting Braekhus in the middle, at 140 pounds, in what would be the first-ever fight — male or female — to see two reigning undisputed champions trade leather.

Braekhus, however, has also expressed a willingness to face Shields at the happy-medium of 154 pounds.

Pound-for-pound queen willing to drop weight to face ‘amazing’ Katie Taylor in historic women’s fight

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