Undefeated middleweight champions Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer went face-to-face in New York on Wednesday just three days before arguably the most significant event in women’s boxing history this Saturday live on SHOWTIME from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
IBF, WBC and WBA Champion Shields (8-0, 2 KOs) will unify with WBO Champion Hammer (24-0, 11 KOs) for the undisputed middleweight world championship. The winner will become only the second undisputed champion in women’s boxing history and only the sixth fighter – male or female – to unify all four recognized world titles.
Joining Shields and Hammer at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in Manhattan was unbeaten heavyweight contender Otto Wallin, who takes on Nick Kisner as part of the SHOWTIME BOXING: SPECIAL EDITION tripleheader beginning at 9:10 p.m. ET/PT.
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by Salita Promotions, are priced at $150, $100, $55 and $35 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster and at boardwalkhall.com.
Shields and Hammer spoke with media and had a tense face-off as they near Saturday’s showdown. Here is what the participants had to say Wednesday:
“Hammer signed up for something she shouldn’t have signed up for. She’s going to get hurt on Saturday. I love that she has an accomplished record. People say I don’t have power or this and that but on paper I’ve been an underdog in most of my fights and I’ve beat all those women.
“When I beat Christina Hammer on Saturday, I want everyone’s headline to say ‘Shields nails the Hammer’. It’s not a game to me. It’s going to be bad for her.
“I’m happy that everyone came out for this event and has supported it. This isn’t as big as women’s boxing can get, but it’s the beginning of something great.
“This is the hardest I’ve ever trained for a fight. Not because I don’t think that I can beat her, but because of the spotlight, I don’t want to let my fans down. I don’t want to let the women who came before me down. They never got to have a fight as big as this one. I don’t want anyone to say it’s all hype. I want to put on a show.
“I’m just being myself. I can’t put all the pressure on me to be something I’m not. I love talking trash, that comes natural. There’s a bit of truth in there too. When it gets to times like this, I’m not afraid to say how I feel.
“The reason why I’m here is because I’ve taken on the biggest challenges and fought the best fighters. It feels good. I know that I’m going to beat her and take all of these belts home.
“I think she’s shook. She doesn’t want to say anything after all the social media talking she was doing. This is her time to say it to my face.
“Women’s boxing is becoming bigger and with ‘All-Access’ you can see that I train hard, spar against men and go hard for three minutes for 12 rounds. We’ve been around for a long time and we haven’t gotten our just do yet. We’re getting more and we’re getting to the point where one day it can all be equal.
“I’m glad Hammer is here and we’re really going to fight. She’s tough, but I’ve beat girls way stronger, faster and taller than her over and over again. I can’t wait to do it again on Saturday.”
“I’m so happy to be here and have this great opportunity. I can’t wait to get in the ring on Saturday and get all of these belts. I’m ready.
“I’m very confident and I can’t wait to show everyone why I’m 24-0 and been a champion for as long as I’ve been.
“She can say whatever she wants here, because I’m going to show it in the ring. I don’t like to talk too much. I’m here to show my skills in the ring and get all these belts.
“I’m emotionless in the ring, because it’s my job. None of her talk will affect me. When you’re emotional in the ring, you make mistakes.
“I know that it’s a risk to come from Germany to the U.S. to fight Shields. But I have done everything to bring it to her and break her down round-by-round. I want to show the people who the real champion is. A real champion fights everyone, all over the world.
“I’m very focused. I know that this is a historic fight. There is only one champion who can take these belts and that will be me. I’ve given everything for that goal. I sacrificed day after day in camp to achieve that.
“I want to show that I’m the undisputed champion. I’m the longtime champion and I’m going to let the people see that women’s boxing is exciting just like the men. This is a great match to show that.
“We’re both undefeated and in our primes. People wanted to see this fight and they got this fight. All of the talk is over. Now it’s time to fight.”
“I come from a small town in Sweden and started boxing in a basement. I could never dream of making it here. I read about it, but it wasn’t attainable. Now I’m here and I’m ready to make a statement on Saturday.
“It’s very important to make an impression. This is a very big opportunity for me to be fighting on SHOWTIME in my first fight on the U.S. A lot of people will be watching and I want to put on a good performance. Most important is to get the win and take care of business.
“My opponent is smaller than me and I think that suits me well. He likes to be a little cute in the ring and I think he’ll try to be tricky early on. I want to establish my jab and my body work, because I know he won’t like those body shots. I’m going to break him down.
“I have a good plan and a really good trainer. He’s prepared me well with good sparring. I think I’ll know what to do to stay focus. I’ve always been able to do that and focus on what’s best for me in the ring.
“It’s very nice to be here. I’m very happy to be on this show. It’s great for women’s boxing that the two best fighters are facing each other.”
DMITRIY SALITA, President of Salita Promotions
“This promotion has lived up to the expectations. This is the biggest fight in women’s boxing history. It feels very big today and I’m sure in a month a day or a year after this fight, we will know that it was a historic event.
“SHOWTIME’s support for this fight has raised the awareness of women’s boxing for the fans in the U.S and around the world. I think women everywhere have benefited from the lead up to this fight.
“in the opener on SHOWTIME, world ranked heavyweight Otto Wallin will make his U.S. debut. Otto is an example of hard work and dreams coming true. He grew up in a small town in Sweden and had a dream to become world champion. He’s been training in New York Joey Gamache and we can’t wait for his fight Saturday.
“For a great fight to happen it takes two to tango. Hammer is a longtime world champion and a dominant force in the middleweight division. You have seen how prepared she is for this fight. It takes championship character to fly to another country to put it all on the line and she deserves respect for that.
“Claressa Shields has passed every test ever put in front of her. She has been dominant as a pro, winning a world title in her fourth fight a second division title in her sixth fight. April 13 will be her toughest test. This is a fight that she is taking very seriously and I’m excited to see her in the ring Saturday.”
STEPHEN ESPINOZA, President Sports & Event Programming, Showtime Networks Inc.
“I want to acknowledge Claressa and Christina, because it’s easy to forget that this is a fight. That may sound strange, but it’s because there is so much discussion about the meaning and symbolism of this fight. You still have to remember, that beyond all that, these are two athletes preparing for a fight. They each want to win.
“Each of them has taken on the challenge of representing women’s boxing and that should not be overlooked. It would be very easy as a competitor to say that you’re not going to get into that extra stuff. That would be the easier thing to do. But what Claressa and Christina have done is accept that mantle and that challenge. They’ve taken on those discussions. Not just promoting their fight, but engaging in discussions about the future of women’s boxing.
“I’m sure they’re tired of talking at this point and just want to fight. That challenge is something that makes the process more difficult and something they’re doing for selfless reasons. It’s really for the advancement of the sport as a whole. Both women deserve a lot of credit for that.
“This fight is already a success. I know there’s one big piece that still remains, and I’m very excited to see the fight take place. I know they’re anxious to get in the ring. But what this promotion has done is advance the conversation and advance the dialogue. It’s all of our hopes that this will persist beyond this event and lead to a new era of women’s boxing.”
|Photos Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME|