Hanna Gabriels vs Claressa Shields: a Clash of the Titans
By David A. Avila
A clash of the titans takes place when Hanna Gabriels fights Claressa Shields, it’s a battle between two warriors from completely different worlds and both are anxious to prove their mettle.
Warrior shields up.
Costa Rica’s Gabriels (18-1-1) arrives from the super welterweight division wielding two world titles and American born Shields (5-0, 2KOs) with two of her own in the super middleweight division. They meet Friday June 22 for the vacant IBF and WBA middleweight titles at Masonic Temple in Detroit, Michigan.
Showtime will televise the Salitas Promotion main event live.
It’s the first true test in a while for Shields who has mowed through two Europeans with ease and found her toughest competition against fellow Americans. This is her first time as a professional fighting a Latin American prizefighter.
Gabriels has already won world titles in two weight divisions and seeks a third when she fights Shields. She’s confident.
“I’m very excited I’ve never fought in the States before, I’m really happy I want the whole world to watch us go to war and I specially want people to know that not all female fights are boring, not all of them are bad,” said Gabriels a former welterweight and super welterweight world titlist. “We are doing this so people can enjoy and see that we are just as good as any man.”
Gabriels has fought in front of large crowds in the capital of Costa Rica and remains her country’s only world champion. She has all of Costa Rica waiting to see her fight against Shields.
“Every time I step into the ring a little part from all the people who follow me is right in there with me, my country, my fans, my family, my friends all of them are in there with me,” Gabriels said. “That’s an extra motivation when you know there are people watching you accomplish what you want.”
Costa Rica is located in Central America and has a population of about 5 million people. Boxing has become a major sport but not as big as soccer. Currently its team is playing in the World Cup in Russia.
Gabriels, 35, trains in San Jose, Costa Rica and her husband Bryan Vazquez is a lightweight contender. He recently signed a contract with Top Rank. He has a slick counter-punching style with speed and has upset a few fighters along the way. He probably provides ample sparring and instructions for her.
“Being smarter than her is the key,” said Gabriels. “She thinks I’m a walk in the park ahahaha. She’s never fought someone like me before.”
Shields meanwhile transported her entire training camp from Michigan to sunny Florida where she trained with John David Jackson the noted former trainer of Sergey Kovalev among others.
“I love Florida its been hot and we’ve had a lot of hard training days. JD has been showing me combinations and cutting off the ring and using my jab more and placing my shots,” said Shields about training with Jackson. “I was worried when we first started training. He had watched me fight before and knew my style and didn’t want to change it but add to it.”
Sparring has been intense as Shields has traded punches on a daily basis with two former Olympic gold medalists Matt Korobov and Daniyar Yeleussinov at her training camp.
“I always spar with the men it’s better for my athleticism,” explained Shields. “I have to always pull back with the women. I have to push myself with men.”
Fighting at home and on Showtime provides plenty of incentive for the former two-time Olympic gold medalist.
“Detroit is my house,” Shields said. “I didn’t go to camp seven or eight weeks to lose. I’m putting in 100 percent to win. One day I could be the underdog.”
Both warriors are extremely confident.
Gabriels lone loss was by knockout against Oxandia Castillo in 2013. She avenged that loss and handily defeated Castillo this past October. She also has wins over Kali Reis and Natasha Spence.
The Costa Rican prizefighter was a former track star and had little amateur experience. Most of her pugilistic education has come from hand-to-hand combat inside the prize ring. She welcomed this fight while others avoided Shields.
“They avoid her not just because she’s great, they avoid her because she doesn’t come with the big money. Fact. So people are waiting for her to be on Showtime and not Showbox,” said Gabriels. “I’m moving up in weight and fighting a big name because that’s the only way you can become a legend!”
Shields had her stiffest test against American Franchon Crews in their pro debuts. Her last test was against undefeated Tori Nelson. Both Crews and Nelson are on the fight card and both showed American grit in taking Shields to the final bell.
Though Shields prefers knockouts she gained respect for both of her former foes.
“Our fight with Franchon Crews was fireworks,” said Shields of the clash of former US National champions in their pro debut on November 2016.
And of Tori Nelson who fights Christina Hammer for the WBC middleweight title on the same card she has a warning for the German-based fighter.
“If people don’t know Tori Nelson is strong. I was in with her for 10 rounds no matter how many punches I hit her with she was like, I’m not going down,” Shields said. “She (Hammer) better have some power. Nelson can punch.”
Both Shields and Gabriels seek greater fame and glory. It’s their warrior’s way.
“A dream fight would be me and Katie Taylor. I’ve been a fan of her since 2011. She can fight. I wasn’t really a fan of women. But when I saw her I was like yea. She is skilled and comes hard,” said Shields. “But of course I can’t make 135. The lowest I can make is 154. I don’t ever see her and me fighting.”
Compensation could be found in a super middleweight tournament.
“Women’s boxing is on fire right now. If they don’t add more fuel to the fire it could possibly go out,” Shields said. “Hopefully all these girls come down and we set up some super middleweight tournament. Last time it was the men, we can have a Super 8 for the girls.”
The fight on Friday between Shields and Gabriels could be a first step to even greater heights between female warriors.
(Photo by Trapp Photos)