Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer, Mega Train Makes First Stop in NYC
By David A. Avila
Female prizefighting hits a new plateau as America’s best fights Germany’s best in a battle for the undisputed middleweight world championship.
It doesn’t get bigger than this.
The top two middleweights in the world met the New York media at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan on Tuesday to officially acknowledge their unification battle for the undisputed middleweight world championship.
Boxing has ever seen a female mega fight before and it’s about to happen as Claressa Shields (8-0) defends all of her conquests against Christina Hammer (24-0) on April 13, 2019 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Showtime will televise.
“This is a very special time. This fight is one of the most significant fights I’ve worked on in my career, because of the place it will hold in history,” said Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s president of sports programming.
How special is this moment?
The closest any other female mega fight happened occurred when Christy “The Coalminer’s Daughter” Martin and Lucia Rijker were signed to meet in 2005. The two were bitter rivals and had exchanged blows with each other in street clothes at a boxing gym in L.A. A few years later, after Million Dollar Baby won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, it was felt that the time was right for a Martin vs Rijker mega fight. The winner was to receive $1million dollars. They even had a press conference to announce the fight and pink colored posters were passed out. But the fight derailed due to an injury to Rijker and the subject was never brought up again.
Today female boxing has reached that point again. It has taken 14 years and various television networks finally jumping on board after two Olympics involving women’s boxing to finally do it.
“This is one of the best fights that can be made in the entire sport. We have two of the elite athletes in boxing and they are deserving,” said Showtime’s Espinoza.
It’s not always the case that top female fighters agree to meet and fight. The world never saw Laila Ali versus Ann Wolfe and it’s a topic still mentioned after all these years.
“Without the fighters wanting this fight, events like this wouldn’t happen. Christina Hammer wants this challenge and she wants to prove she’s the best middleweight champion out there,” said promoter Tom Loeffler who is working with Hammer. “These two fighters can be an example for a lot of male boxers. These are two undefeated fighters in their prime putting it all on the line to show who is the best. You don’t see that very often these days.”
If you know anything about Shields or Hammer know they are fearless and eager to prove superiority against each other. No blinking.
“This is a big risk to come from Germany to the U.S., but I believe the best should fight the best and I did what I had to so that this could happen. This fight can be a game changer for our sport,” said Hammer who has never lost a fight in nearly a decade.
Like Hammer, America’s Shields sees the upcoming fight as important for female prizefighting.
“I think for women’s boxing this is a true super fight that we’ve never gotten before. We’ve never had a fight like this in women’s boxing,” said Shields who is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and walked into the press conference wearing a T-shirt of featherweight champion Heather Hardy. “It’s great to make this happen and us being from two parts of the world makes this fight even better.”
Female prizefighting, especially in America, has slowly reached another plateau and is about to catch up to other countries like Mexico, Germany, Argentina and Canada. In those countries female boxing often headlines boxing cards and out-sells its male counterparts.
“This fight is one of the most significant fights I’ve worked on in my career, because of the place it will hold in history,” said Mark Taffet, manager of Shields and a former HBO sports executive.
Style-wise Shields attacks with the fury and focus of an F5 tornado. Hammer has a more European style and prefers to fight on the outside, but can she keep Shield at arm’s length with those long jabs and ramrod rights?
Hammer has never fought anyone like Shields but she’s eager to prove it doesn’t matter.
“I’ve had the title for a long time. I always push myself,” said Hammer, 28, who speaks perfect English. “This is the fight I wanted to show everyone who is the best. I will be the undisputed champion.”
Shields likes proving she’s unbeatable.
“I can’t wait to get inside the ring and show her I’m the real champion,” said Shields, 23. “I’ve traveled to many different countries and dethroned champions around the world. At the end of the day, I’m coming to fight.”
It’s a mega fight for a reason.
“This fight is going to be for all of the belts,” said Dmitriy Salita, president of Salita Promotions.
It’s just weeks away.
(Photo by Marilyn Paulino/Salita Promotions)