FLINT, Mich. (AP)Claressa Shields arrived at her news conference yelling “the champ is here” – and that certainly set the tone.
This week is very much her show.
Shields is fighting Saturday night against Ivana Habazin of Croatia in what will be her first pro fight in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. At times, the event Thursday felt more like a pep rally than a news conference, and Habazin had to realize she wasn’t going to be a fan favorite this weekend.
“I don’t know what she came here to do, but I’m telling you all right now it’s going less than five,” Shields said.
It remains to be seen if Shields (9-0) can end the scheduled 10-round fight that quickly, but she’ll certainly be expected to dominate. The two-time Olympic champion has had little trouble since turning pro. Her showdown with previously unbeaten Christina Hammer in April wasn’t even close – a unanimous decision that unified the middleweight belts.
Shields had already won titles at the super middleweight level. After beating Hammer, she’s taking this fight at 154 pounds, trying to become a three-division champion.
“I had to lose a lot of weight for this fight, because I cleaned out the division at 160,” Shields said. “Every time I clean out the division, somebody else trying to tell me I’m not the greatest woman of all-time, and I love when they say that because, I want you to come show me I’m not the greatest woman of all-time.”
Habazin (20-3) is making her U.S. debut. She won the IBF welterweight title in 2014 but then lost a unification bout to Cecilia Braekhus. Habazin has said in the past that she was a big fan of Shields.
Habazin seemed almost bored by Thursday’s proceedings.
“I really don’t want to talk before the fight a lot, because I don’t want to waste my energy, but I’ll just say, I’m really happy to see you, how happy you are right now, but I’m sorry,” Habazin said, before her last few words were drowned out by shouts from some members of the crowd.
Shields smiled and clapped, and she called out her opponent for not engaging enough in the trash talk.
“Her energy’s kind of off,” Shields said. “Did you show up to fight, or did you show up to, like, be nice to me?”
If there’s any question facing Shields, it’s how she’ll come back from an injury that she described Thursday as a dislocated knee. This fight was initially scheduled for Aug. 17, but had to be postponed.
At stake Saturday for Shields are the vacant WBC super welterweight and WBO junior middleweight titles. The Showtime telecast also includes heavyweight Jermaine Franklin (19-0) of Saginaw, Michigan, against Pavel Sour (11-1) of the Czech Republic, and welterweight Jaron Ennis (23-0) against Demian Daniel Fernandez (12-1).
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