By Carlos Monarrez Detroit Free Press
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Claressa Shields is ready to rumble! This Saturday night the two-time Olympic gold medalist is scheduled to compete in her first pro fight in her hometown of Flint Michigan.
Detroit Free Press
Claressa Shields' voice rose as she spoke, like a wave cresting with excitement.
"I'm 24," the Flint boxer said. "I want to do everything. I want to be an actress. I want to be the best woman fighter ever.
"I kind of want to be like Serena Williams. I want to be known as the best athlete in the world. When Serena Williams' (career) is coming to an end, I want to be the one to pick up the torch after her."
Shields was on the phone from Miami, where she has been training for her Oct. 5 fight against Ivana Habazin for the vacant WBO junior middleweight title at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint.
Even a thousand miles away, the two-time Olympic gold medalist's zest for pursuing her goals is crystal clear. Indeed, she wants to do everything.
But first, Shields (9-0, 2 knockouts) must do this: compete in her first pro fight in her hometown and beat Habazin (20-3, 7 KOs) in her 10th fight to become the fastest boxer to win three world titles in three divisions. Vasiliy Lomachenko holds the record of winning three world titles in three divisions in 12 fights.
"I'm happy with everything," Shields said. "I'm happy with where my career is at. I'm happy for the opportunities. I'm happy to be fighting back in Flint."
The fight will be the headline event of Showtime's broadcast, which begins at 9 p.m. And headlining is where Shields and her manager, Mark Taffet, believe she belongs.
Shields has an inspiring story. She had a difficult childhood growing up in Flint. Her father served time in prison and she told Essence magazine in 2012 that she was raped at age 5 by her mother's boyfriend. She still went on to become the first American boxer to win consecutive Olympic gold medals. Taffet said Universal Pictures plans make a movie for theatrical release about Shields' life in the next few years.
If this weren't enough, Shields also hopes to compete in mixed-martial arts. Taffet has reached out to UFC about the possibility of Shields stepping into the octagon. Taffet envision a "home-and-home" two-bout competition that requires an MMA opponent to also fight Shields in a boxing ring.
"I believe Claressa believes this is the time for women to shine," Taffet said, "and the sports have enough discipline in common that you can take it to the next level as an athlete to show off your broader skill set."
Shields was understandably a little reluctant to discuss a potential MMA career for fear of adding distraction to the title fight. But she is committed to testing herself in the growing combat sport.
"Me doing MMA, is this something serious?" she said. "Uh, yeah. It's something serious and I've already had talks with an MMA coach already. I don't know when I'm going to start my training but it's definitely something we think I could do.
"I just want to fight the best and be known as the best. So if that's what I've got to do, then I want to go ahead and do it." For now, the MMA world will have to wait until after Shields' fight with Habazin, herself a former champion. If the third division title in record time wasn't enough to pique fans' interest, there's also been the added drama of Shields' knee injury in June that postponed the fight and the smack talk between the two fighters that started with Habazin calling Shields fat.
Shields normally is a middleweight at 160 pounds. But she's dropping to 154 pounds for this fight -- a weight she hasn't fought at since she was 16.
Habazin quickly posted a video in which she implied the injury had more to do with Shields' inability to make weight and called her a "fat ass," but still wished her a quick recovery. A Twitter war ensued and the bad blood hasn't stopped boiling.
"I would've taken it more personal if she hadn't apologized when she seen me to my face (at a recent news conference)," Shields said. "If you're going to call somebody fat, call them fat and mean it. But she calls me fat and then she goes and then she apologizes. OK. Did you mean it or not?"
Habazin said she never apologized but only clarified that it was all a joke when she saw Shields at the news conference.
"I didn't apologize," Habazin said in a phone interview. "I just said it was a joke, so if you want to accept it, accept it. If you don't, you don't. I didn't say, 'apologize I called you fat.' I said I never said that and I will never say that because for me that wasn't something that I want to embarrass her, you know?
"So it was a good joke and a lot of people say that, so that was the most important thing. So if somebody say that for me, I would have said, 'OK, I know I'm a fat ass. Don't worry.' It's perspective for how you accept that or not. And I said, 'I wish you a quick recovery,' because that's normal."
It's hard to know what Habazin hoped to accomplish by rattling Shields' cage. But she certainly did so and gave what will be a massively partisan fans in Flint even more reason to whip themselves into a frenzy.
"I know what's going to happen," Habazin said. "So I don't care actually, you know? Because in the ring, it's only her and me so nobody can help you inside. Nobody can help me, nobody can help her. What's going to happen is going to happen."
Because of the fight's location, Habazin hopes to remove every possible advantage Shields might have. Ultimately, that means scoring a knockout and not leaving a decision in the judges' hands.
"And if I can make all this stuff (work) what we was training and what I made in sparrings, I am definitely sure I can knock her out because I feel I have power, I can punch and that's it," Habazin said. "Yeah, she's in hometown, she's a champion, undisputed champion. Everything is actually on her side, so even if the fight is close I know the judge will not give me the scorecards. So I can expect that's going to happen."
Shields has only been knocked down once. She's highly skeptical of Habazin's intention to knock her out.
"If she tries to stand there and fight me, she'll be asleep way before I'll be asleep," she said. "So she better have a better game plan than that. ...
"If she wants to come in here and have a game plan of trying to knock me out and stand there and fight me, we can do that. But just know I've never been outfought and I haven't been outboxed yet. She'll get her ass kicked with either game plan."
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