NEW YORK (AP) — Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer mostly feinted trash talking, using a few long glares and verbal jabs ahead of their showdown.
They’re the headline event for the undisputed middleweight championship on Showtime on April 13 in Atlantic City.
“Guys are disrespectful to each other, talking about people’s mamas,” Shields said at her recent press conference in Manhattan. “That’s not class. I’d rather keep it to boxing. We just have competitive energy.”
Shields, a two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist, is coming off five weeks of camp at the U.S Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She also spent two weeks working out in her hometown of Flint, Michigan.
Shields and Hammer are the first female boxers featured on Showtime’s All Access, with the next episode Friday on its YouTube sports channel.
“We’ve been going twice a day every day except Sunday,” Shields said. “We put in lots of rounds sparring, tons of sprinting, pad work, pushups, crunches and drills to help with my head movement. I’m in great shape and my weight is on point.”
She’s training with John David Jackson, and they’re adding the finishing touches in Miami ahead of the 160-pound fight.
“I just need a little more sunshine,” Shields said. “Florida is just an ideal environment all around, and a happy place for me to be these last couple weeks.”
Hammer, who has dominated the middleweight division throughout the decade, has been training in Germany and the Austrian Alps. The undefeated fighters were supposed to meet on Nov. 17, but Hammer postponed it because of a stomach illness.
Here are a few more things to know about Shields (8-0, 2 KOs) and Hammer (24-0, 11 KOs) ahead of the fight at Boardwalk Hall.
Shields picked herself off the canvas for the first time after an uppercut by Costa Rican Hanna Gabriels in the first round last June in Detroit. But Shields won the 10-round fight by unanimous decision before a partisan crowd at Masonic Temple.
Hammer watched that fight ringside after defeating American Tori Nelson, then created a skirmish when she stepped into the ring after the victory by Shields.
“She’s beatable,” Hammer said. “The first round she came forward and Gabriels caught her with an uppercut. I want to finish this job.”
Shields isn’t concerned about the knock down or the 5-foot-11 Hammer’s 2-inch height advantage.
“I got knocked down, got back up and I won the fight,” Shields said. “She got knocked down and didn’t get back up and they called it a disqualification. She’s beatable. She has a long jab, she doesn’t know how to fight inside and she doesn’t have balance on her legs.”
Shields’ trainer Jackson wants her focused and strategic in the bout with Hammer.
“Bring back my combinations and the body shots,” Shields said. “Just make sure that my jab is ready to go 10 rounds and I play to my punches the right way.
“If I didn’t hit hard, the girls wouldn’t be running all the time. I’m still going to punch hard — the punches have to land the correct way.”
The 24-year-old Shields said she’s been working on staying calm in and out of the ring.
“No distractions. Sometimes I get super-excited,” she said. “I’m never nervous. It’s more just stay calm until the fight, save all your energy for the fight.”
Hammer attended a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden in February, when they beat San Antonio and snapped an 18-game losing streak. She’s hoping for a similar outcome in Atlantic City.
“I want to show the world who is Lady Hammer,” she said. “When you fight the best against the best, it will be a real game changer.”
She enjoyed soccer and swimming in Germany before turning to boxing at age 13, following her sparring uncles to the gym.
“My family is very sporty,” Hammer said. “It’s one of the toughest sports, physically and mentally, you have to push yourself a lot. If you don’t train, you get a real punch in your face. That’s the danger. It’s my passion.”
The 28-year-old made short work of her last opponent, stopping Elene Sikmashvili by technical knockout in the second round on Feb. 9.
In her free time, Shields likes karaoke, going live on Instagram to chat with fans and working out.
“To me boxing is fun, sparring is fun, going to the gym and working out is fun,” she said. “And just hanging out with girlfriends, we play Monopoly, watch movies on Netflix.”
She won’t defend her gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics because she turned pro after the 2016 Rio Games.
“Everybody is pretty confused about that,” she said. “Other countries have made it so professional fighters can fight in the Olympics, but USA has not.”
In 2017, Shields was the first woman to headline a fight card on premium cable with Showtime. She likes topping “the big-girl card” and wants to be the first woman to fight on Pay Per View.
Heavyweights Jermaine Franklin vs. Rydell Booker and Otto Wallin vs. Nick Kisner will be the opening acts on April 13.
“I went from fighting on Friday main event on Showtime to now fighting on Saturday,” Shields said. “I fight better than a lot of old men. People are so used to women being soft-spoken. Those days are gone.
“Somebody will be crying after the fight. It’s not going to be me.”
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