Two-time Olympic champion Claressa Shields now has professional titles in two weight classes.
Fighting just 70 miles from her hometown of Flint, Michigan, Shields defeated Hanna Gabriels of Costa Rica by unanimous decision Friday at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. The win gave Shields the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association middleweight crowns.
Shields, who is the only American boxer — male or female — to win consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games (London 2012 and Rio 2016), has won her first six bouts since turning pro post-Rio.
Shields, who combined blue hair with a Black Panther outfit, was dropped in the first round by a strong right uppercut from Gabriels but rebounded strongly in the rounds after that. The fighters traded powerful blows for the remainder of the fight.
Shields won on all three judges’ cards: 97-92, 98-91, 97-92.
The 23-year-old has said she wants to win world championships in three weight classes, and she has the determination to back it up.
“To beat me, you’re going to have to kill me,” Shields told the Detroit Free Press after a workout last week. “I’m not going to go down.”
Shields already held two world titles in the super middleweight class, and moved down in weight for Friday’s match. Gabriels moved up from junior middleweight, where she is the unified title-holder.
It was just the second loss in 21 professional bouts for Gabriels, who is married to junior lightweight boxer Bryan Vasquez.
Shields’ victory sets up a bout against Christina Hammer of Germany, who made her U.S. debut on the same card Friday. Hammer is unbeaten in 23 fights after defeating Tori Nelson, a 41-year-old grandmother from Virginia, in a unanimous decision to retain her two belts. Shields and Hammer are projected to meet in a Showtime-televised bout in the fall for the undisputed women’s middleweight title.
Shields’ only loss, pro or amateur, came just before the Olympic Games London 2012, to British world champion boxer Savannah Marshall.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is sports editor of the Cape Cod Times and a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.