Two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields won a battle of unbeatens Saturday night.
In a bout that was billed as the biggest in the history of women’s boxing and one that decided the unified middleweight championship, Shields defeated Germany’s Christina Hammer by unanimous decision at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
All three judges scored the match 98-92.
“Wow,” Shields repeated after the decision was announced and the four championship belts were draped over her.
Shields, who won Olympic championships at the Olympic Games London 2012 – when women’s boxing made its debut – and the Rio 2016 Games and is the only American of either gender to win back-to-back golds, is the first undisputed middleweight women’s world champion in history. The only other undisputed women’s champion is welterweight fighter Cecilia Braekhus of Norway.
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The 24-year-old Shields was clearly focused, showing poise and patience as she slowly built her aggressiveness in each round. Hammer, 28, was wary of Shields’ power, often clutching up when Shields got close, especially early.
Hammer seemingly stopped Shields’ momentum in the sixth round, but the Flint, Michigan, native took it back in the seventh. Shields turned up the heat in the eighth, getting Hammer on the ropes and knocking out the German’s mouthguard, and ended the round with several flurries that put her firmly in control. Shields also displayed terrific defense, never allowing Hammer to get her jab going.
Saturday’s victory was the ninth straight for Shields since she turned professional following Rio. A two-time amateur world champion, she has only lost one bout — to British world champion Savannah Marshall prior to her Olympic debut in 2012 — and finished her amateur career with a 77-1 record. Hammer was undefeated in her previous 24 bouts, 11 by knockout.
The hype around Saturday’s bout was because Shields held the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation middleweight titles, and Hammer held the World Boxing Organization and World Boxing Council titles.
Hammer, also a junior middleweight world champion and a model, lost for the first time in 25 bouts. Nearly nine years ago, at age 20, she had become the youngest to win a WBO title when she won the middleweight championship.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.