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Call Marvel Comics, Claressa Hammers Hammer in Making Like Wonder Woman

Bernard Fernandez

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Shields Vs. Hammer

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Her effort was exemplary, but the superlatives that flowed like floodwaters after a dominant Claressa Shields fully unified the women’s middleweight boxing championship with a 10-round unanimous decision over Christina Hammer suggested that the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Flint, Mich., had suddenly risen to a place of singular achievement for a female fighter.

Forget more realistic comparisons to such past women’s pugilistic icons as Lucia Rijker and Laila Ali. To hear her most ardent supporters tell it, Shields has taken on the persona of a comic-book superhero. Think Wonder Woman, or maybe Captain Marvel.

“I think tonight’s fight will go down in the history books as an epic battle with the likes of Ali-Frazier, Leonard-Hearns and De La Hoya-Trinidad,” gushed Dmitriy Salita, president of Salita Promotions, whose enthusiasm ran wild when speaking about the emerging lead pony in his stable. “With this dominating and captivating performance, Claressa Shields is well on her way to being as revered as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Pele and others at the top of their game.”

Also verbally genuflecting at the altar of Claressa was Mark Taffet, the former HBO executive who serves as her manager and one of her most ardent drum-beaters.

“You saw tonight a performance for the ages,” Taffet said at the postfight press conference in Boardwalk Hall. “This is a night for history. It’s her-story. Claressa Shields dreamed it, she willed it and she brought it to the table. She set out to be undisputed and she did it faster (in just her ninth pro bout) than anyone in the history of the sport. And she’s just beginning on her journey.”

Nor was the 23-year-old Shields (9-0, 2 KOs) inclined to aw-shucks her thorough thrashing of Hammer (24-1, 11 KOs) – two judges had her winning by 98-91 margins, the other by 98-92 — as just another day at her roped-off office. She can preen and posture with the cockiest of her male counterparts, and after paying the briefest of lip service to her vanquished German opponent, whom she conceded has a decent jab, she went the full Ali in proclaiming herself at this early stage of her professional career as the female GOAT.

“I thought I finished her in the eighth round. I thought I saw a white towel coming in the ring,” said Shields, who incorrectly believed that Hammer’s corner had surrendered prior to the beginning of the ninth round. “I was, like, `Oh, (crap). We got a knockout! I was so pumped. I thought the fight should have been stopped. She was holding on. She held me excessively. But I just told myself, `Stay cool, stay calm.’

“I wanted to land the perfect punch to get her out of there. (The judges) said 98-92 (and 98-91, twice). Give me 100-90. Give me my credit, man. I beat her ass every round.

“I am the greatest woman of all time!”

But being recognized as the best female fighter ever, a matter of some debate despite Team Shields’ breathless proclamations, could possibly stunt Shields’ long-range plans as much as to advance them. Asked what kind of follow-up bout could possibly match or top her dismissal of the highly regarded Hammer, Shields, who weighed 159.4 pounds for the Showtime-televised main event, said she thought she could pare down to 154 for a clear-the-decks go at Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus (35-0, 9 KOs), the undisputed women’s welterweight champion, or bulk back up to super middleweight for a revenge clash with the United Kingdom’s Savannah Marshall (5-0, 3 KOs), who handed her the only loss of her career, amateur or pro, prior to the 2012 London Olympics.

“I want to fight Cecilia Braekhus at 154,” said Shields, who not only added Hammer’s 160-pound WBO title to the IBF, WBC and WBA belts she already held, but was presented with The Ring magazine’s first women’s championship belt as well. “Bring it on, baby. That’s who I want next. If not her, give me Savannah Marshall. I’ll kill her.”

What about a possible rematch with Hammer, 28, who had held titles in three different weight classes dating back to October 2010?

“She was better than me,” Hammer conceded. “Sometimes s— in boxing happens. But I am a champion and a champion for a long time. I will come back stronger.”

But a do-over with Shields might prove a tough sell to the public after such a one-sided affair that most would presume would result in a repeat of the original. The gap between Hammer and Shields was never more evident than in round eight, when Shields likely would have scored a KO were it not for the two-minute rounds as currently mandated in women’s boxing.

“Can we get three-minute rounds now?” wondered Shields, who on May 31 will receive the second annual Christy Martin Award as 2018’s Female Fighter of the Year from the  Boxing Writers Association of America. “I think I proved (women) can do 10 rounds and two minutes a round, but in order for women to get knockouts, in order for women to get equal pay, we need 12 rounds and three minutes.”

No doubt Shields struck a blow for gender equity, or for the narrowing of the gender inequity gap. But if she thinks she someday can command the kind of multimillion-dollar purses that routinely went or go to Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez, that ain’t ever gonna happen. If she fights and pummels Braekhus as she did Hammer, an already shallow talent pool of possible opponents will get even more shallow, as likely victims will want to be compensated far more handsomely than the market is apt to bear. Maybe three-minute rounds will eventually happen, but Shields might soon discover that there is such a thing in boxing as a fighter being too good for his (or her) own good.

The seven-bout card in the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall featured another women’s world title bout, with Argentina’s Brenda Karen Carabajal (16-4-1, 9 KOs) claiming the vacant IBF featherweight belt with a 10-round unanimous decision over Russia’s Elena Gradinar (9-1, 2 KOs).

There were three male heavyweight fights, two of which featured young up-and-comers and the other a grizzled former world champion who could be nearing the end of a long and mostly productive career.

Jermaine Franklin (18-0, 13 KOs), the 25-year-old prospect from Saginaw, Mich., scored a 10-round, unanimous decision over veteran Rydell Booker (25-2, 12 KOs), of Detroit, the 38-year-old ex-con from Detroit who lost 13 years from his promising career after being found guilty of felony possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Franklin might yet develop into the best young American heavyweight as projected by some, but Booker was no more than semi-impressed, saying, “He needs a lot of work. He stays too centered with his head. But he’s all right. What he has on his side is youth.”

At least Franklin got in some needed work. Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin (20-0, 14 KOs), who was making his U.S. debut, never made it through the first round as he and Nick Kisner (21-4-1, 6 KOs), of Baltimore, inadvertently clashed heads early on in their scheduled 10-rounder. Kisner suffered a cut over his right eye that was deemed serious enough by the ring physician that a no-contest was declared. That had to be a disappointment for Wallin, who came as the fifth-ranked heavyweight in the world by both the IBF and WBA. “To me, (Kisner’s) cut didn’t look that bad,” said Wallin, 28. “It’s a shame because I trained really hard for this fight and was looking to put on a show for fans in America.”

Samuel Peter (37-7, 30 KOs) briefly held the WBC heavyweight title, but that was many pounds and long ago. Now 38, the erstwhile “Nigerian Nightmare,” who resides in Las Vegas, had pared down from 330-plus pounds last September to the 259 he weighed for his scheduled 10-rounder against Mexican journeyman Mario Heredia (16-6-1, 13 KOs). Although Peter did score a second-round knockdown and was seven points up on one judge’s card, Heredia came away with the upset when the other two judges favored him by margins of 77-74 and 76-75. “I just came off a layoff,” said the disappointed Peter. “I need to go home, practice more and see if I can come back again.”

In other bouts, super bantamweight Marcus Bates (9-1-1, 8 KOs), of Washington, D.C. scored the only TKO of the evening when Jesse Angel Hernandez 9-12-3, 7 KOs) did not come out for the fourth round of their scheduled eight-rounder, and Atlantic City middleweight Isiah Seldon (13-2-1, 4 KOs), son of former WBA heavyweight champ Bruce Seldon, overcame a first-round knockdown to post a six-round unanimous decision over Bryan Goldsby (5-10), of Macon, Ga.

Photo credit: Stephanie Trapp / SHOWTIME

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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The Hauser Report: Garcia-Redkach and More

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing made its debut at Barclays Center on October 20, 2012, with a fight card headlined by four world title bouts. Danny Garcia, Erik Morales, Paulie Malignaggi, Peter Quillin, Devon Alexander, Danny Jacobs, and Luis Collazo were in the ring that night. The franchise grew nicely. Fans who went to Barclays saw good featured fights with solid undercard bouts. But as of late, the arena’s fistic offerings have faded.

Barclays cast its lot with Premier Boxing Champions. And PBC has moved its prime content to greener pastures (green being the color of money). There were five fight cards at Barclays Center in 2019. Each one struggled to sell tickets.

January 25 marked the thirty-ninth fight card at Barclays. The arena was half empty. The announced attendance was 8,217 but that included a lot of freebies. There were six fights on the card. As expected, fighters coming out of the blue corner won all of them. That’s what happens when 6-0 squares off against 2-10-1.

Three of the fights were televised by Showtime Championship Boxing, which has also been diminished as a consequence of a multi-year output deal with PBC.

In the first of these bouts, Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs) and Ukrainian-born Arnold Khegai (16-0, 10 KOs) met in a junior-featherweight bout. Each had fought the usual suspects en route to their confrontation. There was a lot of holding and rabbit-punching which referee Steve Willis ignored. Eventually, Fulton pulled away for a unanimous-decision triumph.

Next up, Jarrett Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) took on Francisco Santana (25-7, 12 KOs).

Hurd is a big junior-middleweight who held the WBA and IBF 154-pound titles until losing to Julian Williams last year. Santana is a career welterweight who had lost three of his most recent four fights and had won only three times in the last five years.

Hurd was expected to walk through Santana. But he was strangely passive for much of the fight, which led to the strange spectacle of Santana (the noticeably smaller, lighter-punching man) walking Jarrett down for long stretches of time. Francisco is a one-dimensional fighter and was there to be hit. When Jarrett let his hands go, he hit him. But he fought like a man who didn’t want to fight and didn’t let his hands go often enough.

By round seven, the boos and jeers were raining down. Hurd won a unanimous decision but looked mediocre. That’s the most honest way to put it. One wonders what tricks losing to Julian Williams last year played with his mind.

Also, it should be noted that, when the winning fighter thanks God in a post-fight interview and the crowd (which supported Jarrett at the start of the bout) boos at the mention of The Almighty, there’s a problem.

“The crowd didn’t love it,” Hurd acknowledged afterward. “But you gotta understand; I got the unanimous decision and I did what I wanted to do.”

The main event matched Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) against Ivan Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs).

Garcia had a nice run early in his career, winning belts at 140 and 147 pounds. But later, he came out on the losing end of decisions against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Other than that, he has gone in soft for the past five years.

Redkach is a junior-welterweight who had won 5 of 10 fights during the same five-year time frame.

There was the usual pre-fight nonsense with Garcia telling reporters, “We picked Redkach because he’s dangerous and we knew he’d be tough.” But in truth, Redkach had been whitewashed by Tevin Farmer at 135 pounds and was knocked out at the same weight by John Molina Jr (who never won again).

Garcia, like Hurd, was a 30-to-1 betting favorite.

Redkach fought a safety-first fight. Also, safety second and third. There wasn’t one second when it looked as though he had a realistic chance of winning the fight or fought like he did.

One of the few proactive things that Ivan did do was stick out his tongue from time to time when Garcia hit him. Then, at the end of round eight, he bit Danny on the shoulder while they were in a clinch. At that point, one might have expected referee Benjy Esteves to disqualify Redkach. But Esteves seemed to not notice.

Rather than go for the kill after the bite, Garcia eased up and cruised to a unanimous decision. Meanwhile, by round eleven, the crowd was streaming for the exits. Most of the fans were gone by the time the decision was announced.

Garcia and Hurd had set-up showcase fights scheduled for them. And neither man delivered the way he should have.

Meanwhile, a final thought . . . Sunday, January 26, would have been Harold Lederman’s eightieth birthday.

Harold was the quintessential boxing fan and loved the sport more than anyone I’ve known. He never missed a fight at Barclays Center unless his health prevented him from coming or he was on the road for HBO. He died eight months ago.

As Saturday night’s fight card unfolded, I imagined Harold sitting beside me. He would have had a kind word for everyone who came over to say hello and loved every minute of it. Harold Lederman at the fights was a happy man.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book — A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing — was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Fast Results from Brooklyn: No Surprises as Garcia and Hurd Win Lopsidedly

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight, Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia made his eighth appearance at Barclays Center. Garcia’s 2017 fight with Keith Thurman drew 16,533, the attendance high for a boxing show at the arena. A far smaller crowd was in attendance tonight to see Garcia take on Ivan Redkach in a non-title fight slated for 12 rounds.

Redkach, a 33-year-old LA-based Ukrainian, is a southpaw. That’s no coincidence. Garcia hopes to land big-money fights with Errol Spence and/or Manny Pacquiao, both southpaws.

Redkach (23-4-1 coming in) turned his career around in his last fight with a career-best performance, a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division title-holder Devon Alexander, a 15-year pro who hadn’t previously been stopped. But there was a class difference between he and Danny Garcia, a former WBA and WBC 140-pound world title-holder and former WBC 147-pound champion.

Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) was simply sharper. His workrate slowed late in the fight, allowing the game Redkach to steal a few rounds, but at the final gun he was relatively unmarked whereas Redkach was conspicuously bruised. The scores were 118-110 and 117-111 twice. The crowd booed at intervals, understandable as they were subject to a drab 6-fight card that was even less interesting than it was on paper.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Jarrett Hurd, making his first start since losing his WBA/IBF super welterweight title to Julian Williams last May, went on cruise control from the opening bell and jabbed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision over Francisco Santana. Hurd, who improved to 24-1, finally let loose late in the 10th frame, putting Santana (25-8-1) on the canvas with a succession of left hooks, but by then many in the crowd had probably nodded off.

This was Hurd’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma who has drawn raves for his work with America’s elite amateurs. The scores were 97-92 and 99-90 twice. SoCal’s Santana has now lost five of his last eight.

The opening bout on the main TV portion of the card was a 12-round super bantamweight contest between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton and fellow unbeaten Arnold Khegai who currently trains in Philadelphia.

Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) simply had too much class for Khegai (16-1-1), a Ukrainian of Korean heritage. Although Khegai frequently backed Fulton into the ropes, the Philadelphian had an air-tight defense and connected with many more punches. The fight went the full 12 with Fulton prevailing by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice.

If the WBO has its way, Fulton will proceed to a fight with Emanuel Navarrete, but don’t hold your breath as Navarrete is promoted by Bob Arum who undoubtedly wants to extract more mileage from him before letting him risk his belt against a crafty fighter like Stephen Fulton.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Sacramento Honors Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 25) former two-division world boxing champion Diego “Chico” Corrales will be posthumously inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame at the organization’s eighth annual induction ceremony at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

Corrales, who grew up in Sacramento, the son of a Columbian father and a Mexican mother, turned pro at age 18 and went on to compile a record of 40-5 (33 KOs). He won his first title in 1999 with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Robert Garcia. Now recognized as one of boxing’s top trainers, Garcia was making the fourth defense of his IBF 130-pound title.

Five years later, Corrales won the WBO world lightweight title with a 10th-round stoppage of Brazil’s previously undefeated Acelino Freitas. That set up a unification fight with the WBC belt-holder Jose Luis Castillo.

Corrales and Castillo met on May 7, 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. To say they put on a great fight would be an understatement. The boxing writers in attendance will tell you that this was the greatest fight of all time. It was named Fight of the Decade by The Ring magazine.

The final round, the 10th, was unbelievable. Heading into the round, Corrales was ahead on two of the three scorecards, but his left eye was swollen nearly shut and during the round he was knocked down twice. No one would have faulted referee Tony Weeks for stopping the fight after the second knockdown. But, somehow, Corrales was able to rally, pulling the fight out of the fire with a barrage of punches that had Castillo out on his feet when Weeks waived it off.

Two years to the very day of this iconic fight, Diego “Chico” Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he rear-ended a car while traveling at a high rate of speed. He was 29 years old.

Corrales was a thrill-seeker. In a 2006 profile, Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole enumerated these among Castillo’s hobbies: jumping out of planes from 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 400 feet, snowboarding in treacherous terrain and scuba diving amid a school of sharks. “He lived his life the same way he fought,” said his promoter Gary Shaw, “with reckless abandon.”

It might seem odd that it took so long for Corrales to be recognized by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, but there was a period when Corrales’s name was mud in his hometown and perhaps the organization’s founder, Las Vegas sports radio personality T.C. Martin, a Sacramento native, thought it appropriate to let old wounds heal.

In 2001, shortly after suffering his first pro loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Corrales pled guilty to felony domestic violence in the beating of his first wife and would serve 14 months in prison. “The whole family has worn a black eye for it,” Diego’s brother Esteban Corrales told Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Bretan.

For all his recklessness, the incident didn’t jibe with his persona. In the company of Las Vegas sportswriters, the soft-spoken and well-spoken Corrales came across as polite and humble.

Corrales, one of five inductees in the 2020 class, joins three other boxers already installed in the Sacramento Hall: Pete Ranzany, Loreto Garza, and Tony “Tiger” Lopez.

Ranzany, a welterweight, fought four former or future world champions and was a fixture in Sacramento rings in the late 1970’s. Garza wrested the WBA super lightweight title from Argentina’s Juan Martin Coggi in France and successfully defended the belt here in Sacramento with a one-sided conquest of Vinny Pazienza. Lopez, Sacramento’s most popular fighter ever, made the turnstiles hum at the city’s largest arena where he fought eight of his 14 world title fights beginning with his 1988 humdinger with defending IBF 130-pound champion Rocky Lockridge.

Among the speakers at tonight’s confab will be Kenny Adams. Perhaps best known as the head trainer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that won eight medals in Seoul, Adams currently trains Nonito Donaire. He was with Diego Corrales for 24 fights, during which Corrales was 23-1, avenging the lone defeat by Joel Casamayor. Festivities start at 7 pm.

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