As one of boxing’s most prominent contenders, Flint native Claressa Shields is used to the big stage. She’s won two gold medals in consecutive Olympics and stayed undefeated in her short, but storied professional career (5-0, 2 KOs). This Friday, she’ll be returning to the ring at Detroit’s Masonic Temple with the support of her home state to earn a second division title in her sixth professional fight – a feat that required her to drop by an entire weight class from super middleweight to middleweight (dropping from 168 lbs. to 160 lbs).
She will be fighting a more professionally experienced opponent in Hanna Gabriels (18-1-1, 11 KOs). Gabriels is a national hero in Costa Rica and has won titles in different weight classes. Dmitriy Salita, Shields’ promoter, said Gabriels is, “one of the best female fighters in the world and Claressa’s hardest challenger by far in her professional career.” They will trade punches over the International Boxing Federation World Female Middleweight Title for the night’s main event.
Gabriels usually attracts crowds numbering between 10,000-20,000 people, but this will be her first time in the United States. This is the fourth time Shields has fought in Detroit. She has also trained in the city for a significant part of her amateur career. Its selection as the setting for this pivotal matchup was for a reason.
“It’s very important for fighters to develop close to home and build a strong fan base. We could have taken this fight to Vegas or New York, but specifically chose to do it in Detroit.” Salita said. It’s also important to note that some boxers who train at the legendary local Kronk Gym, like the undefeated Aslambek Idigov (12-0, 5 KOs), will compete in some of the night’s undercard bouts. Plenty of Detroit’s boxing culture will be in the national spotlight as the entire night will be televised on the Showtime network, in prime time.
If Shields and undefeated German middleweight boxing champion Christina Hammer (22-0, 10 KOs) defeat their opponents (Hammer will face off against Tori Nelson [17-1-3, 2 KOs], also on Friday), Salita will slate them both for a “super-fight” later in the fall.
Claressa Shields (5-0, 2 KOs)
Hanna Gabriels (18-1-1, 11 KOs)
Middleweight women’s boxing match for vacant IBF and WBA middleweight world championship
Friday, June 22
Masonic Temple in Detroit
Showtime Network, 10 p.m.