Claressa Shields, the only American boxer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals, had faced virtually no adversity through her brilliant amateur career or in her first five professional fights — until Friday night.
That’s when Shields, the unified women’s super middleweight world titleholder, dropped down in weight to challenge unified junior middleweight titleholder Hanna Gabriels, who moved up in weight, for two vacant middleweight titles and found herself on her rear end in the first round.
Gabriels landed a clean right uppercut to stun and drop Shields, but she shook it off, got up and dominated the rest of the fast-pace-action fight to win a unanimous decision and claim two belts in a second weight division at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, not far from Shields’ hometown of Flint, Michigan.
The judges scored the fight 98-91, 97-92 and 97-92 for Shields, who set up a fall showdown for the undisputed women’s middleweight world championship with fellow two-belt titleholder Christina Hammer. Hammer routed Tori Nelson to retain her belts in the co-feature.