Claressa Shields Q&A: ‘Down goes Adler’…. ‘Christina Hammer’s a clown!’
By Ian Aldous: On Friday August 4th, double Olympic champion, Claressa ‘T-Rex’ Shields (3-0) faces Nikki Adler (16-0) for the WBC and vacant IBF women’s world super-middleweight championships, at the MGM Grand Detroit, live on Showtime. The elite amateur who’s only been a professional since November of last year will fight for world titles in only her fourth pro fight. Last week, Claressa spoke with me over the phone about her career and impending battle.
IA: So, it’s Nikki Adler on August 4th. She’s the unbeaten world champion, you’re the double Olympic champion challenging for the gold. Give me your thoughts on the fight and what you expect from Nikki.
CS: I expect her to come in there and have a lot of heart. I think the first two or three rounds could be highly competitive, but I think I’ll be able to break her and maybe even get the stoppage in the seventh, eighth round, me personally, this is what I think. I think that also she’ll be shocked at how hard I hit, about how fast I am and how skilled I am. I’m not going to go in there and brawl with her. I’m going to box her and be the sharper fighter and my defence will be on point for August 4th. Claressa Shields says ‘down goes Adler’.
IA: WBC and WBO women’s world middleweight champion, Christina Hammer, will be ringside on August 4th and she feels you’ve been using her name to promote yourself. Apparently she wants to fight you, but you’ve said she doesn’t. What’s the real story?
CS: Christina Hammer’s a clown. She’s a clown. I fought my second fight at 160lbs because we were ready to take over that weight class. I said I didn’t want to take over that weight class without fighting Christina Hammer, she wanted to wait. I don’t blame her (laughs). Take all the time you need to get ready! She’s coming ringside to watch me? She wants to be able to see me fight and she wants to be able to see what she really needs to do in camp to get ready because she’s not ready. Why would I use her name to promote myself when I’m more known than her? Nobody knows who she is in women’s boxing. I’m a two-time Olympic champion, I’m known by millions of people – she’s not. Her name became relevant because of me, not because of her. The only reason her name comes up is because of her belt at 160lbs and that’s the belt that I want, well, one of the belts that I want. I’m taking over at 168lbs and then we’ll go to 160lbs. I’m not worried about her, she’s a clown.
IA: Considering everything you’ve already achieved, it’s amazing to think that you’re still only twenty-two years of age. When do you think you’ll reach your peak?
CS: I really don’t know. I haven’t put an age on it because I just keep getting better, keep getting stronger and my workouts keep getting easier (laughs), and that’s the problem! I really don’t know which age that I’ll peak at. I just think that I’ll continue to get better.
IA: Last time out, you comfortably outpointed Sydney Victoria LeBlanc over eight-rounds. Do you feel like that was a good warm-up for Nikki Adler?
CS: I just think that anybody who I would’ve fought getting ready for the world title fight would’ve been good because I was just training really, really hard in camp. I was sparring ten-rounds, eight-rounds, twelve (rounds) some days. So, I already knew that I was in shape. If they’d given me Nikki Adler (that night), I think I still would have won, well, I know I still would have won. I just think that Sydney was a very tough girl. Strange, that I think that Sydney is a better fighter than Nikki (laughs). I know she’s been undefeated all these years but if she was to get in the ring with Sydney LeBlanc – it would be a very close and tough fight.
IA: Were you surprised at how much punishment she absorbed from you? There was a point in the first round where I thought it was going to be stopped.
CS: I blame the ref for that. My job is to get in there and box and I can’t be worried about the other fighter’s safety. I watched the fight and I think she took a lot of punishment and she’s tough, but she was too tough and the corner was too tough and the ref should have stepped in and maybe stopped it, but he didn’t. I had fun going eight-rounds.
IA: That was for the WBC silver belt. Did you have an idea going into the fight that it was almost a title eliminator and a win would earn you a world title shot next?
CS: Yeah, you know, me and my team had talked about it. We talk about everything, and that all the goals I set out are reachable. I’ve known about Nikki Adler for quite some time now and I always felt like I could beat her, same thing with Christina Hammer. Since we’re fighting at 168lbs that’s just the route we’ve had to take because I guess Hammer got other things going on and she wanted to plan it (a fight between Shields and Hammer) out for mid next year or something like that. I was just like ‘I don’t like this’ and I’m not ready to drop to 154lbs yet, so 168lbs was really our only option.
IA: Fellow double Olympic champion, Nicola Adams’ most recent fight consisted of three-minute rounds as opposed to the standard two-minute rounds for women’s fights. Do you think it would be a positive move for women’s boxing to change to three-minute rounds?
CS: Of course it’s possible. I really don’t care about that. I don’t mind fighting two minutes, I’ve been fighting that since the amateurs and I think that’s what makes women’s boxing more entertaining than the men’s. I think in men’s boxing, they’re a little bit too patient and that’s why you have so many draws and close fights, whereas in women’s boxing, it’s clear to see who won the match over two minutes because they both have to get in there and they got to get busy. Whoever is busier and stronger and faster – that’s who wins the round. You can kind of lay back and chill with the three minutes. With the two minutes, we get in there and we get busy, we don’t have a minute to feel each other out and then go!
IA: Recently you sparred with MMA fighter, Cris Cyborg, ahead of her world championship fight at UFC 214. What was that experience like, and were you impressed with her boxing ability?
CS: Yeah, she’s physically strong and fast. She’s teachable, you can teach her things and she’ll listen. That’s something that a lot of boxers don’t really have – she has that. We’re actually going to have a camp together to help her. She wants me to show her some things in boxing. She’s going to come down to where I live at in Florida and spend a month with me. I’ll show her how I train and some of the drills that I do for boxing. Then you’ll see a lot of improvements in her game.
IA: You won gold medals in London 2012 and Rio 2016. This might be a silly question, but was it more satisfying winning in London at the first ever women’s Olympic boxing tournament, or when retaining the title in 2016?
CS: I have to say retaining it was more fun because it had never been done out of my country before. Everybody was saying ‘oh, it’s going to be hard’ and I feel like I had got better and I knew all the girls in the competition and I felt like no-one could beat me. I was telling everybody I was going to walk through the Olympics better than how I did the first time (laughs). There were a few doubters but I knew for a fact I had got better, stronger, taller. I had eaten more healthy, I was more focused and I just knew that I could do it. Then when I did it, it was like I did something that was supposedly impossible because it had never been done. So I did the impossible and it felt great. It was definitely satisfying to my heart. All the hard work that I put in and all the stuff I had to block out getting ready for 2016 was people telling me it was going to be hard and to be careful and all this crazy mess. When you practice a race and you ran it – why’s it going to be harder when you actually do the race? When you’ve already practiced it’s going to be easier! They were just tripping (laughs)!
IA: Was it ever an option in your mind to continue as an amateur and go for another Olympic gold medal?
CS: Of course it was. I’ve got to say that was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I think I actually cried signing the contract for my November 19th fight because I really hoped I was making a good decision. (I was worried) If there was nobody for me to fight or that I had to go down to 147lbs (to get fights) because I can’t make 147lbs (laughs). All these things were in my head. If your dream doesn’t scare you just a little bit then it’s not worth doing, so I said I need to go pro. I felt like if I went to the 2020 Olympics – I would have won easy. I was fighting four two-minute rounds and I was always in shape for eight. I run more than them, I’m athletically stronger and faster and I got way more boxing skills than any women fighter boxing in today’s time, and in yesterday’s time! I really had to do something that would help women’s boxing as a whole and going professional would do that. I’ve got two Olympic gold medals and a lot of respect should come with that. I just took a chance and I think I made a good choice because I can make a lot more money, (and get) a lot more TV time.
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa ‘T-Rex’ Shields will challenge for her first world title against WBC Super Middleweight World Champion Nikki Adler in the main event of ShoBox: The New Generation Friday, Aug. 4, live on SHOWTIME at 10 p.m. ET/PT from MGM Grand Detroit.
Tickets for the event promoted by Salita Promotions are on sale now and are priced at $350, $250, $125 and $60. They are available at www.ticketmaster.com.