Claressa Shields Vs. Christina Hammer [Vol.I]: The ‘Hammer’ of Shields
It's not exactly like holding The Hammer of Thor and absorbing thunder and lightning from a dark sky with her mighty Shield, but it's something like that.
Saturday night from The Boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ, unbeaten WBC, WBA and IBF middleweight champion Claressa Shields (8-0, 2KOs) will face the equally unblemished Christina Hammer (24-0, 11KOs) for undisputed middleweight supremacy.
The victor will match the great Cecilia Braekhus in unified championship status and enter discussion as the best pound-for-pound female fighter on the planet.
How big of a deal is this fight? Showtime will air and present this very rare match-up featuring women's boxing as the main attraction live on its network (9pm/ET), as ring greats such as Andre Ward and current pound-for-pound king Errol Spence Jr are expected to be in attendance. Even our own editor-in-chief Michael Woods will be donning headphones with an eager mic in front of himself for a call.
During Monday's international media conference call, I told the two combatants without hyperbole that I'm as excited for this event as fans should be of Anthony Joshua Vs Deontay Wilder. They both respond to this with very real excitement; eager to win the championship of each other. Miss this fight and you're not only not a real fan of boxing, but I'd lobby that your Showtime subscription should just be cancelled by the network. Free of charge.
This is probably the very best fight in the history of Women's Boxing.
Move over Laila Ali.
Step aside Ann Wolfe. Go to hell Lucia Rijker.
It's hard to tell if Shields doesn't begrudgingly refer to herself as “The G.W.O.A.T” (Greatest Woman of All-Time), or whether or not this isn't simply a product of the suits from Madison Avenue. To be sure, Hammer ain't buying it. She's probably shopping for something lavish from the pages of Allure and doesn't give a damn what Claressa Shields thinks of herself. If you didn't see the All Access promo shows, watch them. In the 2nd installment, the two exchange more insults than a telemarketer hears all day.
Peep the “Fuck Shields” mouthpiece lining the pallet of Hammer, as Shields vows to ‘break her in half'.
Throwing away a few questions I had written down to ask her, it kind of occurred to me just who Claressa reminded me of, especially in lieu of the whole “Gwoat” situation and how I could almost feel her seething to get after Christina over the phone.
Thirteen years ago, Serena Williams was just beginning her #1 ranked reign of dominance over Women's Tennis, and they are strikingly similar in physical constitution and overall demeanor. I ask her, as an African American woman, if she's looking to do for Women's Boxing what Serena was able to do for Women's Tennis. The Flint, MI native responds with an unequivocal “Yes!” while expounding on the subject with ebullience and pride.
In the background, with the cool calmness of a legend in her own right from Germany, I can hear Christina Hammer laughing at the remarks of Shields with a benign condescension. All during this promotion she [has not] been intimidated, [is not] intimidated and [will not] be intimidated. At all. In so many ways, for any fans out there familiar with Tennis, Christina Hammer presents a very glamorous portrait of her countrywoman, the legendary Steffi Graf, to counter the Serena Williams-like specter of Shields.
For perspective, Hammer is roughly the same age the great Graf was when she completed her historic Grand Slam in 1988, capturing all four major titles and Olympic gold for the hell of it. So imagine if that Graf was being confronted by the Williams who completed what the press dubbed “The Serena Slam” after 2003 in perfect health, where she'd matched Graf's achievements in even more dominant fashion. Let's also say it's for all four major titles of tennis in just one match. Graf's punishing serve and otherworldly right forehand against Serena's “WTF?” backhand and unparalleled power. Are you starting to understand what kind of fight this is? You miss this fight and I'll do everything I can to ban your ass from this column.
In the battle of psychological gamesmanship: advantage Hammer. This is a very confident woman of limited insecurities mistaken for conceited. She knows all of her Hollywood style bikini posts…
..glamour girl sponsor obligations and ultra girlie tight blue jeans with long flowing locks and sex kitten ways on Instagram and the like really seem to grind at Claressa.
She hits the “Love” option to comments on social media I've observed reading, “You are so fucking beautiful.”
Conversely, she has also smashed “Like” on comments such as, “Claressa Shields looks like a transvestite.”
All of a sudden, according to any human script involving a “T-Rex” of estrogen, the sight of this is supposed to produce jealousy gone compulsive on American soil, right? Any woman is every woman, and try as they might to conceal it, all women have a need for some form of aesthetic validation that goes beyond intellectual or athletic achievement. I remember Claressa in the 2016 ESPN Body Issue, where she seemed naked being… naked. One of my favorite photographs of Shields, it captures a woman shrouded in contemplative red Everlast headgear, while resting her chin in pink combat gloves of uncertainty. If Hammer doesn't nail her, she'll be held in place by the polarity of doubt vs belief within herself.
Claressa has lowered her guard throughout the promotional build-up to this showdown, and it appears to have fortified the supreme confidence of Hammer; maybe even to the point of vanity, which would at least balance the very palpable (but subtle) insecurity and bitterness residing in Shields. She erupted in the ring on Hammer after hitting the canvas and escaping Hanna Gabriels last June; even admitting during Monday's conference call that Hammer was stealing “her moment” and didn't appreciate it. It resurfaced again near the end of the call, as Hammer interjected during a question she was answering, causing a shapeshift to T-Rex. “I'm going to fuck you up,” Shields growled.
When two fighters are as closely matched as these two are, the contest often comes down to intangibles such as poise, when determining the better ring general. Hammer has a jab that would make Ike Quartey blush, and if in “Who won the round?” states of doubt, judges are more likely to side with a signature shot easy to fall in love with, while giving Shields the cold shoulder for showing more emotion than effective aggression.
I never thought I'd ever suggest MC Hammer's “You Can't Touch This” ever in life but I'd understand if it blared through headphones in the dressing room to Shield her from Type 2 tight jaws, or even if it boomed through The Boardwalk on her way to the ring. Regardless, Claressa will go out on her stiff shield no matter what, but if considering the loose ice of Christina, it might be fun to think it's time for both of them.