Wednesday, 12:06pm at Strawberry Fields in Gotham
I’m late, but what else is new?
Typically, 228 W. 52nd St wouldn’t be far from Manhattan haunts on 72nd and Columbus Circle, but this really isn’t a typical day. Central Park is a colloquial haven for this writer attempting to spring across joggers into the company of bloggers, seasoned and those yet to face Autumn, at a place legendary for Grade A beef with two combatants ready to serve it.
But WBC/WBA/IBF middleweight champion and alleged “G.W.O.A.T” Claressa “T-Rex” Shields (8-0, 2KOs) and sleek WBO middleweight banger Christina Hammer (24-0, 11KOs) can wait; it’s not everyday you run into an almost unrecognizable Jessica Brown Finley from “Harlots”, but I recall her from succombing to consumption in “Winter’s Tale”. By comparison, she looks ready for summer, in a killer blue Nike suit made for a stunner. I get a text. It reads:
Yo Shields dissed for tweets. Said she gone beat her ass for that! Shit got heated, Salita had to jump in. Where u at?
..is not your typical meeting place. Legend has it, this place is for gangster’s of legend, and you might wanna walk in with a hammer and one or two shields for the lawless. Totally guilty of conspiring to commit Journalism, for me, that’s a memory Bic, a few photo flicks, and an invisible bulletproof text. The decor doesn’t lie; this place feels classic, as athletic mobsters adorn walls crystalized from all of your favorite sports, saving special spaces in the heart of them all for practitioners of the sweet science. I can’t help but photograph the choice cuts in the window before witnessing the raw uncut– and unplugged. First up, Christina Hammer.
“Steffi Graf? What are you doing? She’s... I’m way prettier than her!“
Screams a pleasantly bratty, seated-directly-behind-me and Thor-like Hammer in response to [Vol. I] with these two budding icons, while scrunching her face like somebody just farted.
“Whooooa. Take it easy! You think you could beat Serena Williams, or would you need to be Steffi Graf? It was an analogy. Fallback,” I implore her, mirroring a jovial crass.
“Oh yes… A comparison… What is this ‘Fallback’ you are saying?” She jabs with urban innocence, along with the famous probing stare of a confident German. “Look Harley Quinn, are you in better shape than you were for Tori Nelson down the stretch? You might need to be,” I counter.
Hammer then perks up and pulls out the “Fuck Shields” mouthpiece, before letting me know exactly who she is. Deciding to slip on a white, red and black rock star jacket to go over a black Jordan athletic suit that accent cornrolls, Hammer almost morphs into The Joker’s sidekick, while dismissing any talk of fitness issues as we pose for pics.
“I was new to America then, full of anxiety. Nelson didn’t bother me…That did. She says I’m snowboarding and having fun? We will see how much fun I have with her fat ass. She’s terrible compared to Serena Williams.”
Friday, 4:29pm, Hoboken, NJ
Christina did not hold back at all for lunch either, consuming two full sized steaks with double side portions and cheesecake to boot.
I’ve watched the weigh-in with a colleague near the Hudson River, and Hammer looks like a world class swimmer. The fact that she weighs in slightly under 160lbs, in absolutely mint condition while dripping wet in confidence is… Riveting. She short arm mocks “T-Rex”; as if in the face of the actual predatory from the Cretaceous period, who in turn, at least appears to be, a somewhat subdued bullyin’ a state of temporary disbelief.
I wasn’t really in close proximity to “T-Rex” in Gallagher’s, but she was no more 20 feet away draped in press and cameras. Because I had a significant moment with her over the phone days prior while not speaking directly to her opponent, it feels fair to observe and listen. Hair braided beautifully and adorned with blue, while killing an Afro-centric yellow ensemble that grabs her voluptuousness like a sundress, Shields is more interested in being a lady than a fighter gone “G.W.O.A.T”. Earlier footage reveals Shields approaching Hammer like my grandmother did before pulling out the big switch from the bushes. Y’know, the whole: “This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you,” kinda deal.
“Excuse me, before we get started, I just wanna let you know I saw them tweets. I really didn’t appreciate what you said… I’m gonna beat your ass for that.”
IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr was of a similar disposition before lassoing Mikey Garcia last month in TX, but it’s hard to know if this is the same design. Hammer is far bolder than Garcia was and physically sculpted like a Spence. Though Claressa weighed in on point, the eye test would give a decided edge to in terms of nailing “special” conditioning. Then there’s the intangible of gamesmanship and how much of a factor that could play into things.
During fighter meetings prior to facing Hannah Gabriels in June 2018, Shields was asked by the SHOWTIME broadcast crew if she’d be an interested spectator of the co-feature pitting Hammer against former tough foe and aforementioned Tori Nelson, someone she defeated via terse UD months prior in January 2018. Shields adamantly responded that she wouldn’t watch, yet, was caught by the same SHOWTIME crew with their cameras, as she watched with nail-biting intensity from the bowels of the Masonic Temple in Detroit. Could it be that “The G.W.O.A.T” had doubt? Or better yet, that she has doubt? We’ll see.
The major allure of this contest rests in how it scouts so high. Best ever high. It’s far beyond Laila Ali Vs Jacqui Frazier, because using the same metrics used to judge men, those two still had enough technical flaws to make them very popular “B” fighters. Rijker. Braekhus. Serrano. Taylor. Names like that come to mind in terms of actual “A” fighters that either exist or existed in Women’s Boxing. Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer have membership cards here. But whereas those fighters never fought each other, these two will, and at their presumed best with zero love lost.
It’s really Ali Vs Frazier I from Madison Square Garden in March 1971, and since that’s the fairest comparison to come up with, it probably winds up that way in the hands of the judges.
That said, Christina’s Hammer is her jab — one of the best in all of boxing and good enough to augment superior movement to victory.
Conversely, if Claressa Shields herself well enough from that shot, while jabbing beyond a doubt crested within, she can raise enough volume to silence defeat. I guess I’ve just drawn up a tie.
And if there’s no crying in baseball, then there’s no 11th round in Women’s Boxing. What a fight.