DETROIT (AP) — Two-time Olympic gold medalist and women’s world middleweight champion Claressa Shields was on the verge of tears when she saw her name and image on the videoboards at Little Caesars Arena, where she will fight Hanna Gabriels of Costa Rica.
“I’m trying to stay calm and not take my makeup off, so I ain’t gonna cry, but I’m really happy,” Shields said. “I know that this is taking women’s boxing to the next level, for sure.”
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The home of the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings, which opened in 2017, will host boxing for the first time on June 3.
“I grew up coming here, watching the Pistons play,” said the 28-year-old Shields, who is from Flint, Michigan. “I never imagined that I would get a chance to fight here. It was a dream that I wanted and that I had, but I didn’t think that it would really happen.
“So, to actually be here and to see all these seats and see my face everywhere, all the excitement around the fight and 15,000 fans for me, it’s a weird feeling, to be honest with you.”
Shields is the main attraction on a card that also features up-and-coming fighters from Michigan.
“It’s going to be pretty big,” said 64-year-old Boxing Hall of Famer Thomas Hearns, the first to win titles in four divisions. “I think it’s only a matter of time, boxing is going to be big in Detroit again.”
Since Hearns retired in 2006, no one in boxing has been able to draw large crowds in a city with a rich boxing history highlighted by Joe Louis.
Shields, who describes herself as the “greatest woman of all time,” has done enough in her career to end the drought of big-time boxing in the Motor City. She is matched up with the only opponent to ever knock her down.
Gabriels (21-2-1, 12 KOs) put Shields (13-0, 2 KOs) on the mat before losing to her in a 2018 match at the Masonic Temple in Detroit.
“I am here to redeem myself,” Gabriels said Tuesday, turning her head to look at and address Shields during a news conference. “Two years ago, you fought for the undisputed in 154 (pounds), and I was still the champion there. And you avoided me, for whatever reason. I am here to take what is yours in 160.”
Last October in London at the sold-out 02 Arena, Claressa Shields avenged the only loss of her career with a unanimous decision over Savannah Marshall to become the undisputed women’s world middleweight champion. Shields was defeated as an amateur by Marshall in 2012.
Author: Larry Lage, The Associated Press
Associated Press writer Mike Householder contributed to this report.
Photo Credit: © Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
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