It was the final press conference before Claressa Shields faces Ivana Habazin for the vacant WBC and WBO junior middleweight titles Friday night, and the latter took the podium with an amendment to make.
“Claressa Shields is not the greatest woman of all time,” Habazin said Tuesday, referring to Shields’ self-proclaimed “GWOAT” nickname. “But she is the greatest bully of all time.”
Shields, seated just a few inches to her right, gave the remark a thumbs down.
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Hours later, she sat in Sporting News’ office in Lower Manhattan and was further irked by Habazin’s assertion.
“I don’t bully nobody,” Shields told SN. “I don’t even know why she said that. I haven’t had any interaction with her since the fight got cancelled in Flint.”
The fight in Michigan was supposed to happen last Oct. 5, but it was canceled at the weigh-in when Habazin’s trainer, James Ali Bashir, 68, was attacked and hospitalized with head and facial injuries. Shields’ brother, Artis Mack, was charged with one count of assault in connection with the altercation. Following the ugly incident, Shields has publicly offered statements not condoning the attack.
A little over a month later, the fight was rescheduled for Friday, Jan. 10 at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. From that point until now, Shields hasn’t appreciated Habazin’s insinuation that Shields herself was involved in the assault nor the Croatian fighter’s remarks about her family.
“After I made a statement, I think a day later she made her statement, and her statement was she called me a thug and said my family was thugs and that I need my thugs to protect me,” Shields said. “I just blocked her on all social media because I don’t take stuff like that lightly.”
Habazin has claimed that the “thug” remark was for Shields’ brother and not Shields, but other comments from the former welterweight champion piqued “T-Rex” in all the wrong ways.
“She’s just using the situation that happened in Flint to build her own career and to build herself up,” Shields said. “Yeah, you can care about your coach and use him for motivation, but for her to keep saying that — oh, now she’s saying I’m a bully, at first I’m a thug and then I’m stupid, I don’t know how to read and all this crazy stuff, she is embarrassing herself.
“Whether we have bad blood or not,” Shields added, “I’m still going to kick her ass.”
On Wednesday morning, Shields upped the ante by promising to channel WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder’s knockout artistry on Friday night.
Bringing all my @BronzeBomber Vibes this Friday. Gonna sleep this weak ass girl 😈💪🏾
— ClaressaT-rexShields (@Claressashields) January 8, 2020
Despite what Shields deems as attacks on her character, she says this fight is more about making history. Or “herstory” as she calls it.
Shields already stands as the only American boxer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals. A win Friday, and the 24-year-old would reign as a three-division world champ faster than any boxer — male or female — in history, beating out Vasiliy Lomachenko, who accomplished the feat in 11 fights.
“It would mean a lot to become the fastest boxer to claim three divisions,” said Shields (9-0, 2 KOs). “It’d mean a lot because women can fight, women can box, and the fact that I’ve taken the same challenges that Lomachenko has taken and I’ve done it faster, I feel like it puts me … if they ever talk about this, he’ll always be second on the list.
“It’s about a woman being first ahead of the men.”
That’s not to say that Shields isn’t already. When asked where she thinks she falls on the pound-for-pound list, Shields said “Top 10” without any hesitation. As she sat and pondered it a bit more, Shields only bolstered her case for a higher standing.
“I don’t know if you want to put me at No. 10 because it makes men comfortable, or I don’t know if you want to put me at No. 5 or No. 6,” Shields commented, “but I know that I got a lot of skills and I can do everything inside the ring.”
Shields says that skill set includes being able to box like Muhammad Ali, throw combinations like “Sugar” Ray Leonard, offer great head movement like Lomachenko — all equipped with the defense of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
That’s why she feels she’s at least Top 10.
“(The list) got some men who are on people’s top 10 who don’t have better skills than me,” Shields added for good measure.
Following this bout against Habazin, Shields intends to have a small training camp with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Shields hopes the GWOAT-GOAT meeting lays the groundwork for eventually training herself up in MMA and clashing with UFC women’s double champ Amanda Nunes in the octagon someday.
For Shields, it’s all a part of her New Year’s resolution of refusing to compromise — both professionally and personally — so that she could keep her laser-like vision 20/20.
Despite becoming the undisputed middleweight champion in 2019 — just the second women ever to be crowned with that glory — Shields says she wasn’t her happiest last year.
“I do a lot for my family and friends, and I do a lot of compromising just because of their feelings,” Shields said. “I’m not worried about my feelings. I’m worried about everybody else.
“From me doing that, it kind of made me unhappy,” she continued about her 2019 mood. “I didn’t travel to where I wanted to travel to, I didn’t do stuff I wanted to do just because I was looking out for other people, or listening to other people or trying to make everyone else comfortable.”
Entering 2020, Shields made a conscious decision to change that.
“It’s like my life is about making me comfortable,” Shields said. “It’s about me being happy. It’s about me feeling like I’m doing what I need to do. And not just having a great boxing life, but a great personal life also.
“It all has to kind of mesh together and it wasn’t last year, so I’m cutting that this year,” she said. “Probably every year after that too.”
Shields’ fighting herstory should be better off for it, beginning Friday night.