Leland Stein III

Posts Tagged ‘USA Boxing’

Shields overcomes knockdown, outlast Gabriels

In sports column on June 24, 2018 at 3:01 am

 

 

shields shot to face

Claressa Shields gets left hook on Hanna Gabriels. Bob Ryder – photo

 

By Leland Stein III

 

stein watkins profile

Leland Stein III

 

DETROIT – I have covered over 100 championship boxing matches and every other sporting event too, but there is something about a sweet science title contest that is simply electric.

Flint, Michigan’s Claressa “T-Rex” Shields (6-0, 2 KOs), a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (2012 and 2016) and now unified women’s super-middleweight champion versus Costa Rica’s Hanna Gabriels (18-2-1, 11 KOs), who despite the loss is still unified women’s junior middleweight champion, together they not only illustrated how far women’s boxing has come, but more importantly, they put together an action-packed fight that was indeed worthy of a national event presented by Showtime Boxing.

At Detroit’s historic Masonic Temple one boxing’s more famous combatants, 23-year-old Shields, undeniably had the estimated 3,000 in a frenzy throughout as fisticuff enthusiast stood from the third round to the final bell as “T-Rex” craved out an exciting unanimous decision.

shields down

Shields hits canvas for first time. Bob Ryder – photo

The victory gave Shields the IBF and WBA middleweight world championships.

Having glided through an exceptional amateur career and her first five professional fights, Shields found herself in uncharted waters. First, she gets knockdown in the first round (her first time touching the canvas), getting hit more than in any fight she has engaged in, and, getting head butted numerous times with one opening up a large cut on her left cheekbone.

Still she found or elevated that special intrinsic something that all champions possess, heart and swag, and, she needed it all.

“Once I went down,” Shields recalled in the post-fight press conference, “I took a deep breath and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m about to whip this girl a*s.’ I just remember thinking let’s use the jab, be smart, move your head and tire her out.

“What I proved to myself was I can get put on my a*s, get up and come back and win. This was my night and I had to show the world I’m the greatest of all-time. I showed who I am. Now, I’m really dangerous because you can even put me down, and I’ll still come back to win.”

Indeed, she came back to win. Shields represents more than just boxing, as everyone knows about the horrible decisions made in the Flint water crisis that hurt so many. Also, the city has become a victim of the economic and manufacturing changes that happens to cities that rely too heavily on any one industry, and, the subsequent poverty that follows.

“I know I am one of the most popular people to come from Flint,” Shields deadpanned, “so, I represent my city, my community and the U.S.A. I know a lot of people are expecting great things from me, but no one expects more from me than I do from myself!”

Shields is a female Sugar Ray Leonard, in terms of her hand speed. She always unleashes punches in combinations and flurries that puts unrelenting pressure on her opponents. She came at Gabriels, 35, in tsunami like waves of smites that just overwhelmed her opponent.

She commanded the exchanges after the first round, but got a stern test from Gabriels, a former welterweight world titlist, in her toughest fight yet. According to CompuBox statistics, Shields landed 162 of 506 punches (32 percent) and Gabriels landed 133 of 510 (26 percent). Shields averaged 66.5 punches thrown per 2-minute round and landed 46.6% of her power shots. She out landed her opponents by more than 3-1 in power shots.

“I was a little surprised at her speed,” Gabriels said in the post-fight press conference. “She has a lot of heart, but so do I. I left my heart in that ring. I trained to go the distance but my heart betrayed me, because after that first knockdown, I was looking for another one. I wanted to show everyone I had a warrior’s heart. I didn’t feel I had an advantage after the knockdown. I felt I had to work round after round to even have a possibility to win.”

Said Shields: “[Gabriels] a good fighter. She has skills and just the way she carries herself. She’s very calm and her facial expressions never change. I think she’s tough, but not as tough as I am. I know I’m the better fighter.”

The victory over Gabriels set up a fall showdown for the undisputed women’s middleweight world championship with fellow two-belt titleholder German fighter Christina Hammer. Hammer routed Tori Nelson to retain her belts in the co-feature.

Shortly after the decision, Team Shields and Team Hammer began the hype for the mega fight, as an ugly scrum broke out after the fight.

“I’m just tired of Hammer disrespecting me all the time,” Shields said. “She comes into the ring after all my fights, stealing my shine, talks trash, and then she goes in there and looks like s— against Nelson. I’m sick of it. But I let her know I’m more than ready for a fight against her. She wanted me to lose tonight, but I wanted her to win because I want to fight her. We have to unify now.”

Said Hammer: “I’m really looking forward to fighting Claressa. She will try and fight me on the inside, but my footwork, and my reach, will be the difference. The fight with Claressa will be a game-changer. It will be the biggest women’s fight ever.”

In the opening bout of the Showtime-televised tripleheader, light heavyweight Umar Salamov (22-1, 16 KOs), 24, of Russia, knocked out Brian Howard (13-2, 10 KOs), 38, of Atlanta, in the ninth round. Salamov was ahead on all three scorecards when he dropped Howard for the count with two right hands at 53 seconds.

Leland Stein III can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com and twitter @LelandSteinIII

USA Boxing down and struggling

In sports column on September 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm

 

Clarissa Shields and Michigan Chronicle, sports editor, Leland Stein III in London at the USA House after her gold medal victory.

Ali, Frazier, Foreman, De la Hoya, Patterson and now Shields all have succeeded at Olympic Games.

By Leland Stein III

LONDON – US men’s Olympic boxers have won a record 108 medals. But since David Reid took gold at Atlanta in 1996, only one US man — Andre Ward, in 2004 — has taken the Olympic title.

The list of pugilist that has taken the sweet science by storm over the years after achieving Olympic glory is simply legendary.

Any list will have to start with Floyd Patterson (1952), Cassius Clay (now Muhammad Ali) in 1960, Joe Frazier (1964), George Foreman (1968), Sugar Ray Leonard (1976), Leon Spinks (1976), Michael Spinks (1976), Pernell Whitaker (1984), Mark Breland (1984), Evander Holyfield (1984), Riddick Bowe (1988), Roy Jones Jr. (1988) Oscar de la Hoya (1992), and David Reid (1996).

There are others that found noteworthy success as professional fighters like Ray Seales (1972), John Tate (1976), Howard Davis (1976), Leo Randolph (1976), Steve McCrory (1984), Frank Tate (1984), Meldrick Taylor (1984), Tyrell Biggs (1984), Henry Tillman (1984), Michael Carbajal (1988), Ray Mercer (1988), Andrew Maynard (1988), Chris Byrd (1992), and Antonio Tarver 1996).

All of the above mentioned Olympians medaled at their Olympic Games and went on to successful professional careers.

Fast forward into the 2000 and anyone can see something has happened to USA Boxing. In fact, the 2012 Olympic Games is the first in history where the US men did not medal in any of the weight classes.

It took the US women to hold the boxing torch. In the first Games where women were allowed to participate in boxing, out of the three weight classes US women won two medals. Marlen Esparza won a bronze medal as a flyweight and Claressa Shields won the USA’s only boxing gold medal.

Shields’ historic gold was the first US gold since Ward. Olympic boxing gold has been hard to obtain for the US. That makes 17-year-old Shield’s remarkable win over two world champion women on her way to gold even that more impressive.

How does USA boxing get back on track? Are the mix martial arts diluting the talent pool? Surly the allure of college and professional football has taken away the Ali’s, Frazier’s and Foreman’s in US Boxing.

Another problem is that the USA Boxing names trainers, but the trainers that have worked with the fighters cannot be in their corners at the Games. Who knows the fighters better than the men and women that train them? No one!! And as the sweet science continues to grow internationally the fighters are getting better and better.

For example, I was watching a young lady from Ireland (Katie Taylor) fight for lightweight gold and in her corner was her father, who has trained her since she started boxing. The Irish Olympic officials told me, “Why would we put anyone else in her corner?”

I looked at the Americans and they have people in their fighter’s corner that simply do not know the fighters they are charged to cajole.

The US Olympic Committee is also disappointed by boxing’s medal-less men’s team. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun offered no specifics, but it’s clear the governing body expected more from US fighters, who left the Olympics empty handed for the first time in team history.

‘‘We’re going to sit down and take a hard look at why we are where we are, and make some changes,’’ Blackmun said. ‘‘I don’t want to say anything beyond that.’’

The US men’s team, the most successful in Olympic history, lost nine of its last 10 bouts in London. USA Boxing has been criticized for a sharp decline in recent years, along with the fact that the coaching staff was not in place until just about a month before the games opened.

‘‘We’re disappointed in boxing,’’ Blackmun said. ‘‘We want to do better, particularly in men’s boxing. By saying disappointed in boxing, I don’t mean in the people. I mean, we’re disappointed that we didn’t do better in boxing, because I know that we can do better and we have to focus on how we do that.’’

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII