ATLANTIC CITY – Other than typical trash talk, the Claressa Shields-Ivana Habazin weigh-in went off without incident Thursday.
Shields, women’s boxing’s undisputed middleweight champion, officially weighed a career-low 153¼ pounds when she stepped on the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board’s scale at Ocean Resort Casino. Habazin, who ate ice cream and taunted Shields while standing on the scale, came in at 152½ pounds for their 10-round, 154-pound title fight Friday night at Ocean’s Ovation Hall.
The theatrics aside, this weigh-in unfolded in far different fashion than the last time Shields and Habazin attempted to make weight for their fight.
James Ali Bashir, Habazin’s trainer, was brutally assaulted before they stepped on the scale October 4 in Flint, Michigan, Shields’ hometown. Bashir was rushed to the hospital, underwent emergency surgery to repair facial fractures and still is recovering from his injuries.
Artis Mack, Shields’ brother, was arrested and charged with assault after allegedly punching Bashir in his face.
Bashir has another surgery scheduled and was unable to train Habazin for this fight, which was postponed three months due to that ugly incident. Steve Upsher Chambers, who had been Habazin’s assistant trainer, prepared her for this rescheduled fight in her native Croatia.
Habazin agreed to reschedule the fight, but only if it took place outside of Flint.
Dmitriy Salita, Shields’ promoter, and New Jersey boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard took several security measures to ensure that another incident didn’t occur Thursday.
Salita hired five Atlantic City police officers to work the event, in addition to Ocean’s security personnel. Hazzard allowed only one representative from the camps of Shields and Habazin on stage when the fighters stepped on the scale.
The situation in Flint escalated in part because there were so many people on stage at the same time.
Now that they’ve made weight and finally are ready to square off in a fight that’s been postponed twice, Shields (9-0, 2 KOs) can focus on attempting to become the fastest fighter in boxing history, male or female, to win world titles in three weight classes.
If Shields becomes a three-division champion in just her 10th professional fight, she’ll surpass the standard established by Vasiliy Lomachenko and matched by Kosei Tanaka. Ukraine’s Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) and Japan’s Tanaka (15-0, 9 KOs) each became three-weight world champions in their respective 12th fights in 2018.
Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is listed by many Atlantic City and Internet sports books as a 100-1 favorite to beat Habazin (20-3, 7 KOs). They’ll fight for the vacant WBC super welterweight and WBO junior middleweight titles.
Showtime will televise Shields-Habazin as the main event of a three-fight telecast that’ll start at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. The four other fighters scheduled to take part in televised fights made weight after Shields and Habazin on Thursday.
Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22 KOs) weighed in at 145½ pounds for his 10-round welterweight bout against Bakhtiyar Eyubov. Kazakhstan’s Eyubov (14-1-1, 12 KOs, 1 NC) stepped on the scale at 146¼ pounds.
Later Thursday, Alicia Napoleon-Espinosa (12-1, 7 KOs), of Lindenhurst, New York, came in at 164 pounds for her 10-round super middleweight match against Elin Cederroos. Sweden’s Cederroos (7-0, 4 KOs) officially weighed 166¼ pounds.
Napoleon-Espinosa and Cederroos will fight for Napoleon-Espinosa’s WBA 168-pound championship and the vacant IBF belt.
If Napoleon-Espinosa and Shields win Friday night, they could fight next for Shields’ IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO middleweight titles.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.