Whether or not you think Claressa Shields is the G.W.O.A.T (Greatest woman of all time), she is certainly the best female fighter in the world right now.
A topic of debate had always been who was the number one pound-for-pound - Shields or Katie Taylor.
Last month, the Irish icon suffered her first professional loss at the hands of Chantelle Cameron. The fact that Taylor moved up a weight division is inconsequential. The 36-year-old was always the favourite to beat Cameron and become a two-weight undisputed champion.
Shields returns to action on Saturday for the first time in eight months when she defends all four of her middleweight titles against replacement opponent Maricela Cornejo.
The champion is a lengthy odds-on favourite, while Cornejo is a double-figures underdog. It’s a fair reflection ahead of a fight where Shields should be able to showcase her world-class skillset and dominate her opponent.
|Claressa Shields (1/50)||Maricela Cornejo (15/1)|
|Height:||5ft 8ins||5ft 10ins|
|Reach:||68 ins||72 ins|
|Trainer:||John David Jackson||Antonio Diaz|
|Record:||13-0 (2 KOs)||16-5 (5 KOs)|
|Titles:||Current undisputed middleweight champion||None|
|Last Fight:||W - UD v Savannah Marshall (Oct 2022)||W - TKO (R1) v Sheila Cunha|
After spending 2022 fighting in Great Britain, Claressa Shields is back at home in Detroit this week for her latest title defence.
Her trip to the UK proved to be a fruitful one for her career in and out of the ring.
Two fights and two wins were ably assisted by rowdy promotional work from the American. It all culminated in her grudge match with Savannah Marshall.
The Hartlepool fighter had beaten Shields in the amateurs, which carried enough narrative to help sell the fight to the public, and in October 2022, Boxxer and Ben Shalom broke new ground with a historic all-female card at the O2 Arena in London.
Try as she might, Marshall wasn’t quite at the level of Shields for the full 10 rounds. The champion deservedly retained her undisputed status and now faces a weaker test on Saturday in the shape of Maricela Cornejo.
With little competition in the 160lbs female division, Shields will have to look at someone moving up from super-welterweight or to jump to 168lbs herself.
Both scenarios could see Shields in with the likes of Natasha Jonas, Terri Harper, rising star Shadasia Green or rematches against Marshall or Franchon Crews Dezurn.
Saturday night will be a celebration of Shields and her achievements to date. Anything can happen in boxing, but losing to Cornejo is extremely unlikely.
|Hand speed||Carries hands low|
|Quick combinations||Not defensively sound|
|Calm under pressure||Power|
|Overwhelming self-belief||Can become repetitive|
When Maricela Cornejo got the call to face Claressa Shields on Saturday, she was already bringing preparations to a close for another fight on June 6 in Costa Rica.
Shields' original opponent Hanna Gabriels was withdrawn from the bout after failing a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association test last month.
Cornejo is in no way a lesser opponent than Gabriels, in fact it’s a step up. The 36-year-old has already fought for world honours on three occasions. She has fallen short each time, however, against Kali Reis in 2016 and then Franchon Crews Dezurn in 2018 and 2019.
Logic would tell you that if Cornejo cannot get the job done against good opponents like Reis and Crews Dezurn then Shields will be too much with her capabilities. Cornejo’s best shot is catching the champion on a bad day where complacency and perhaps arrogance set in fighting at home.
Crucially in this fight, Cornejo is lacking in one department that she needs to keep up with Shields - speed. A long night lies in store for the veteran.
|Durability||Open to right hands|
|Jab||Inactivity during a fight|
|Good chin||Lacks speed|
Backing Cornejo feels like picking a 100/1 shot in the Grand National.
It’s not impossible, but Shields has skills to burn and even at less than 100% she would still have too much. Knockouts and stoppages are few and far between in women’s boxing, but I think Shields' rapid fire combinations can force a stoppage (5/2) from the referee.