Christina Hammer: The Return of the Middleweight Queen Ahead of Potential Shields Encounter
By Ben Blackwell
Boxing is a sport which relays on passion and anticipation of the showdown’s which the world wants to see. These could be anything from local rival’s facing off, national rivals or even overseas encounters between the kingpin and (queens) of respective divisions.
Whilst the world is currently awaiting on tenterhook’s to see if the unified heavyweight champion is going to face off with his WBC belt-holder counterpart in Deontay Wilder or the likes of Tyson Fury, Dillian Whyte or Oleksandr Usyk.
Boxing is frustrating to the average fan in the reasoning why certain fights do not happen and the political and ego games of various figures behind the fighters we want to see. At the end of the day, boxing is a sport first and athletes will always want to prove to the world that they are top dog.
As we all know, the female version (in my view boxing is still boxing) of the sport is rapidly developing seeing more and more talented amateur’s turn over to the pro ranks globally. Name’s in recent years include the likes of Katie Taylor, Mikaela Mayer, Chantelle Cameron, Lisa Whiteside, Nicola Adams and most the prominent of them all, Claressa Shields.
The Detroit favourite, the double Olympic gold medal winner, the two weight world champion at 168 &160 lbs has been doing everything right so far. Winning, making smoke and noise and ultimately becoming a huge draw in the U.S market. Her viewing figures alone during the last calendar year are very respectable regardless of gender resulting in Shield’s headlining for the first time on Showtime. This signifies how much the sport and the perception of female boxing has come in such a short space of time.
Everyone at the top table of the sport needs a dance partner however.
Last year, Shields signed up to the fight a fighter just as popular, marketable and equally as talented in Christina Hammer. An undefeated pairing (8-0 & 23-0), two-weight champions with genuine disdain towards each-other. Sadly, however, Illness struck the Hammer postponing their then scheduled encounter for November 17th at the Broadwalk Hall in Atlantic City which was set to be shown on Showtime.
In a lot of way’s the Illness deflated the hype surrounding Shields at that moment in time due to the sheer anticipation of the Hammer contest. These things happen and injuries and illnesses are part of the sport but in show business, the show must go on. Shields has since gone on and has since fought Hannah Rankin and Femke Hermans respectively whilst adding the vacant WBC world middleweight title, which Hammer once held, to her bow.
However, things are certainly now looking up for the German Hammer. Christina returns to action this upcoming Saturday one month ahead of schedule after previously being told that she will not be returning till March at the earliest. The Dortmund based fighter will face Elene Sikmashvili (8-7) over eight rounds in which will serve as a barometer into how Christina recovery has been. Technically speaking, Christina is technically superb, efficient and has proven her worth and abilities with fifteen successful world title bouts ( & one NC). Professionally Hammer will not be overlooking her opponent on Saturday, she is one of the most professionally driven fighter’s I have encountered in the sport (briefly however in November 2016 in Munich v Kali Reis).
Christina also confirmed at the time of her announced return on 23rd of January that “I wanted to fight in front of my fans before fighting Shields” virtually confirming that it is all systems go in regards to boxing’s first all-female super-fight.
Personally, I think it is fantastic that these fights are developing and in a lot of ways showing the men how it is done in organising the big rival fights. Yes, I can hear you yelling that there is more prestige (nope) in men’s boxing, more money (yes) and greater risk (explain please as I lost on that one) and that it is more difficult to organise in the men’s game. If you look at all the successful dominant female fighters of the 21st century, there has always been one or two genuine contenders who have been a genuine match for the champion. However, the Shields encounter for Hammer is that and so much more.
There is genuine dislike (or seemingly dislike) between the pairing with two clashes at events in 2018. Both are very charismatic fighters in the media and are not short of a few words to fire shots at each-other. Both are world champions with Hammer still holding the WBO world middleweight title with Shields holding the IBF,WBA & WBC world titles.
These are two fighters who are popular within their home countries with both holding genuine star appeal through their efforts and marketability.
It is refreshing to see in a time where very public PR stunts are often paramount ahead of negotiation, a few sound bites to sound good instead of honesty. I genuinely feel that these two ladies could set a precedent.
They will almost certainly break various revenue figures in terms of purses, sponsorships, TV revenue, gate figures and rights fee’s. Any doubt on Hammer’s appeal will be short-lived as she is a household name in Germany, boxes across all networks from Sat1, RTL and Sky Sports Deutschland. Doubts on Claressa Shields appeal is also genuinely laughable along with abilities.
If the women get the deal over the line once again, it will transcend the overall picture of the sport and bringing almost in line with the men (three-minute rounds please).
Remember it is the 21st century after all.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Trapp