CLARESSA SHIELDS VS. IVANA HABAZIN INTERNATIONAL MEDIA CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Thank you. I’d like to welcome all the media. We have a great night of action coming up on Saturday, October 5 live on SHOWTIME from the Dort Federal Event Center, Flint, Michigan, beginning at 9:00 pm ET/6:00 pm PT, Claressa Shields versus Ivana Habazin will headline a SHOWTIME BOXING: SPECIAL EDITION
The main event fighters will be joining us for today’s call to preview their clash for the vacant WBO Junior Middleweight World title. The undisputed middleweight world champion Claressa Shields will look to make history once again by becoming the fastest fighter in boxing, male or female, to become a three-division world champion. She’s already a unified world champion at middleweight and super middleweight, just nine fights into her pro career.
She will have a tough challenge in the former world champion Ivana Habazin who is from Zagreb, Croatia, and she’s taking this fight very seriously and we’ll talk about her preparations in a little bit.
Tickets to the live event which is promoted by Salita Promotions can be purchased at Ticketmaster and the Dort Event Center box office.
I would now like to introduce Mr. Chris DeBlasio from SHOWTIME. The reason why we’re experiencing such a big growth on other platforms for women’s boxing and obviously on SHOWTIME is because SHOWTIME believes in Claressa and believes in women’s boxing.
It’s Claressa’s sixth fight on SHOWTIME and we are very blessed and honored to have this fight on this premium network. I’d like to introduce Mr. Chris DeBlasio to talk about the event.
Thank you, Dmitry. I appreciate that. So on behalf of Stephen Espinoza who is the man behind our support of the sport and of the women’s division in particular; and Gordon Hall, our executive producer who is the co-founder of ShoBox, our popular prospect-oriented series, and he’ll executive produce this SHOWTIME BOXING: SPECIAL EDITION as well, I just want to say how proud we are to be part of the event. We know it’s going to be a special one, a homecoming in Flint, Michigan.
As you alluded to, SHOWTIME has a long history of featuring the best in women’s combat sports, from Laila Ali and Christy Martin in boxing from years ago to Gina Carano, Cris Cyborg and Ronda Rousey in mixed martial arts more recently.
Since 2017, with Claressa Shields leading the way, we have these elite women boxers; Shields, Christina Hammer, Katie Taylor has appeared on the network and Amanda Serrano in several fights. Shields versus Habazin will be our eleventh women’s boxing bout since 2017 on the network. Shields led the way. In 2017, we presented the first women’s main event in premium television history when Claressa fought against Szilvia Szabados on ShoBox.
This event, October 5, we will support with a raft of digital content, short-form content to introduce and to advance the fighters that are going to be featured in the live event. That has become a signature for our network. A series being prepared right now is called THE RISE. It’s three parts and it is on various champions and fighters coming up. This one will be about Claressa Shields and her rise to the level that she’s at today and what the future holds.
RING RESUME is a detailed analysis and highlights of Shields’ biggest bouts to date; and another very in-depth and intimate feature called THE APPROACH, an in-depth look at the mindset of the fighters. These are found on YouTube and across all SHOWTIME Boxing social platforms. It’s something we’re really proud of and we think advances the appreciation and the fandom of these fighters to the casual and hardcore boxing fans.
We’re proud. We’re honored to be in business with Claressa Shields. As you said, Dmitry, this is her seventh appearance on SHOWTIME, each a seemingly more important bout. This is another potential history-making event, but she’s fighting a very tough competitor, someone who’s looking to make a statement here on SHOWTIME.
So we’re looking forward to a terrific contest and a great main event along with some terrific co-feature bouts. Jaron Ennis and Jermaine Franklin are going to try to showcase themselves and make important statements on the network also in tough competition.
So with that, I’ll turn it back over to you. I appreciate the time and the opportunity to be part of it. Thank you.
Thank you, Chris. Claressa has a star team inside and outside the right. She is managed by one of the best in the boxing business, Mr. Mark Taffet who I’d like to invite to make a few comments.
Thanks, Dmitry, and thanks, Chris, for joining us today. We started a few years ago with Claressa Shields and it’s on her broad shoulders that women’s boxing is receiving the recognition, the accolades and the growth that it’s experienced over the past few years.
Every time Claressa fights, we look to make history, and October 5 will be perhaps the greatest night of her professional career to date as she attempts to win the title in her third weight division faster than any man or woman in the history of sports. And the incredible thing is that in Claressa’s case, she’s doing it upside down. She’s going down in weight from 168 to 160 and now to 154. It’s going to be a very, very special night. It’s a very, very special and memorable for women’s boxing.
We’re thrilled that the big events are happening and Claressa loves the role that she plays in the continued ascension of the sport and to all of her goals going forward. Thanks for joining us and I’ll turn it back to Dmitry.
Thank you, Mark. Now, I’d like to introduce Ivana Habazin who is not really known in the United States, but in the official press conference announced the fight she came here and she has made a great appearance and was very confident. She’s definitely putting that confidence into her work.
She’s 20 and 3. She’s the former Welterweight World Champion. She’s from Zagreb, Croatia, but she’s been in camp in Colombia and now in Detroit. She’s gotten the best possible training expert for this fight and she has boxed with the world champions and fighters who are the best in their regions.
So I’d like to invite Ivana to talk about her preparations and what we can expect from her. Ivana?
Hello, everyone. Thank you for having me. So my training camp this time was really long, like four months. I’m always in training, always ready and prepared, but this training camp was the hardest ever. I feel great, I feel in shape, I’m healthy. Sparring was good.
I have Raquel Miller in the camp. I have Chris Namus and Tnaja Ovsenik, and I will have Kali Reis next week too, plus I have two teammates from Colombia, one was like five times Colombia national champion. So they really pushed me and that was really, really hard.
I’ve never sparred hard before like this and I feel ready. I’m really confident and I’m coming to win. This preparation makes me much more confident that October 5 is going to be my night.
How does Claressa compare to Cecilia Braekhus?
I actually can’t compare Claressa and Cecilia because they are totally different fighters and I’m a totally different fighter. And I think that Claressa is definitely a tougher fighter than Cecilia and so physically she’s stronger than Cecilia. So she’s more aggressive and I think this fight is going to be tough. But like I said, I was never prepared like I am prepared now.
So I think maybe this fight for me – I will not tell you it’s going to be easier than the fight with Cecilia, but today I am a more complete boxer than I was before. And I have James Ali Bashir as my coach and we all know that he is definitely the best coach and I learned some new stuff and I’m ready to show that.
How do you expect the weight drop for Claressa to affect her?
This is really hard to say for me because I never in my life lost so much weight. So that depends on the fighter, how she’s going to prepare or what she eats. She has nutrition and all this stuff. But I really hope that it’s not going to be so effective on her, but maybe it will be because that was a lot of weight to lose. So we’re going to see. I don’t think about that because she’s young, she’s hungry. She likes to fight and she likes to win, which is the most important. She has the mind of a champion. So I think even though she needs to lose the weight, I’m not going to be a problem for her.
What are your thoughts on fighting Claressa in her hometown? If the fight is close and it goes to the scorecards, what are your thoughts on that?
I really don’t think about that the fight is in Flint. It’s not something important for me, where the fight is. For me, the only important thing is to win, and she’s the biggest name right now in women’s boxing and I want to beat her, that’s all, because I have 10 years in boxing and it wasn’t easy. My world was really tough and right now maybe it’s the last opportunity to do something big and I take it seriously and I’m 100% ready. So I’m not a person who’s going to let other stuff affect me. I have my goals and that’s all.
What’s the difference between the fighter that you are now and the fighter that you were when you fought Cecilia Braekhus?
Actually, it would be stupid to say what I changed because then I will say what’s my plan, you know, so I will say you’re going to see that. I worked on totally different stuff with my coach and we’re going to show that.
Where does the confidence come from in saying that you’re going to knock Claressa out when she has never even been beaten before?
I think I can punch, you know, and the difference before was in some parts, I wasn’t finishing people. That was my problem. Right now it’s a different story and like I said, I made the best preparation ever. Never, ever before in my life did I do a preparation like this and I feel strong. I really feel strong and I think I have power to knock people out.
So for this fight, this is my goal. I don’t believe in the scorecards. So when you knock somebody out and especially in that big of a fight, that’s the only way how you can win. And I was really prepared for that all the time.
What was your first reaction when you heard that the fight was going to be delayed for a couple of months?
My first reaction was, ‘damn, I will not see my dogs for two more months.’ That’s boxing. Everything is possible. Maybe in some way, I maybe expect something like that, but you never know – everything is possible. Everybody can injure and all this stuff. So I prepared myself to stay in the camp, training more. Maybe with this, actually, she helped me because I feel I’m much better right now.
When you go through a loss, what are some of the things you learned from it, and how does that strengthen you mentally having a loss on your record?
Yes, that’s actually a good question. When I lost the first time, I didn’t think that I lost that fight, but it’s okay. And that was the most painful stuff ever in boxing for me because I give always a lot in boxing and when I suffered this first loss, it was like, ‘oh, my god, everything is done.’
But at that time, I was young still and I was only like three years in boxing but when I came back to train after this, I was ashamed. I came in the gym and everybody was watching me and said, ‘Oh, you lose’ and all this stuff. Nobody was supportive. So every day, almost for one month, every day I am telling myself, ‘You will come back. You will come back. You will come back.’
Even if I didn’t know when I will come back, if I even have a chance or no, but I trained more than ever. And that was actually the first time when I figured out what is professional boxing, because before that I didn’t realize all this stuff and I was focused more on my university.
And after that, I changed everything and then like a year after, I got the chance to fight for the IBF title in Belgium and I said, ‘okay, I’m going to Belgium,’ and that was the hometown of Sabrina Giuliani. So, I came. I won.
After, the fight with Cecilia actually came too early because we didn’t have a chance to make a defense. My sponsor wasn’t supportive for me, so I have two options, to fight with Cecilia for a unification fight — it was the first unification fight in the history — or I can leave the title because I didn’t have logistics for defending my title.
So when I accept that fight, in some way, I knew that I can’t beat her because I didn’t have experience. And like one and a half months before the fight, I had one surgery too, so actually I wasn’t in my best shape and I wasn’t good. So maybe that fight I didn’t take very painful like the fight against Eva Bajic when she beat me.
And the fight against Mikaela Lauren, it was like two years after Cecilia. That was my first offer for the fight after three years and this actually was very, very tough for me because I was without fights. I was without money. I was in the gym actually in the underground when there was like one room without windows and I got the offer and I said, ‘Okay, I want to fight.’ But all preparation, I was so, so bad.
When we made pad work, I couldn’t be one minute on the pad because I would get tired. My heart would start beating so fast and I was thinking, ‘okay, maybe it’s because I start training too much too early.’ But actually, it was that I was so, so sick. And when I came to the fight, I knew before I needed to step in the ring, I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be good because I knew it – I don’t have power. My body didn’t have power, nothing, and I just said, ‘Okay, god, please save me, I want to be healthy when this fight is finished.’
But after that, I took a break from boxing for like six months and I said I will never box again. So after six months, I wake up one night and it was like 2 a.m. and I go back, I don’t know why, I hear some voice that told me, ‘Go and see the BoxRec.’ And I go to BoxRec and I saw Eva Bajic and I said, ‘Who is Eva Bajic? I never fought with her.’ And then I go and I saw that Eva came back after two years or two and a half.
And I said, ‘okay, you need to go back in the gym. You need to come back.’ And when I come back in the gym, I start training and the old symptoms – what I had in preparation for Mikaela Lauren – started again. It was very bad because I had like some cardiac – you know, my heart starts beating so fast. I was sweating all the time and I didn’t have power.
When I met medical, they said, ‘You have a thyroid problem and if you want to box again, you need to go in surgery immediately.’ I didn’t think about that, I said, ‘okay, let’s go,’ because I want to come back. And in 2017, I made two easy fights then came the offer for the IBO title. I said I want to fight. Even in that fight, I wasn’t 100% healthy because it was like one, one and half year to get healthy, but I made it.
And now, I can say that right now I am really, really 100% healthy. I am prepared and I am motivated more than ever because when I come back, I said I need to be not 100%, but I need to be 500% and I want to change something. I want to change my life. So right now, I think this is the right chance.
You mentioned this was maybe your last big chance. Many people will say that a fighter with nothing to lose is the most dangerous opponent and perhaps we saw that with Otto Wallin. Do you feel you’re in this position that makes you dangerous?
Yes, definitely, and I said that before the fight. I don’t have nothing to lose right now. I only can change everything and if not now, then when? So I’m ready, I’m 100% ready. I’m really focused on that. Four months I was training only for that fight, so we’re going to see what’s going to happen.
Like I said, this is boxing. One punch can change everything. You can be good all fight, but you can finish on the floor in the last second. So everything is possible. Claressa is a great fighter, but I believe in myself and that’s it.
Thank you. This is also a time when we have two superstar trainers in both of the fighter’s corners. I think it’s the first time in women’s boxing with Ali Bashir training Ivana Habazin and John David Jackson training Claressa Shields. So that’s going to be a very interesting test of stars as well.
Ivana, would you like to finish up with any closing statements?
Yes, I just want to say thank you for this opportunity. I’m really happy because of that and at the end, actually, I really want for people to enjoy a good fight. So the better [fighter] is going to win and that’s all. I hope that’s going to be me. But I wish good luck to Claressa.
Thank you, Ivana. Now, I’d like to introduce Claressa Shields. Claressa, in her last fight headlined the biggest fight in women’s boxing history and put on a tremendous performance.
She really could have fought anywhere she wanted. We had offers from some big venues in Las Vegas, New York, Atlantic City, elsewhere throughout the country, but Claressa made her point to come back to Flint to give this fight back to the fans and the community she grew up in.
I want to list some of her accomplishments even though I know that most of you know them. She is 9-0 with 2 KOs since turning pro three years ago and will represent her town of Flint, Michigan on October 5.
She’s the first American boxer male or female in the history of the sport to win two Olympic gold medals. She became the sixth fighter in history, male or female, to unify all four major world titles in one weight class. She defeated Christina Hammer in the previous fight in April to earn that honor.
Claressa Shields has accomplished a lot in her life in boxing and as a humanitarian, as a role model, but she will be achieving her first on October 5 because it will be the first time that she’s going to be fighting as a professional in her hometown in Flint, Michigan. So Claressa, talk about your training camp, getting down in weight and how you’re preparing for this fight?
Yes, yes. Well, weight is not a conversation that I want to have. I don’t have a problem with my weight. If I did, I wouldn’t want to go down to 154 and accept this challenge. So weight is not a problem.
This camp and every camp, we just want to be a better version of myself. So, me and Coach John David Jackson said with the Hammer fight, we just want to fix a lot of mistakes. Now I know people on here are like, “How many mistakes did you make during the Hammer fight?” A lot, even though it was a unanimous decision, I beat her almost every round, it was still that me and my team having the mentality that we want to fix everything going into the fight with Ivana.
She has faster hands than Hammer. She’s coming from a lower weight class. She’s more comfortable with 154 and of course I’m losing weight. We want to get a knock out.
So the combinations are good. The jab was good against Hammer. We’ve just been working a lot of punches, making sure that we’re throwing our straights over, making sure that we’ll be pacing with our straight and make sure that we just have more precisions for this camp.
So it’s one hard camp. My body is kind of torn apart right now two weeks from the fight, but one more hard week of training and then the last week I get to wind down. So right now I feel really great.
You’ve obviously shown a tremendous chin during your career and she said she’s going to knock you out, I just wonder what you think of that?
She’s going to say a whole lot. I think she called me fat. Many girls in boxing say they can knock me out and I do have a healthy chin and I like to go in and test every girl’s chin and everything like that.
So I respect that she’s coming with that kind of attitude, but, no, it’s not even possible to knock me out. I may have been dropped by Hanna Gabriels, but that was a shot with me off balance. It wasn’t something that hit my chin then I went down and I was woozy or like that. I’ve never been stung by a woman nor man. So Ivana is just talking.
Did you happen to see her fight with Cecilia Braekhus?
There was a whole bunch of bouncing around. They both were off balance throwing their shot.
Ivana likes to put her head down and just throw punches. Whenever she feels like she’s in danger, she just goes in to a straight bull mode and puts her head down and start pulling in. So you have to use a really good jab against her.
I kind of feel like towards the end of the round, Ivana kind of tries to stay in and do a whole lot of holding, and dancing and pulling itself like that. But early on she tried to stand her ground and used her combinations, but it’s nothing that I haven’t seen before. I know for a fact I’m a lot stronger than Cecilia Braekhus so Ivana is going to have a lot of problem on her hands come October 5.
How satisfying would it be to get this knockout in your hometown and have another history-making performance for you?
I just kind of feel like it’s not so much about the knockout, it’s about improvement to me. A knockout is great, but at the same time, I want to go in there and I want to look phenomenal. I want to be sharp. I want to work on everything that I worked on in camp and be able to execute it in the fight.
So I’m not going out there looking for the knockout, but I know that it’s going to come just because of how training has been going. I’ve been hurting my sparring partners with body shots and head shots. I’m doing this coming down in weight and my body is sore too.
It’s sore too, I’m breaking my body down and it’s getting stronger as I break you down, and I can feel going there and boxing in the eighth round and be strong and safe, and be able to do everything that I want to do and let my combinations go and let my hard body shots, the hard head shots still be explosive towards the end of the round.
So just knowing that, I feel like the knockout is going to come. But I’m not going to go out there trying to rush it, I just want it come. So I want to go out there and do everything that I’ve been working on in camp, and I believe everything is going to come together.
Based on what you said earlier in the call, Claressa, were you happy with your performance against Christina Hammer?
I’m my biggest critic. That fight I was happy I became undisputed champion. But when I went back and watched the fight, to me, I made so many mistakes. I was like, “Oh, cut it off,” like I’m just like, “I’m over it,” you know what I mean? Like, I did really well, but I was just like, “Why didn’t you get the knock-out? Why were you not sending out all your shots when you should have sent out all your shots?” and just stuff like that.
For me, it’s just I’ve always been super hard on myself. So I give myself maybe a B minus for that fight, but I want to get an A. I want to do everything right in a fight and even get a knockout, or have it so I was just destroying her in every round, destroying her, destroying her and I’ll take her confidence away from her and I’ll hurt her.
I made some mistakes and she caught me with not even a whole lot of shots, but just the fact that she caught me with a shot that I shouldn’t have gotten hit with. It feels like that. But that is just me, my biggest critic, and me wanting to get better.
So everybody else tells you like “That was the best fight that we’ve ever seen and your defense is on point.” But I’ve known how to do all that stuff. I’ve known that I had defense. I’ve known that I could jab. I know what I could do. I just want to do it the best way that I know I can.
I watched it 40, 50 times. But each time I watch it, I’m seeing a different mistake and it wasn’t something huge, but it’s still just like, “This shouldn’t happen because we worked on it at camp.” It wasn’t a whole bunch, but it was just like just stuff that I see that maybe you guys don’t see.
Do you feel that maybe if they change the rounds from two minutes to three minutes, you would have about three or four knockouts?
Yes, absolutely. Also the refs are super hard on me and It feels like they will not call the fight when I’m hurting these girls.
I can roll back and look at the fight where I fought against Sydney LeBlanc. I put her through eight rounds of hell and they just let her take that and maybe destroyed her as a fighter. She doesn’t want to fight since I beat her. And she came into the fight – me and her, she came down from light heavyweight to fight at 168 and I mean, I destroyed her from the first bell of the first round to the last bell of the eighth.
She never even landed more than 10 punches on me the whole fight and they didn’t even call it. So it’s like with three minutes, I will have a lot more time to break the girls down and be able to get them out there because I’ve hurt every girl that I fought. So as soon as those two minutes ring and it’s the end of the round, and they get that one minute rest, they come back in recuperated and ready to go in the next round. So you have to kind of start all over again.
But would it be in two minutes, I just got to I guess pick up the pace until they actually see that women boxing needs to be the same as the men, or at least give us three minutes a round so we can have the same amount of work time.
Would that be a goal of yours to possibly push to three-minute rounds for one of your future fights?
Yes, absolutely. Me and my team have been going over, we’re just trying to figure out what’s the best way to go to the organizations about it. We don’t know if we want to go over and tell them, “Hey, maybe we could start off with 10 three-minute rounds, or maybe we can start off with 12 two-minute rounds.”
We’re just still going to try to figure it out and try to go with the best way to where it’s safe for the other world champions and also see what they agree with. I’m going to have a talk with all the girls who are world champions to kind of like have a vote on what they want to do because this is not just about me, I want it to about the other women too what they’re comfortable with.
I think the thing to understand is that women will always get paid less than the men unless we fight the same amount of time. So with that, one of the change that got to be made is either 12 two-minute rounds or 10 three-minute rounds.
I think that one of those has to change within this year to get us on the road to equal pay and equal opportunity as far as getting the big knockouts that we can get.
Have you thought someone that you thought might be using PED’s when you fought them as a pro?
Yes, I’m not going to do that. Honestly, I don’t know. I wanted a VADA testing for Hammer. For some reason, we didn’t have it for that fight. But I wanted VADA testing for that fight, but we didn’t get it.
I’m happy that there’s VADA testing for this fight. But I think every world champion should be doing VADA testing especially after Mia St. John came out talking about she was on PEDs her whole career and all this craziness. I think that every world champion, male and female, should be open to do VADA testing because it’s just safer for the boxers and I think that they should be clean.
I’ve always been a clean athlete and I’m not going to say who I think do PEDs, I really don’t know. I hate to have to feel it’s been out there because I don’t know. People think “I just need this,” but I’m just strong because I work my ass off.
What do you think you need to accomplish in order to be deemed the best female boxer of all time?
I think I’ve already accomplished everything to be the best female boxer of all time. But I think that some of the fans or media people may feel like you have to have 25 and 30 fights to be compared to Laila Ali. So I’m just taking my time, I’m racking up the belts and racking up the divisions and making history.
I’ll always be the world’s best and nobody is ever going to make me feel different about that unless somebody comes and beat me, and that’s not going to happen. So I’m going to keep breaking records and doing what no other woman has done.
If I feel great on 154, maybe we’ll stay on 154 and try to become undisputed there. Then if not, maybe I’ll just be looking to that160. I’m always going to go where the best fighter is and the toughest fighters are at, and try to make the most money.
Do you think the nine fights that you’ve had is a better resume than o all the other female boxers in the sport?
Definitely, and that’s talking about the female of boxers, but the male boxers too. Male boxers have people their record is literally padded up so that you are about 20-0, right? 20 or 15-0 and they got padded records against easy opponents.
I haven’t fought against a person who’s had a losing record ever in my pro career, I think someone did the math and it was like 125 wins and seven losses all my opponents together so they’d be able to say that is a nice fight. Well, other boxers, male or female, say fought fighters like that. I haven’t fought against a fighter who has a losing record yet.
Would you like to fight a male fighter in the future if you have opportunities?
I feel like right now I’m just going to fight in women’s boxing right now, trying to get an equal pay. I don’t feel like I should have to fight a man in order for us to be taken as serious athletes.
I’ve gotten in the ring with plenty of men. I fought 16 rounds this week with men, four different sparring partners. I can get in there with guys and I’m going to hold my own, and I know when it comes down to handling my business, I’ve never been knocked out by someone, or dropped, or anything like that.
So I don’t think there’s a difference between women and male fighters. That feels like it’s all about preparation. If you feel like if you have to get ready to fight again, if I have to be ready to fight against the male, I would change my whole training. I think I’m training hard until now.
But to get ready for a man, I would definitely upgrade and I think I have a great team who makes sure that I’m at my strongest, that I’m explosive, that my legs are strong and my muscles are strong. I feel like men have better body endurance than women and I say that because they’ve been fighting so long for so many more rounds in men than women just throughout my whole career.