Claressa Shields returned to her home state of Michigan and left the same way she went in — as the undefeated, undisputed middleweight champion of the world.
Shields beat challenger Maricela Cornejo by unanimous decision at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena on Saturday night, dominating from start to finish. The judges scored the bout 100-89, 100-90 and 100-90.
“I felt great, landed my shots,” Shields said in the ring after the fight. “I won every round. Got to do what I could. … I went for the knockout I don’t know how many times in the fight. Maricela was just tough.”
Shields landed massive punches every round, including one that caught Cornejo square in the face and appeared to stagger the challenger, who took the fight on less than two weeks’ notice.
Shields (14-0, 2 KO), from Flint, Michigan, was supposed to fight Hanna Gabriels, the only fighter to knock Shields down in her pro career, but Gabriels tested positive for a banned substance and Cornejo stepped in to replace her. It showed.
Cornejo (16-6, 6 KO) absorbed the many power punches Shields threw throughout the fight but very rarely landed her own.
“It was like, I could land most of my shots, but some of them were curving that landed pretty good also,” Shields said. “But the straight rights were money, and when I would hit her and hurt her, she would just take off.
“I let her out to the right too many times, so we’ll work on that when I get back to the gym.”
Saturday’s bout was the culmination of a big night for Shields, who wanted to take championship-level boxing back to Detroit, once one of the biggest cities for the sport in the United States. Undisputed junior lightweight champion Alycia Baumgardner, who will defend her titles in Detroit next month, was among the fighters in attendance.
Rapper Kash Doll walked Shields out to the ring, performing along the way — and briefly in the walkout, Shields and Doll faced each other to sing together. It was a Detroit-themed night as The Four Tops performed the national anthem, each wearing a different jersey of Detroit’s four major sports teams.
Shields left her options open for her next opponent but said she will travel to Great Britain next month to attend the undisputed super middleweight title fight between champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn and challenger Savannah Marshall.
Shields has already beaten both opponents — Crews-Dezurn in 2016 in the debut for both fighters and Marshall in her last fight in October — but Marshall has been her toughest fight to date. Shadasia Green, the WBC mandatory challenger for the super middleweight title, is expected to fight the winner of Crews-Dezurn vs. Marshall, but Shields could be another option, especially because of her status in the sport.
“I’m only interested in the best,” Shields said. “I’ll be looking at the fight. I think I’ll go over to the U.K., show my face a little bit.
She added: “Whoever wins, if they want to come meet me here at Little Caesars again, and when all my fans come out and watch me fight, I’m all down for it.”