Claressa Shields calls altercation 'inexcusable'
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Trash talk at a weigh-in or news conference is nothing new in boxing. This was something different entirely.
Claressa Shields' homecoming fight Saturday night was canceled because of an altercation before Friday's weigh-in that left her opponent's trainer hospitalized. Shields called the incident "inexcusable" — and the night of boxing went on without its star attraction.
Shields was supposed to fight in her hometown of Flint against Ivana Habazin of Croatia. Mlive.com reported that James Ali Bashir, Habazin's trainer, had facial injuries after he was punched and fell to the concrete floor at the weigh-in. Mark Taffet, Shields' manager, said Bashir had surgery to repair some damage to his teeth, and after returning home, he's expected to have a second operation for his jaw.
"I did not see what happened and am relying, like so many of you, on what I have heard. Despite the videos that are out, the actions that took place against Coach Ali was not right," Shields said in a Facebook post. "I do not stand for that and do not in any way justify what happened no matter what he said! I stand with Coach Ali and Ivana Habazin and I also understand their stand on our fight."
Taffet said he went to the hospital after the incident to make sure Bashir received the right care. He said there's been no name released of who hit Bashir.
"Claressa was stepping on the scales before the weigh-in to check her weight," Taffet said. "There may have been confusion about whether the real weigh-in was taking place. (Bashir) was trying to get close to the scales to verify Claressa's actual weight, and then words were exchanged. It was horribly unfortunate, and regardless of whatever disagreements there are, there's never a place for violence."
The fight between Shields and Habazin had already been rescheduled from August because of an injury to Shields. Taffet said it's too early to tell if the two will eventually meet in the ring.
"Both Claressa and Ivana would deserve the opportunity to do the fight, but we have to let the dust settle and then speak to both sides, and make sure it's something that they'd want to do," he said.
Taffet said refunds were offered for tickets. Other scheduled bouts did take place, however — with plenty of empty seats.
Two of the night's fights were carried on Showtime: Heavyweight Jermaine Franklin (20-0) of Saginaw outpointed Pavel Sour (11-2) of the Czech Republic, and welterweight Jaron Ennis (24-0) of Philadelphia stopped Demian Fernandez (12-2) of Argentina in the third round.
Shields, a two-time Olympic champion, has won titles at the super middleweight level, and she unified the middleweight belts with a dominating victory in April over previously unbeaten Christina Hammer. Shields took this fight at 154 pounds, trying to become a three-division champion.
This was supposed to be Shields' first pro fight in Flint, and the U.S. debut for Habazin.
"What was to be a great event and a celebration became something that saddened all of us," Taffet said. "Our hearts go out to Ivana and her trainer. Our prayers are with them to recover safely and quickly."