Claressa Shields won every round on all three scorecards as she traveled to Wales and defended her WBC, WBA and IBF world titles against Ema Kozin. World champion Shields had a heated exchange with WBO world champion Savannah Marshall ringside after the fight and the pair seem intent on a showdown to crown an undisputed division champion.
IN THE RED CORNER – CLARESSA SHIELDS (11-0, 2KO)
A two-time Olympic champion and three-weight world champion as a professional, Shields first won middleweight world gold by defeating Hanna Gabriel via unanimous decision in 2018 for the WBA title. With the victory, former super middleweight queen Shields broke the record for being the fastest fighter to become a two-weight world champion in just her sixth professional bout.
Shields was crowned undisputed world middleweight champion in 2019, claiming all four belts with a unanimous decision win over Christina Hammer in Atlantic City. In January of 2020, Shields became the fastest ever three-weight world champion in just her 10th professional fight by outpointing Ivana Habazin to win the world junior middleweight title.
Decked out in red and gold, a confident Shields sauntered to the ring for this title defense singing along to rap music and received a warm ovation from the Cardiff crowd.
IN THE BLUE CORNER – EMA KOZIN (21-0-1, 11KO)
Rising star Kozin came into this fight with an undefeated record having already registered quality wins over tough veteran Maria Lindberg and former world junior middleweight world champion Chris Namus, both via unanimous decision.
The 23-year old Slovenian had also displayed knockout power with 11 career stoppage victories, most recently knocking out Radana Knezevic in her last fight.
Kozin entered the arena for this fight wearing red, blue and silver, staring forward with an intense expression as she strode towards the ring.
Kozin opened the fight in energetic fashion, twitching and feinting while a more steady Shields held ground with her guard raised and connected with three early scoring blows. Shields threw an offensive flurry before grabbing the head of a lunging Kozin who held onto a clinch, forcing a separation from referee Victor Loughlin.
The tightly wound Kozin continued to bounce on her toes but was kept at range by the stiff jab of Shields and some measured right handed punches.
The was an interesting contrast of styles, with the bobbing and weaving Kozin held at bay by the composed champion who consistently scored with the jab and landed four hooks to the body in round two.
Shields was backed onto the ropes before splitting the guard of Kozin with a straight right hand and slicing open the defense of the Slovenian with a barrage of punches down the middle.
The dominant start from Shields was displayed in statistics shown by Sky Television after the second round, with the champion landing 35 of 66 total punches while Kozin had connected only 5 of 33.
Kozin lunged in with an attack to open round three but failed to phase Shields who held her ground and connected with counter punches. Good head movement from Shields saw several punches find only air before the American went on the front foot and landed several hooks to the head.
Firmly in control, Shields smiled at her opponent early in round four before backing the Slovenian onto the ropes with a flurry of blows that forced Kozin to hold on and cause another separation from referee Loughlin.
When the fight resumed, Shields walked her opponent onto the ropes once more and landed with a succession of vicious blows. Kozin tried to return fire but that only left openings for the precise blows of an increasingly dominant Shields.
The composed champion held a defensive pose to open round five before her gold gloves fired out jabs and straight right hands.
The American trapped Kozin in the corner and rocked the skull of the young Slovenian with a powerful barrage of punches before the challenger went into full survival mode and grabbed onto a clinch. Referee Loughlin separated the pair once more before Shields went on the front foot and continued to pile up scoring blows.
Kozin opened round six by fencing out with jabs and circling the ring, smothering the first attack of Shields by grabbing onto a clinch as the Slovenian looked to gain a foothold in the fight. Kozin landed with two more punches before the irrepressible Shields closed the distance and landed some powerful body blows.
Defending champion Shields ended the round by backing her opponent into a corner and whaling away with powerful, winding hooks to the head.
Full of confidence and intent, Shields jogged out from her corner to open round seven before stalking her opponent and consistently landing shots, making Kozin miss with some excellent head movement between attacks. Shields punished the body with hooks before rocking Kozin with a right hand to the temple in yet another impressive round.
Kozin opened round eight with a pair of one-two combinations, but the punches lacked the power to slow the advancing Shields who continued to close the space and connected with a strong right hand. The Slovenian continued to poke out the jab in response but Shields banked yet another round on the scorecards courtesy of several malicious hooks.
Shields walked down Kozin in round nine and made the Slovenian miss with more quality movement, rotating from the waist and moving her head away from danger. The right hook of Shields was becoming a fearsome weapon, with the ribs and left eye of Kozin now coming in for particular punishment.
The fighters touched gloves as a mark of respect before the last round commenced and Shields connected with several blows before backpedaling out of range.
The champion crashed another right handed punch through the guard of the durable Kozin and the brave Slovenian mounted a counter attack, backing Shields into a corner only for the champion to come forward swinging as the final bell rang.
After a supreme performance from Shields, nobody in the crowd were surprised when the champion was announced the victor by unanimous decision, achieving the rare feat of winning every round on all three cards (100-90, 100-90, 100-90).
WHAT THEY SAID
In her post-fight interview, the victorious Shields expressed that there were a few moments where she believed referee Loughlin could have stopped the fight but seemed pleased with her performance overall.
“I hurt her a whole lot, she gonna feel it when she get home and I won every single round. It’s better than my last performance against Dicaire, I give myself an A minus.”
WHAT NEXT FOR THE WINNER
Undefeated WB, WBA and IBF world champion Shields has only ever lost one boxing match in her life at the professional or amateur level, with that defeat coming against reigning WBO world champion Savannah Marshall at the amateur level back in 2012.
If Marshall comes through her March title defense against Femke Hermans, the pair will look to set up a clash for the undisputed world middleweight title in what would be one of the biggest women’s fights in history.
In a heated exchange at ringside after the fight, Marshall professed she would “wipe the floor” with Shields, while the American responded by saying Marshall was a “bum” who would struggle to get past former super middleweight world champion Hermans.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE LOSER
At 23 years old, Kozin wil have learned some harsh lessons in this fight against the highest level of opponent that the sport has to offer.
With wins already in the bag against Lindberg and Namus, Kozin remains a top prospect in the middleweight division and has the option to take an easier opponent to get back in the win column or face off against fellow Ring Magazine top five ranked fighters in the form of Christina Hammer or Raquel Miller.
Whatever the pathway chosen, it is certain that Kozin, who is studying a degree in Financial mathematics at Slovenia’s leading university will have a bright future in and outside of the ring.
Author’s Scorecard (round by round)