A crowd of 11,784 fans showed up at the first-ever boxing event at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, and many more tuned in on DAZN, to watch undisputed Middleweight World Champion Claressa “G.W.O.A.T.” Shields continue her domination of women’s boxing with a clear-cut 10-round unanimous decision over No. 1 rated contender Maricela Cornejo of Los Angeles.
With the screams of her devoted fans ringing throughout the arena, Shields (14-0, 2 KOs) showed her brilliance in besting the formidable Cornejo (16-6, 6 KOs) in every possible category, while still making the fight an entertaining affair.
True to her word, Shields tried for the elusive knockout, swinging several attempted homerun shots, many of which landed. But Cornejo’s toughness allowed her to make it through the portions of the fight where Shields’ speed and ability surpassed her defense.
The scores were 100-90, 100-90 and 100-89. With the victory, Shields retains her WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO and WBF Women’s World Middleweight Championships.
“I feel great,” said Shields post-victory. “I was landing my shots. I won every round like I knew I could. I went for the knockout how many times this fight? Maricela is tough. She did a great job. Height doesn’t matter and power doesn’t matter either. It’s all about the skills and will and heart, and I always have more than the other girls.”
Shields said her game plan worked to perfection, but still added room for improvement.
“Stay smart and not get hit with her big right hand,” she said of her strategy. “Hit bigger to the body and check her to the head. I knew I could win. Straight right for the money. When I would hit her harder, she would take off. I led off with the right too many times, so I will work on that when we get back to the gym. Maricela is super tough. She was in shape and able to take the shots and able to get away from them. It was a great fight. I can’t wait to go home and watch it and see what I can work on.”
Dmitriy Salita, President of Salita Promotions, said, “Claressa showed why she’s the GWOAT tonight. Her fans showed up to support her and she put on an amazing show against a very tough opponent in Cornejo. And Little Caesars Arena was the perfect place for us to put on this event, which included a stacked undercard of talented local fighters that got to enjoy their night in front of their hometown fans as well. This was a great night for women’s boxing and Detroit boxing.”
A dejected Cornejo, who was hoping to pull off the upset, said she’s looking forward to continuing her improvements and fighting another day.
“I’m good. I felt fine,” Cornejo said. “Obviously there is so much more I could work on. I want to see the fight again and see the mistakes that I’ve done just to improve on. I think I held my ground and I know I caught her with some good shots and I just need to work on much more to be able to continue those rights I know I landed on her.
“I’m not happy with the loss, I’m just disappointed,” she continued. “I need to just watch it. It’s intense the way she comes forward. I would have done better being more assertive going forward and not going straight back. That’s something I’ve worked on a lot.”
The co-main event on DAZN featured an entertaining 10-round scrap between Ardreal Holmes Jr. (14-0, 5 KOs) of Flint and Wendy Toussaint (14-2, 6 KOs) of Huntington, New York was cut short when an ugly cut on the forehead of Toussaint from an accidental headbutt forced an eight-round technical decision.
Fighting for the USBA Super Welterweight Championship, Toussaint came out blazing and seldom took his foot off the accelerator. The fast pace seemed to trouble the patient Holmes, who rarely matched the Haitian New Yorker’s work rate. Toussaint’s faster hands and combination punching seemed to lock up Holmes’ output in most rounds.
Toussaint appeared to hurt Holmes with a left to the body in round five. Another extended volley in round seven seemed to have Holmes in some danger as well. Toussaint was, however, deducted one point in round four for hitting behind the head, a point that ended up costing him dearly.
The intriguing duel came to an end at 1:54 in round eight when the southpaw Holmes and orthodox Toussaint conked heads, sending blood cascading down Toussaint’s face. Referee Gerard White initially allowed the carnage to continue, but a few seconds later, the need for a stoppage was clear.
A chorus of boos greeted the judge’s decision of 77-74 and 76-75 for Holmes against one card of 77-74 favoring Toussaint.
“I was expecting a tough fight. Just wasn’t in the shape we wanted to be in, but no excuses. I got the job done,” said Holmes post-fight. “I felt like I didn’t catch my second wind until the seventh or eighth round. That’s when I felt like the fight was really changing. I felt like I took the earlier rounds and he started coming on late.”
Holmes said the fast pace Toussaint kept throughout the fight was unexpected. “He actually surprised me,” admitted Holmes. “Watching film, he usually slows in the fourth or fifth round. That’s what I thought he was going to do, but he shocked me. My plan was to come on halfway through the fight and I thought I was going to close it out at the end. I thought the decision was fair. It was four-four (in rounds), but the point (deduction) did it. He was out of gas the last quarter of the fight.”
“I didn’t lose that fight,” said a disappointed Toussaint. “It was my plan to come out fast and outwork him and it worked. I had him hurt. I don’t agree with the point deduction, and the judges got it wrong.”
To his credit, Toussaint claimed he was able to continue despite the crimson cascade running down his face. “It felt like a normal headbutt. I’m a fighter. I was able to fight. I was good to fight. I don’t know (what’s next). I am going to be training hard. I’ll be back for a rematch, at least.”
In the televised opener, former national amateur champion Joseph “Sug” Hicks (7-0, 5 KOs) of Grand Rapids, fought his way to a careful eight-round unanimous decision over journeyman slickster Antonio Todd (14-8, 8 KOs) of Atlanta, Georgia.
The action heated up briefly in round five, with Hicks battering the durable Georgian with a high-energy two-fisted volley that seemed to have Todd mildly hurt.
The pair, however, settled back into their cautious rhythm after that, exchanging jabs and the occasional one-two with Hicks landing more often than Todd, but no real damage being done either way. The scores were 80-72 from all three judges.
With the victory, Hicks captured his first professional title, the WBC Americas Silver Middleweight Championship.
“I didn’t expect Todd to be that awkward,” said Hicks afterwards. “I knew he was tough, but he was awkward. He did a lot of unorthodox things. He dropped his head after he jabbed. He switched back after his jab, and he got the counterpunch. I was trying to time him, but he was flinching back.”
Hicks admitted he was disappointed settling for a decision win but appreciative to get the rounds in against a game opponent.
“I knew it was going to be a shutout, but I wanted to get the knockout,” he said. “It was better to get the rounds (of experience), because there were a couple times where I hurt him. I was smothering myself, but I was wasting energy because I was smothering myself.”
Still, Hicks said the experience of fighting at Little Caesars Arena and being part of boxing history was worth the effort.
“It means everything to be a part of this fight card and this event,” Hicks continued. “I’m very grateful to Claressa and Salita Promotions. The GWOAT, Claressa, she’s going to win tonight. I’m very grateful to her, because without her, this opportunity is not here for me. I’m ready for whoever they give me next. I’m going back to the drawing board. We’re going to fix a lot of things, get sharper and be better in my next fight.”
Todd had few qualms with the decision and sent his respect to Hicks.
“He was the better man tonight. Hicks is a good fighter. We knew that coming in. We knew he was a good fighter; captain of the USA Boxing Team. We knew he was a good fighter the whole time. Sometimes you come up short. I wasn’t hurt like I was about to go down, but he hit me in the back of the head a couple of times, headbutted a couple times, but nothing major. I’m okay.”
Topping the undercard, Detroit’s Marlon “The Savage” Harrington (9-1, 8 KOs) rebounded from the first loss of his career in style and picked up the WBF Intercontinental Super Welterweight Championship by knocking out Dearborn, Michigan’s Gheith Mohammed (9-1, 3 KOs) in just 46 seconds of the first frame.
After plenty of jawing between the two at the weigh-in, Harrington came out blazing and caught Mohammed with a right hand for a flash knockdown in the opening seconds.
Unhurt, Mohammed tried to recover quickly and get his fight plan rolling, but ran into another three-punch series of shots along the ropes from the powerful Harrington that left him out on his feet, albeit momentarily. Still awake, Mohammed complained about the stoppage immediately, but referee Ansel Stewart decided he’d seen enough.
Grand Rapids, Michigan super lightweight Joshua James Pagan (7-0, 3 KOs) turned in a career-best performance thus far in his young career by dismantling the formerly undefeated Ronnell Burnett (9-1, 5 KOs) of Kansas City, Missouri via third-round TKO.
The pair traded often with Pagan being the more accurate and harder puncher. He began to ring the brave Burnett’s bell with repeated pot shots as the action progressed, especially in round three. Pagan couldn’t miss the tiring Burnett and chased him around the ring with hammering rights and lefts. Burnett’s corner mercifully indicated they’d seen enough to referee Pat Schmidt at 2:59.
Detroit cruiserweight Vernon Webber (9-0, 6 KOs) made quick work of Curitiba, Brazil’s Fernando Almeida (10-9, 10 KOs), scoring a second-round TKO after two knockdowns. Webber started slowly in round one, getting the measure of the Brazilian before opening up in devastating fashion in the second salvo.
After a body-shot knockdown earlier in the round, Weber unleashed a two-fisted volley culminating with a strong right hand that left Almeida slumped in the corner at 2:49.
In a spirited six-round featherweight battle to open the action, Sarah Liegmann (8-0, 2 KOs) of Reinbek, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, took a hard-fought unanimous decision over Lakeland, Florida’s determined Carisse Brown (7-5, 4 KOs). The two women exchanged freely throughout with Liegmann being slightly more accurate. Both had their moments, but in the end, the scores were 58-56 x 2 and 59-55 for Liegmann.
Da’velle Smith (6-0, 5 KOs) of Dearborn, Mich. defeated K.J. Woods (4-1, 3 KOs) of California by first-round knockout.
The event was promoted by Salita Promotions and 313 Presents.