<
>

Claressa Shields to make first title defense against Tori Nelson

Unified women's super middleweight world titleholder Claressa Shields will make her first defense against Tori Nelson, one of her mandatory challengers, on Jan. 12 at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

The fight, announced on Wednesday, will headline a "ShoBox: The New Generation" card on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/PT), the network said.

Shields (4-0, 2 KOs), 22, of Flint, Michigan, went 77-1 in the amateur ranks and won Olympic gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games. She is the first American boxer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals.

On Aug. 4, she knocked out Germany's Nikki Adler in the fifth round of a one-sided fight in Detroit to claim her 168-pound title and also win a vacant belt.

"I'm truly excited to have the chance to demonstrate my skills against an opponent the caliber of Tori Nelson," Shields said. "I'm honored to be headlining the first 'ShoBox' of 2018, and I know Jan. 12 will be a great night for the fans. This will be the beginning of a historic year for me and for women's boxing."

Nelson (17-0-3, 2 KOs), of Ashburn, Virginia won a middleweight world title in 2011 and scored a second-round knockout of long-faded women's star Mia St. John in 2014. However, Nelson has fought just twice since June 2015, and she is nearly double Shields' age at 41. Still, she has wanted to face Shields.

"Ever since Claressa turned pro, I have wanted this fight," Nelson said. "She's young and talented, but my experience will make the difference. Since I became a boxer, I have dreamed of being in big fights on television. I am confident that I will win this fight and remain undefeated. And I plan to retire as an undefeated world champion."

Showtime has televised two of Shields' bouts so far and will put on the fight in January.

"Claressa is a star both in and out of the ring who possesses all the intangibles to become the face of women's boxing," Showtime's Gordon Hall said. "In just four professional fights, two as headliners on 'ShoBox,' she is already unified champion at 168 with plans to conquer the 160 and 154-pound divisions. Tori Nelson is undefeated, a former champion, and represents what should be the toughest test of Claressa's young career. Only time will tell, but I don't know if there is any fighter in the world who can stop Claressa Shields."

Unified women's middleweight titlist Christina Hammer (22-0, 10 KOs), 27, of Germany, is due to fight on the untelevised undercard against an opponent to be determined, and if she and Shields win, they will move one step closer to fighting each other.

Hammer attended Shields-Adler and appeared in the ring with Shields after the fight to begin the drum beat for an eventual fight.

If Shields and Hammer both win on Jan. 12, they would defend their respective titles in the spring on the same Showtime card. If they both keep their titles on that card, Shields plans to move down in weight and challenge Hammer for her two middleweight belts this summer in the United States, Mark Taffet, Shields' manager, told ESPN.