Gordon D’Arcy replaces Ian Madigan in the centre while Zane Kirchner replaces the injured Fergus Mc Fadden on the wing.Richard Strauss comes in at hooker while Dominic Ryan replaces Jordi Murphy at blindside flanker.Cronin and Murphy who started last week are on the bench.
Christina Hammer flashed a smug grin during Tuesday afternoon’s press conference in New York before sending direct shots Claressa Shields’ way.”She called herself the greatest of all time,” Hammer stressed. “When the people call you the greatest of all time, then you’re the true one.” Shields fired back: “Ain’t nobody called you nothing.”Seconds later, Shields continued: “Before Muhammad Ali became … he called himself the ‘Greatest of All Time’ before anybody ever acknowledged him. Just because the world caught onto it after he already called already himself that, don’t mean nothing. Just like with me — I’m proving it.”Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearIn just eight pro fights, Shields is rapidly speaking the G.W.O.A.T. (Greatest Woman of All Time) patch she rocks on her gear into existence. No, make that punching the self-proclaimed title into existence, handing out Beats by Cla — and we’re not talking headphones; more like cuts, lumps and bruises — to each of her opponents while collecting the WBA, WBC and IBF women’s middleweight belts in the process.Her ninth pro fight has her knocking on history’s door, as a win over Hammer on April 13 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., would give the Flint, Mich., native the German’s WBO championship and the vacant The Ring and lineal female titles to make her the second woman to be crowned undisputed champ in the four-belt era. The only other? Current undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus.Accomplishing that at 24 years old in less than 10 pro bouts would be enough for Shields to rate being undisputed champion over being the only American boxer to win a gold medal in back-to-back Olympics (2012 and 2016).”I have to rank the undisputed higher, but my two Olympic medals are right there,” she ruled when speaking with Sporting News, dropping her right hand just an inch lower the left to demonstrate the slightest edge in value of each major accomplishment.In the same climate where the men are failing to deliver an Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder super fight and stalling with a Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch, the women cementing the Shields-Hammer mega bout with the undisputed middleweight championship on the line is a huge deal and cause for a celebration in itself. And it’s being treated as such, with Showtime giving its “All Access” television reality-show treatment to follow the lives of both fighters, from opposite ends of the world, leading up to their clash.”I’m just happy she’s showing up this time,” Shields declared at the press conference Tuesday before imploring Hammer to make sure she’s in the ring April 13.The two were originally slated to fight Nov. 17, but Hammer pulled out of the bout due to an undisclosed medical issue. Shields, instead, took out all her frustration on the U.K.’s Hannah Rankin, winning by unanimous decision. For good measure, Shields added another unanimous decision victory just three weeks later, defeating German, Femke Hermans. The buildup to both fights had some tense moments, as did the Shields-Hammer dais.Hammer (24-0) has triple the output of Shields (8-0), although the former’s nine-year reign doesn’t impress the latter whatsoever.”We’re checking resumes around here and her resume don’t match mine,” Shields said.Hammer’s response to that? “Shields is beatable. Hanna Gabriels caught her in the first round of their fight and I am taller and stronger than Gabriels. I want to finish the job if I get the chance.”Shields was not fazed by anything Hammer had to say, her confidence refusing to waver. At one point, Shields trickled off a stream of Hammer’s perceived weaknesses, almost as if revealing part of her own fighting strategy, while daring the German to do something about it.”I don’t have to keep it a secret,” Shields said, “she punches with her chin up in the air, she has a long jab, she do not know how to fight on the inside and she don’t have balance on her legs.”Have fun working on that for six weeks.”If Shields wins, she is not hesitating to say that she would want to fight Braekhus next. Braekhus turning 38 in September gives that extra urgency.”I’d want to make it happen as soon as possible at 154 because I don’t know how many years she has left,” Shields told SN. “She has done enough in her career where she could say, ‘I’m about to retire now.’ She could do that and won’t nobody have any issues with it, so I want to catch her before she even starts thinking about retirement, while she still feels like she’s got 100 percent in the tank. I want to fight her — not for any belts, but just to decide who’s the pound-for-pound (best). If it’s you, you keep the torch. If it’s me, I take the torch type of deal.”But first, there’s getting past Hammer. Despite some bad blood brewing, both Shields and Hammer need each other for now, as dance partners to maximize the opportunity in front of them. Shields calls the impending bout a “true super fight,” while Hammer says it’s “the real deal.”A great fight, as advertised, would not only elevate each of their profiles, but women’s boxing as a whole during a time in which the interest in the women is piquing.”This is the biggest women’s boxing has ever been — ever,” Shields told SN. “I’m not saying that we’re bigger than Laila Ali, I’m saying right now as a whole, women’s boxing is the highest its ever been. Not just one fighter — myself, Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano, Alicia Napolean, Franchon Crews — all of us, and we’re all making these big fights happen.”That’s what I mean about raising women’s boxing to the next level. One woman can’t do it. It’s going to take all of us, all of the women to fight the best, put some stuff on the line, take chances, take risks — it’s going to take all of that to get where we want to be at, which is equal pay, equal opportunity, equal promotion.” Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearShields has expressed a desire in making women’s bouts 12 rounds, though she’ll have to settle for 10 against Hammer, promising that the lion’s share of those will go like the majority of the rounds in her past eight fights.”April 13, you’re gonna see somebody fold and you’re gonna see someone crying after the fight,” Shields vowed. “And I promise you, it will not be me.” read more
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