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Claressa Shields desire to be great puts undefeated Christina Hammer in her path

Claressa Shields desire to be great puts undefeated Christina Hammer in her path
Claressa Shields celebrates after beating Nouchka Fontijn, of the Netherlands, in the women's middleweight final in 2016. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Claressa Shields says she learned quickly how to speak from the heart, and if it ruffles anyone — including Nov. 17 opponent and fellow two-belt middleweight champion Christina Hammer and tennis champion Serena Williams — so be it.

“That’s just who I am, a human being,” Shields said Tuesday while announcing her Showtime-televised middleweight-unification bout against Hammer in Atlantic City, N.J. “I’ve been doing it since the amateurs. I watched Ali and figured out what triggered fighters. It’s part of boxing.

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“With the talk, with us both being great fighters and the personal stuff involved, people really want to see me fight.”

More of the personal stuff arose when two-time Olympic champion Shields (6-0, two knockouts) was asked about the challenge of confronting an undefeated fighter who has spent the last eight years as champion.

“I want to be the greatest,” Shields said.

In striving for that, Shields said she originally looked up to Serena Williams as one of her sporting role models. A personal meeting with Williams at the 2016 Summer Olympics changed all that.

“She was just not a nice person — not fan-friendly and kind of mean,” Shields said. “It made me not want to be like her. I’m not a fan of her as a person.”

She has remained fond of retired boxing champions Andre Ward and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“Andre sticks to his roots [in Oakland]. He’s a great person and he didn’t let the media change him,” Shields said. “[Mayweather] has a life people dream of and the big thing I learned from him is to protect your space, to get rid of those who doubt you.”

Shields was knocked down by Hanna Gabriels in the first round of her most recent bout, in June in Detroit, pointing to the distractions of fighting near home and a rigorous weight cut.

She says if her tenacity wasn’t known before rising from the canvas to win that fight, it should be now in pursuing this bout.

“It’s our time to shine,” Shields said.

Shields’ manager and former HBO pay-per-view head Mark Taffet said he’s been impressed by both fighters’ push to “shatter the glass ceiling” that exists in how women’s boxing is viewed in the U.S., and he’s titled the bout “Breaking Barriers.”

“A heck of a lot of people have said no to fighting Claressa before Christina Hammer said ‘yes’ before the question was even asked,” Taffet said.

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“It’s my dream to be the undisputed champion and to be the queen of boxing,” the Kazakhstan-born Hammer (23-0) said in closing remarks to Shields. “I’ll see you in the ring.”

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