ATLANTIC CITY — The wait is finally over for women’s boxing world champions Christina Hammer and Claressa Shields.
Barring a draw Saturday night, one of them will become the undisputed middleweight champ at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom.
“This is a big step for women’s boxing and a big step for me to unify all of these belts in one fight,” Hammer said. “I’m proud for this, and I will give everything to be the champion and to step out of the ring as the undisputed champion.”
The winner will join women’s welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus as women’s boxing’s only undisputed champs.
Shields (8-0, 2 KOs), from Flint, Michigan, holds the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council middleweight titles. Hammer (24-0, 11 KOs), who is from Dormund, Germany, is the World Boxing Organization champion.
The 10-round bout is considered one of the biggest women’s fights in history. It is believed to be the first women’s world title bout to be held in Atlantic City since Sept. 11, 1998, when Leah Mellinger won the International Female Boxers Association and International Women’s Boxing Federation lightweight belts with a split decision over Kathy Collins at Tropicana Atlantic City.
“This isn’t as big as women’s boxing can get, but it’s the beginning of something great,” Shields said.
The New Jersey Athletic Control Board has added to the significance of the event. Two of the three judges assigned to score the fight — Lynne Carter and Robin Taylor — are women, as is referee Sparkle Lee.
Italy’s Guido Cavalleri will be the third judge.
According to state Athletic Control Board Commissioner Larry Hazzard, all of the inspectors for the bout also will be women.
The tension and excitement for the bout have been building for months.
Hammer and Shields were supposed to meet at Boardwalk Hall last November, but Hammer was diagnosed with a medical issue that forced the fight to be moved to Saturday.
The two have exchanged barbs and engaged in trash talking during a media tour that took them across the country.
“It’s a fight,” Shields said. “What I can say is I don’t hate anybody. I never have. I can say I don’t like her as much as she doesn’t like me. But at the end of the day, after the fight, I’ll give as much sportsmanship as I can.”
The hype reached another level during Friday’s weigh-in at Ocean Casino Resort.
When Hammer and her trainers entered the room, Shields’ friends and family, who were all wearing brown warmup jackets with “GWOAT” (Greatest Woman Of All Time) on the back, yelled insults, forcing Shields to venture over to them and say, “Be nice, be nice.”
The event took on a comical tone a few minutes later.
After they both weighed in at 159 pounds, one pound below the middleweight limit, they sauntered toward the middle of the stage for the traditional staredown. Someone wearing a dinosaur mask appeared behind Shields, whose nickname is “T-Rex,” which made Hammer laugh.
The bout is considered a matchup of experience vs. potential.
Hammer, 28, has been a champion for nine years and has made 17 successful defenses. Shields, 24, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, has been billed as the sport’s next superstar.
Shields was listed as about a 4-1 favorite at Ocean’s William Hill Sports Book on Friday.
“Everybody’s like, ‘How can a person who’s been professional only two years beat a person who’s a professional 10, 11 years and they’re the reigning champion nine, eight years?’ Shields said. “Well, that’s what the greatest woman of all time can do.”
David Weinberg’s prediction: Hammer by decision.
Notes: Atlantic City middleweight Isiah Seldon (12-2-1, 4 KOs) will open the show Saturday in a six-round bout against Bryan Goldsby (5-9, 0 KOs), of Macon, Georgia. ... Eight bouts are scheduled, including a pair of heavyweight fights featuring Sweden’s Otto Wallin (20-0, 14 KOs) against Baltimore’s Nick Kisner (21-4-1, 6 KOs), and Jermaine Franklin (17-0, 13 KOs), of Saginaw, Michigan, against Detroit’s Rydell Booker (25-1, 12 KOs). ... “Showtime Championship Boxing” will begin its telecast at 9:10 p.m. and will show three fights. ... Doors will open at 5:30 with the first fight scheduled for 6. Tickets are priced from $35 to $150 and are available through Ticketmaster and boardwalkhall.com.