Claressa Shields was all set for a rematch this Saturday at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit against the only opponent to knock her down as a pro, Hanna Gabriels.
A week and a half before the fight, however, Gabriels was pulled after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug clostebol. Her promoter, Lou DiBella, ascribed it to Gabriels spreading medication on her dog’s abdomen following major canine surgery.
Yes, you read that right.
No sport straddles the line between deadly serious and drolly satirical quite like boxing.
The event has stayed intact despite the hiccup, with undisputed women’s middleweight champion Shields now defending her belts against replacement opponent Maricela Cornejo. Given the short notice, Cornejo is a respectable counterpart. But such is the esteem in which Shields — the self-styled “GWOAT” (Greatest Woman of All-Time) — is held that sportsbooks are giving the challenger no chance.
DraftKings and FOX Bet both make Shields a -10000 favorite. Kambi-affiliated sportsbooks such as Barstool, BetRivers, and Unibet have the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Flint, Michigan, at -5000. And at Caesars, you have to lay “only” -4000 on the champ.
Shields’ perfect pro boxing record of 13-0 with 2 KOs wasn’t at great risk against Gabriels, and it’s at seemingly even less risk against Cornejo (16-5, 6 KOs). But the Hall of Fame-bound 28-year-old can only control what she can control and do her best to roll with both the literal and proverbial punches.
“My biggest strength is that I always come up with many different game plans for the fight,” Shields recently told US Bets’ colleagues at Vegas Insider, prior to the opponent change. “I am strong, I’m fast, and I have a great IQ. I have a great defense.”
Kambi books have props
For those bettors who believe a Buster Douglas-level upset is in the air Saturday, Cornejo can be bet as high as +1600 at the Kambi books.
Those Kambi sportsbooks also offer prop markets the other operators hadn’t yet posted as of mid-week.
The over/under on total rounds is 8.5, with heavy -480 juice on the over and a +275 payout on the under. “Will go” the scheduled 10-round distance is -345, “won’t go” is +240.
To bet on Shields without laying prohibitive minus-money, gamblers can take her to win by decision at -305 or her to prevail by KO, TKO, or DQ at +235. Cornejo by KO/TKO/DQ pays 45/1, Cornejo on points pays 20/1, and a draw is priced at 19/1.
If female boxers fought three-minute rounds like the men do, Shields would almost assuredly have more knockouts on her record. But with only two minutes at a time to get work done, Shields’ fights almost always go the distance. Add in the fact that Cornejo has never been stopped — all five of her defeats have come on points — and you can see why Shields by decision is the chalk pick.
Regardless of the opponent, Shields is excited to be headlining in her home state for just the second time in the last five years.
“It means a lot,” she told Vegas Insider. “Little Caesars Arena has never had a boxing match. I’m happy that the little girl from Flint has brought big-time boxing back to Detroit. I worked hard for his opportunity, and I went across the seas and proved my dominance and my greatness across the world.
“This is my time now to actually grow the sport of women’s boxing, and I’m doing a great job with that in the U.S. and worldwide. … I’m just happy that now I’m getting my just due.”
Photo: James Chance/Getty Images