Saturday’s junior middleweight title fight between two-time Olympic champion Claressa Shields and Ivana Habazin was cancelled after Habazin’s veteran trainer was sucker punched in the back of head at the weigh-in.
James Ali Bashir was knocked unconscious for about 20 minutes, according to ESPN, before he was taken to a nearby hospital for surgery for multiple facial fractures after falling on the concrete floor.
Mark Taffet, Shields’ manager, said Bashir underwent surgery to repair damage to his teeth, and after returning home, he’s expected to have a second operation on his jaw.
Shields later issued an apology on her Instagram and confirmed that the woman Bashir was arguing with was her sister. She also insisted that the trainer kept calling her sister a “b*tch,” but added that those actions in no way justified what happened to him.
Habazin later responded on her Facebook page, calling Shields and her camp “classless,” while providing her side of the story.
It was supposed to be Shields’ much anticipated homecoming fight in her native Flint, Michigan. The fight between Shield’s and Habazin had already been rescheduled from August because of an injury to Shields.
It’s unclear if the two fighters will ever meet in the ring but Taffet seems to think that it should happen.
“Both Claressa and Ivana would deserve the opportunity to do the fight, but we have to let the dust settle and then speak to both sides, and make sure it’s something that they’d want to do,” he said.
Refunds were offered for the tickets while the other scheduled bouts took place with plenty of empty seats.
Two of the night’s fights were carried on Showtime: Heavyweight Jermaine Franklin (20-0) of Saginaw outpointed Pavel Sour (11-2) of the Czech Republic, and welterweight Jaron Ennis (24-0) of Philadelphia stopped Demian Fernandez (12-2) of Argentina in the third round.
Trash talk is typical at weigh-ins or news conferences but very seldom do they result in the kind of horrific injuries that occurred here. Shields correctly called the incident “inexcusable.”
To date, there’s been no name released of the person who hit Bashir.