Claressa Shields (12-0, 2 KOs) made a successful return to boxing Saturday after a brief foray into mixed martial arts, defeating Ema Kozin (21-1-1, 11 KOs) by unanimous decision to retain the WBA, WBC and IBF world middleweight titles at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales.
The judges scored the bout 100-90, 100-90, 100-90, per the pay-per-view broadcast.
Shields, 26, looked as comfortable as ever against Kozin, firing away with brutal combinations from start to finish. Her last boxing match was in March 2021, when she beat Marie-Eve Dicaire to become the undisputed junior middleweight champion. She then turned her attention to MMA, going 1-1 in the Professional Fighters League last year.
Now, the self-proclaimed "Greatest Woman of All Time" is focusing again on the sweet science and has the goal of becoming the undisputed and unified middleweight champion for the second time. She hopes to face WBO middleweight champion Savannah Marshall in the near future.
After the bout, Marshall (11-0, 9 KOs) and Shields got into a verbal sparring match in the ring.
As for Kozin, this is her first loss as a professional. She came into this bout a heavy underdog, but not one to be overlooked thanks to her undefeated status and 50 percent knockout rate. Whatever her plans were in this bout, she didn't get much of a chance to execute them as Shields was quick to assert her dominance.
After a patient first round, Shields went to work breaking down Kozin. She switched up her levels and mixed in digs to the body with power shots to the head. She also made sure to give Kozin little breathing room, walking her down constantly and feeding her a solid supply of accurate combinations.
The fourth round was a particularly brutal one, as Shields trapped the 23-year-old Slovenian on the ropes midway through the frame and pounded away. On the occasions when Kozin did manage some offense, Shields was almost always ready with a countershot.
If there's one thing missing from Shields' repertoire, it's the lack of true knockout power. Coming into the fight against Kozin, she'd only managed two KOs in 11 professional bouts. She certainly looked like she wanted a third, perhaps to send a message to Marshall.
While Kozin didn't do much to dent Shields' reputation, she did manage to withstand the brutal assault for the full 20 minutes. The missing knockout blow did give Marshall an opportunity to troll her rival when the cameras went to her ringside.
There were brief flashes of competence from Kozin, as seen when she landed a solid combination to get herself out of trouble at the end of the seventh round, but it was all in the service of survival. She never really had a chance to win, and the fight arguably should have been stopped early. Shields simply outclassed her with typically strong footwork, hand speed and clever combinations.
Shields will have plenty to be happy about following the dominant victory. There was no rust to be found after nearly a year away from the ring, and she was as sharp as ever in her first match outside the United States. The shutout on the scorecards, the eighth of her career, speaks to her ability to maintain a consistent level of production even against lackluster opponents.
It's that kind of focus and determination that Shields will need if she is to come out on top in what should be her next challenge. Marshall, 30, outpointed Shields in an amateur bout at the 2012 AIBA Women's World Championships. It's the only time Shields has lost as an amateur or pro. Shields will need to be at her best if she is going to get revenge.