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Claressa Shields To Face (Light-) Heavyweight Champion Vanessa Joanisse For Three World Titles On July 27

Claressa Shields To Face (Light-) Heavyweight Champion Vanessa Joanisse For Three World Titles On July 27 featured image
Claressa Shields is set for a second homecoming bout in a row as she faces Canadian fighter Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse for her WBC heavyweight title alongside the vacant WBA and WBO light-heavyweight titles. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

American middleweight undisputed champion Claressa Shields has found a new challenge in Canadian World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champion Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse who she has been scheduled to fight on July 27 at the Little Caesars Palace in Detroit, Michigan. The two America vs. Canada battle will not only witness Shields attempting a daring move up to heavyweight to challenge Joanisse for her WBC heavyweight title, but the World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) have also introduced their vacant light-heavyweight titles to be up for contention. The card, which will be headlined by Shields and Joannisse, will be promoted by Salita Promotions and broadcasted on DAZN.

While Claressa Shields (14-0, 2 KO’s) has been announced to be fighting in the women’s heavyweight division as her promoter, Dmitry Salita from Salita Promotions, stated when breaking the news of her upcoming fight with WBC heavyweight champion Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse (7-1, 2 KO’s), there are several things that need to be clarified about the so-called “women’s heavyweight” division the two champions will reportedly fight in.

The WBC’s version of the women’s heavyweight division is set anywhere above the 168-pounds limit; meaning that every female boxer that weighs in above 168 lbs or 76 kg will be regarded as a heavyweight according to the WBC. This is due to the WBC scrapping the light-heavyweight (up to 175 lbs) and cruiserweight (up to 200 lbs) divisions entirely.

This has caused some confusion, as while Shields and Joanisse have been reported to be fighting at heavyweight, both the WBA and WBO have made the [vacant] light-heavyweight titles available for the Shields-Joanisse fight. Both sanctioning bodies recognize the light-heavyweight division to be between 168 lbs and 175 lbs―though the WBA knows no division higher than 175 lbs whereas the WBO recognizes both a women’s cruiserweight and heavyweight division alongside the light-heavyweight division.

As a result of the WBA and WBO introducing their light-heavyweight titles, the Shields-Joanisse fight is technically a light-heavyweight title bout rather than what has been initially been perceived to be a fight at heavyweight. Presumably, this also means that in a scenario where either fighter weighs above 175 lbs, the WBA and WBO titles will not be available for them to win.

It should be noted that while the WBA is listed to have made their interim 175 lbs title available for this fight, this is likely an error as the world title is vacant and can easily be included instead. The 175 lbs title was previously held by Costa Rican fighter Hanna Gabriels and has been vacant as of May 2023, presumably after Gabriels either relinquished her WBA title or was stripped of it after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the lead-up to a fight with Claressa Shields.

Claressa Shields To Face (Light-) Heavyweight Champion Vanessa Joanisse For Three World Titles On July 27 image 1
BoxRec indcating the WBA interim 175 lbs title to be made available despite the current world title version having been vacant since May of 2023

Overall, the match will be an interesting affair with Shields set to participate in the highest division she has fought in to face a presumably capable champion in Vanessa Joanisse. The Canadian fighter has had less fights than Claressa Shields and also gives up some things in the way of experience; having only competed in two world title fights prior―one in which she lost, making Shields the undoubted favorite come July 27th.

However, intrigue will surround the match as the question remains whether Shields is able to take and dish out punches in a higher weight class, ensuring that Shields will need to be at her best to claim a victory and thus allowing her to receive the appropriate amount of credit if she does manage to beat the less-experienced Joanisse.

It is still unknown whether Shields will vacate her middleweight titles prior or after this match, but it is presumed she will be granted the decision to decide which titles to vacate if she comes out on top on July 27th.