Claressa Shields’ return to her home state of Michigan was in jeopardy last week and Dmitriy Salita had little time to find a replacement for Hanna Gabriels.

Luckily for Shields and her team, Maricela Cornejo was already training for another bout and willing to take the most difficult fight of her career on basically 10 days’ notice. The Los Angeles-based Cornejo will challenge Shields for the undisputed middleweight champion’s IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO 160-pound championships Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit.

Cornejo (16-5, 6 KOs) is the number one contender for three of Shields’ four middleweight crowns (IBF, WBC and WBO). She would’ve eventually been an opponent for Shields (13-0, 2 KOs) if the three-division champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist continued to defend her titles in the 160-pound division.

“It’s a good fight on such short notice,” Salita told “It cost us some extra money to make it happen, but we were fortunate that she was training, she was available and wanted to fight Claressa.”

DAZN will stream Shields-Cornejo as a main event worldwide because Gabriels tested positive for a banned substance. Costa Rica’s Gabriels (21-2-1, 12 KOs) is the only opponent who has dropped Shields since Shields turned pro 6½ years ago, but she got up from that knockdown to defeat Gabriels comfortably on all three scorecards (98-91, 97-92, 97-92) in their 10-round bout in June 2018 at Masonic Temple in Detroit.

Lou DiBella, Gabriels’ promoter, informed last week that the 40-year-old contender tested positive for clostebol because it is a component of a medication Gabriels spread on her dog’s surgically repaired abdomen (

Cornejo, meanwhile, will fight for a world title for the fourth time.

The 36-year-old challenger lost to Kali Reis by split decision in her first middleweight title fight, which took place in April 2016. She then dropped a pair of decisions in super middleweight championship matches to Franchon Crews, who beat Cornejo by majority decision in their first fight in September 2018 and unanimous decision in their rematch almost a year to the day later.

Baltimore’s Crews (8-1, 2 KOs), who has lost only a four-round unanimous decision to Shields, later became women’s boxing’s undisputed super middleweight champion.  

“Putting all that stuff with Hanna Gabriels aside and dealing with it in the appropriate manner, Claressa’s direction to me has always been to make the biggest and the best fights,” Salita said. “And I’m very grateful we were able to upgrade this event and have Claressa fight the number one contender in the WBC, WBO and IBF, who would’ve been the mandatory.

“Cornejo was in training camp, getting ready for a fight, and she’s in great shape. She’s on weight, she’s ready, she’s aggressive and she’s confident in her chances. And that’s what you want for a great boxing event.”

The 28-year-old Shields, of Flint, Michigan, is listed by FanDuel sportsbook as a 45-1 favorite to defeat Cornejo. DAZN’s coverage of the Shields-Cornejo undercard is scheduled to start Saturday at 9 p.m. EDT.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.