Taking Control: Claressa Shields Betting On Herself
Over the years, women’s boxing has consistently featured some of the best bouts in boxing today. Several of today’s top stars are located in and out of the United States. Fans seem to want more action, but not everyone in boxing is willing to promote them. There is also the issue with pay and time in the ring.
Enter Claressa Shields.
The undisputed middleweight and WBC and WBO Light Middleweight Champion is considered one of the best fighters in the world. She calls herself the “G.W.O.A.T.”, and the name is sticking. At 25, the two-time Olympic gold medal winner has used her power to take down fighters like Tori Nelson, Hanna Gabriel, Hannah Rankin, Christina Hammer, and Ivana Habazin. Her greatest battle, however, has been outside the ring.
Shown primarily on Showtime and DAZN occasionally, Shields has not been given much recognition in promotions outside of there. Premier Boxing Champions rarely, if at all, features women’s bouts, while Top Rank on ESPN is starting to promote more women, especially with Mikaela Mayer. The next biggest star in Katie Taylor has the support of Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Boxing, and DAZN. Shields is alone, however. She has the support of Mark Taffet and Salita Promotions. Her confidence inside the ring can be elevated with her mic work and hustle outside of it.
Shields, who hasn’t fought in a full year, recently announced that she will be fighting IBF Light-Middleweight Champion Marie-Eve Dicaire on March 5 in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. The PPV will be on FITE TV and will be an all-female event, centered around Women’s History Month. The first major women’s PPV card in years, a win could result in Shields becoming an undisputed champion for the second time.
Exactly 2 sport. Still boxing champion to those who pretending to not know 🤣 https://t.co/nzhB1UhXP0
— Claressa Gwoat Shields (@Claressashields) January 19, 2021
“Listen, women have to stop depending on men to give us shots at everything,” Shields told ESPN. “Women’s boxing is a hot commodity. Don’t let no other network tell you that it’s not. Women’s boxing is in, just like women’s MMA. All we need to do is have our own platform and show them that we have fans and that we can sell pay-per-view buys.”
“So I’m super excited to be having my first pay-per-view card and I’m hoping that everybody who has been waiting on me to fight, everybody that supports me, that they all get behind me and get behind the women athlete movement and just join us because not only are we yelling equal pay, equal opportunity, equal TV time, we’re also working just as hard. We’re equally working.”
Shields’ frustrations come from the lack of opportunities for her and the fact women don’t get their fair share of the pie. The biggest example of national exposure in women’s boxing, especially with her, was when she called out a long-retired Laila Ali. Even at 10-0, Shields is savvy as she is dangerous.
Outside of boxing, Shields is looking to bring her talents to the cage. She recently signed a deal with the Professional Fighters League, which runs divisional tournaments with $1 million prizes. In boxing, especially for women, it is tough to get close to a money deal like that. Shields will be competing in multiple lightweight attraction bouts before competing in the tournament.
The champion has been training with stars like Holly Holm, Michelle Waterson, and Jon Jones. Taking her time to get used to the new atmosphere, Shields is looking to prove she’s the hunter in another sport. Fighters like Amanda Nunes, Cris Cyborg, and the PFL’s Kayla Harrison have been getting exposure via MMA, and Shields can join them. Depending on how she does, we could end up seeing a Shields superfight against one of the three.
Jessica McCaskill just became an undisputed champion, Amanda Serrano continues to break records, and Terri Harper is quickly rising the ranks. The fight is not over for women in boxing, however. Taffet and Lou DiBella have been working hard to make sure they win that war.
Shields is taking matters into her own hands and kicking down the door that many have tried to put in front of her. 2021 is looking promising, with the hope that the door will remain broken, or fixed in this case.