Saturday, March 25, 2023  |



Claressa Shields hopes to revive women’s boxing with pro debut

Photo by: Stacey Verbeek

While women’s MMA has thrived in recent years, the women of boxing have continued to go relatively ignored by mainstream media. But perhaps that will all change starting on Saturday when two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields makes her professional debut against Franchon Crews on the undercard of the Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward pay-per-view show during HBO’s “freeview” telecast.

“It feels like I’m doing something that is scary,” Shields told earlier this week. “It’s like I’m carrying women’s boxing. But I’m pretty excited about it. I think that this is the reintroduction to women’s boxing on how we box today compared to how they boxed back then. I’m not nervous at all. I’m ready to take on this new task of being a professional fighter.”

The 2012 and 2016 gold medalist amassed a remarkable record of 77-1 during her amateur career and ran roughshod over the competition in the Olympic games. The 21-year-old considered defending her gold medal in the 2020 games but realized that there was a greater task at hand: bringing women’s professional boxing into the mainstream.

“I have two gold medals and if I wanted to go back for three or four, I could,” Shields said. “But I thought about my legacy and I don’t want to disappear for four years and then you guys see me win another gold medal but still don’t really know what I look like or how I box. I knew if I went pro and went to the right people I’d be on TV, make some money and revive women’s boxing.”

The cross that Shields bears is a big one. Women’s boxing has struggled to capture the attention of popular culture but also had to watch as it’s combat sports counterpart turn fighters into superstars. Even worse, one of their own (Holly Holm) defected to the world of mixed martial arts and ended up becoming a world champion. Not since the days of Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker, and later Laila Ali, has the sport permeated into the mainstream. Shields hopes to change that.

“I think that a lot of the women who tried to carry this sport don’t have the skill to do it or have an entertaining style,” she said. “You can be 18-0 but can you really box? A lot of women are good but not great. I’m a great boxer and I’ll be able to get us over the hump that we’ve been struggling to get to for a long time.”

Shields affirms that there are no nerves going into her fight Saturday with Crews. The two are quite familiar with one another, having sparred together and competed against each other in tournaments. Obviously, Shields comes into the fight as a heavy favorite, but has plans to turn the boxing world upside down in her debut.

“I trained for a knockout. Will I get it? I don’t know. But that’s what I’m prepared for,” Shields said while noting that she’s the strongest she’s ever been. “But I can’t predict a knockout. I’ve never KOed anyone but I do have 18 wins by TKO. But now that we have smaller gloves and no headgear, I’m way stronger than I’ve ever been. It’s definitely possible and I’d love to get it. That would be a great way to start my career.”