Claressa Shields Overcame Gender Restriction to Become America’s Boxing Queen

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Claressa Shields takes after her father, who was a boxer. However, despite introducing her to the sport, he didn’t want her to become a boxer because he believed it was a man’s sport. Shields didn’t back down and today, she’s one of the most successful female boxers in the world. And she’s only one of the few boxers to have held all four major boxing titles. In this post, we look at her journey in the game.

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Claressa Shields’ Early Career

Claressa Shields Overcame Gender Restriction to Become America’s Boxing Queen
Claressa Shields in the Pan American Games. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Claressa Shields’ was born in Flint, Michigan. Her father, Bo Shields, was a boxer but was imprisoned at some point. After his release, he introduced her to the game and pointed to Laila Ali, a former female professional boxer, something that ignited her interest in the sport. 

However, Bo Shields knew the perils of boxing and so didn’t want her daughter to get involved. That said, Claressa Shields was determined to learn the game and at the age of eleven, he finally let her pursue boxing.

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Competitive Bouts

In 2011, Claressa Shields won the National Police Athletic League Championships and qualified for the Olympic trials, where she floored big names like Andrecia Wasson. Her gradual ascension in the sport continued, defeating Canadian Mary Spencer, who defended her title thrice and was undefeated by the time she fought her.

People were taking note of Shields. Ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London, many thought a top-8 finish at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship would be enough for her to book her ticket. But the rules changed, and she needed a top-two finish.

It made things more difficult and the fact that she lost her match seemed like the Olympics was out of the question. However, fate was on her side and one result went in her favor helping her seal her qualification.

At the Summer Games, the American won the gold medal in the middle welterweight division, at the expense of experienced Russian boxer Nadezda Torlopova.

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Shields continued her winning streak, adding two more golds to her cabinet at the World Championships in Canada and the Pan American Games. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the boxer became a two-time Olympic gold medalist, making her the first American boxer to win back-to-back Olympic medals.

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Professional Career

Claressa Shields talks about her work. Video Credit: MMAFightingonSBN

It’s crazy to think that Claressa Shields accumulated multiple titles before she turned professional. After her victory at the Rio Games, she turned professional and won her first bout. Her other fights ended in similar results.

2017 presented one of the most significant moments of her career – and she’s had many – including winning the WBC Super Middleweight and the IBF Super Middleweight belts after defeating Nikki Adler. 

The following year, she clinched the WBAN-Super Middleweight and the WBA titles while retaining the WBC and IBF titles. 

In 2019, Claressa Shields got the ultimate achievement, becoming the undisputed champion as she held the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO belts. In the coming years, Claressa won all four belts in the junior middleweight division and was the first world champion boxer to hold four belts in two divisions.  

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Mixed Martial Arts

With her success in the boxing ring, Claressa Shields ventured into MMA, signing a three-year contract with the Professional Fighters League. So far, she won her first bout, lost her second, and continues to establish her dominance in this space.

Women’s boxing is growing and gaining attention more than ever. That said, boxers like Claressa Shields are bringing in the audience and building excitement in the game, which shows that when money is put into the women’s game, it’ll pay off. 

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