Claressa Shields Warns Don’t Blink on Showtime Debut
Move over boys. It’s Claressa time.
America’s Claressa Shields was anointed the first female to headline a major television network main event on television. Now, after beating up the amateurs, she’s working on the pros.
Shields (1-0) faces Hungary’s veteran Szilvia Szabados (15-8, 6 KOs) in a six round main event for the vacant NABF middleweight title on Friday March 10. Showtime network elected to make it the glass shattering main event for television viewers.
After defeating 78 foes in international and national competition for more than five years, including the grabbing of two Olympic gold medals, Shields has seen every fighting style from India to Kazakhstan.
“Americans have the best style,” says Shields, 21. “We’re heavy hitters with flashy hands.”
Those flashy hands have captured the interest of American fans and television networks who witnessed it in both the London and Rio Olympics. Then, last November, fans in Las Vegas and those watching it being streamed saw her clash with fellow amateur star Franchon Crews. It was thunder and lightning for a raging six rounds.
American television was sold.
Hunt for Opponents
Stephen Espinoza, the general manager of programming for Showtime, said her fierce fighting style and willingness to face anyone at any time gives her star quality.
“She is the first woman to headline a boxing card on premium television,” Espinoza said, adding to expect even more the rest of the year.
But the hunt to find opponents has not been easy. Word spread throughout the country to every middleweight and super middleweight, but none would accept the offer to fight Shields. A call went out internationally and that’s where someone answered.
Szabados, 26, has clashed with numerous elite fighters in Europe including a 10-round world title affair with Nikki Adler the current WBC super middleweight titlist. She’s no stranger to fighting top tier talent.
“I know she (Shields) has the amateur experience, but I have more experience as a pro. We’ll see what’s more important on Friday,” said Szabados, who fights out of Miskolc, Hungary. “This is a huge opportunity for me and I plan to take advantage of it.”
America’s Shields feels she knows what to expect from Hungary’s Szabados.
“From what I see she is a very strong fighter with a no-quit attitude. And she comes forward. She really feels confident in her professional experience. I don’t think she thinks she is a better fighter than me but she knows a lot,” said Shields by telephone on Wednesday. “She thinks her experience will get to me.”
Shields believes this contest and her fighting style will showcase why Showtime decided to make her the first female in history to be the main event on a televised fight card.
“I feel I’m a mixture of Sugar Ray Robinson and Mike Tyson,” says Shields who watches tape of both fighters on a regular basis. “Tyson was a heavy hitter and he was fast. Sugar Ray was a fast effective puncher and had these very good feet. I feel I’m an effective puncher too.”
Aside from being televised, it’s Shields first time as a pro fighting in front of her friends, family and fans.
“Tell my fans to expect a very, very good fight and don’t blink,” said Shields.
(Photo by Tom Casino/Showtime)