Claressa Shields: Targets All Lined Up
By Felipe Leon
Throughout the year a big subject in the sport of boxing is how 2017 has been one of the best years in the sport. In the female boxing niche one of the major reasons is Claressa Shields (4-0, 2KO), the 22-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist and now the WBC and IBF super middleweight champion from Flint, Michigan.
Shields made her pro debut near the end of last year and quickly made history with her second fight: the first female boxing match to be featured on the Showtime network as part of their ShoBox series. In that fight Shields stopped veteran Szilvia Szabados in fourth round to capture the NABF 168-pound title. In her next fight she defeated Sydney LeBlanc via an eight round unanimous decision to score the vacant WBC Silver title. Then, in her last fight, she stopped Germany’s Nikki Adler for the full-fledged WBC belt and the vacant IBF super middleweight world title.
Recently it was announced Shields will be back in action defending her titles against the undefeated Tori Nelson (17-0-3, 2KO) of Ashburn, VA, again on Showtime on Friday, January 12th, at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York.
“She talks a lot, I respect her, she is 17-0, she has two or four knockouts, I really don’t know,” Shields said on the 2-Minute Round, the all-female boxing podcast, last week in an exclusive interview regarding her next opponent. “I look at the fact that she turned pro when she was 30, she is 41. Within 11 years, she has only 17 boxing matches? I have been pro a year and I have four.”
“Shows you she doesn’t fight a lot and I have seen the competition, her opponents, nobody at my level,” she continued. “With her being the mandatory for the IBF, we already wanted this fight. We wanted this fight for my second fight, my third fight, before I had the belt. She kept turning it down but now she finally accepted the contract. I guess her team wasn’t so smart, now there is no backing out. I don’t need to do any more trash talking; I already said what I needed to say. I look forward to fighting her; she says she is going to knock me out.”
There is no shortage of tough talk from Shields who has proven to be able to back it up. She credits her Michigan roots, also the home of Joe Louis, Tommy Hearns and James Toney among others, as some of the reason for it.
“I always think it (Michigan) is shaped like a glove, that is the problem there,” she said with a chuckle. “We have to endure seven months of winter so if we can stay motivated to train in seven months of winter, I think we can do anything. I think we are just built tougher.”
Recently with fellow Olympian Katie Taylor capturing her first world title, the WBA lightweight strap, the talk of who is women’s best has intensified. Never for a loss for words, Shields had her say.
“That is over there, in the UK,” Shields stated. “That is what they’ve seen. When they see me fight, they will be able to differentiate and tell the difference. Katie is a great fighter. Right now the best in the pound for pound is Cecilia Braekhus, over me and Katie Taylor. I am just going fight the best and do my best.”
“There is millions that believe I am the greatest women fighter of all time and there are some that believe Katie Taylor is but at least we are changing it to where they will stop saying Laila Ali, Anne Wolfe or Christy Martin because this is a whole new era of boxing,” she explained. “Yes, I love each and every one of them for doing what they did for women’s boxing but right now we are in a different era. There is a different skill with the women who are turning pro now. I definitely believe myself and Katie Taylor are carrying those torches for our countries and for women’s boxing.”
“I believe I am the greatest women fighter of all time, I will never change that answer,” Shields said confidently. “It doesn’t matter if you tell me if I fought Ann Wolfe or if I fought Laila Ali, I would always say I would win. It doesn’t matter what name you put across from me, you say Errol Spence, and I would say I would win. That is how I am and how much I believe in myself.”
What we do know right now is that Shields is the best American female fighter of all time, amassing an impressive record of 77-1, an unprecedented two gold medals in the Olympics, a first for any American boxer, male or female, as well as other international tournament titles. Despite being entrenched in the amateur system, she says she didn’t have to change as far as her fighting style much when it came to going professional.
“I haven’t had to change much of my style because I felt as an amateur I already fought like a pro. I am not going to slow my pace down; I don’t know why people use that terminology,” Shields said. “They say when you go pro you have to have a slower pace, no; you get in shape so that you can have a fast pace all 10 or 12 rounds. You don’t get lazy and slow down your pace to throw fewer punches, that will lose you fights.”
“The biggest difference between the amateurs and the pros, as soon as January hit, they would give you a schedule and you will see when and where you would be fighting, in what countries,” Shields explained. “Maybe 30 fights but in the pros, you can be training for five weeks and then they push back the fight a month or two later. In the pros you don’t know what opportunities might come or who you will be fighting until that person signs the contract. You are calling all these people and it’s about who answers in the timely manner. It is a different business. In the amateurs you can’t duck me because if you want to go to this tournament and you want to rank in the world or in the nationals, this is who you have to fight. It is so different in the professionals.”
Although Shields didn’t change much of her style, she did reveal one thing needed to change.
“I did change up my diet from when I was in the amateurs to the professionals. It is about feeling good, it’s not about questioning my skills, and it’s about my body. It’s brutal on the body to go 10, 12, eight rounds, inside a ring. You are sweating all those rounds and you have eight weeks of training camp so it can be hard on the body. Nutrition is very important.”
At only 22 years old Shields has her whole career in front of her and her team, trainer Jason Crutchfield and co-manager Mark Taffet. There are already talks of her going down to the middleweight division to face WBC and WBO champion Christina Hammer sometime in 2018 and perhaps going down to 154 pounds to face the best there.
“That is the whole game plan,” Shields revealed. “We are going to take over the 168 weight class and then we are going to go down and take over the 160. I am going to beat Christina Hammer; she has the WBO and the WBC belts. Whoever has the other belts; I want to fight them too. Then we are going down to 154 for Braekhus. It is not a weight class that matters to me but just so I can face Cecilia Braekhus, the pound for pound best woman fighter. I want to hold that spot. I don’t want people to see me fight and then see her fight and say I am the best. I want to earn it. What better way to earn it but to fight her.”
Even her career is just beginning Shields already has an exit strategy although it is years down the road.
“I think women’s body last longer than men’s for some reason because you see a lot of men at the age of 30 or 33 looking to wrap it up. I feel for me even though I have been boxing for a long time, I take care of my body. I get two or three massages a week when I am in camp, eating right, so I think I will be able to do it until I am about 35. 30 is what I am thinking right now but maybe 35, I will let my body decide that as the years go on. If I feel the same way I feel right now at the age of 35 then maybe I will go to 40.”
To listen to the entire inedited interview please visit www.BlogTalkRadio.com/2MinRound