If Claressa Shields gets through her next mixed martial arts match unscathed late in August, she is expected to return to a boxing ring sometime in the fall.
Her promoter, Dmitriy Salita, has discussed two primary options with the undisputed 154-pound champion for her 12th professional fight.
“We’ve talked about Claressa fighting Savannah Marshall,” Salita told BoxingScene.com after Shields scored a third-round technical knockout of Brittney Elkin in her MMA debut Thursday night. “And we’ve talked about Claressa fighting Jessica McCaskill. Claressa wants the biggest and the best fights. We’re open to doing both of those fights.”
To battle Marshall, the only opponent to defeat Shields as an amateur or professional, Shields would need to move back up to the middleweight division. England’s Marshall (10-0, 8 KOs) owns the WBO middleweight title, but Shields (11-0, 2 KOs) was women’s boxing’s undisputed middleweight champion prior to dropping down to the junior middleweight limit for consecutive 10-round, unanimous-decision victories over Croatia’s Ivana Habazin (20-4, 7 KOs) in January 2020 and Quebec’s Marie-Eve Dicaire (17-1, 0 KOs) on March 5.
The 26-year-old Shields hasn’t weighed in at less than 153¼ pounds for any of her 11 pro appearances, yet the Flint, Michigan, native is certain she can get down to the welterweight limit of 147 to meet McCaskill. Chicago’s McCaskill (10-2, 3 KOs) out-pointed long-reigning welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus (36-2, 9 KOs) in each of her last two fights and owns the IBF, IBO, WBA, WBC and WBO belts.
“To make the fight bigger and better, it would help Savannah if she could fight in the United States to kind of build herself up here,” Salita said. “She’s a very good fighter, and I think her fighting in the United States will only help the buildup to her fighting Claressa. But Claressa told me she would make 147 to fight McCaskill as well. She truly understands this is her time in sports. She understands that she is in the peak of her career now, that she is young. And she is willing to put in the sacrifices – going up in weight, going down in weight, doing boxing, doing MMA, to make sure that the message she believes in with her whole heart and soul resonates with sports fans worldwide.”
Shields struggled when Elkin took her down during each of the first two rounds of her MMA debut. The two-time Olympic gold medalist came back in the third round, however, to batter Elkin until their scheduled three-round bout was stopped 1:44 into the final round at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
An opponent hasn’t been chosen for Shields’ second MMA fight with the PFL.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.