By Keith Idec
Claressa Shields has made rapid progress since she turned pro less than 14 months ago.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist won two world titles in just her fourth professional fight. The IBF/WBC women’s super middleweight champion also will headline a “ShoBox” card for the third time Friday night, when she’ll make the first defenses of her 168-pound championships against unbeaten Tori Nelson.
Shields realizes, however, that she still must accomplish much more before the broader audience she seeks takes notice.
“I did something that made history and people are sitting there, acting like I don’t even exist,” Shields said during promotional video posted to Showtime’s YouTube page Monday night. “They have this definition of strong women, you know, skinny, pretty, soft-spoken, nice smile, you know. But then when you’re talking about some muscles and you talk about punching people, and you know, trash-talking, not really a female that comes to mind.”
The 22-year-old Shields (4-0, 2 KOs), who won gold medals at the Summer Olympics in 2012 and 2016, isn’t just motivated to add world titles and to fight for bigger purses. The Flint, Michigan, native wants to be the face of women’s boxing, a role model that can break gender barriers by taking the women’s boxing game to heights not even legends like Laila Ali, Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker were able to do.
“Whenever somebody says, ‘Oh, she shouldn’t be paid that. She has two Olympic gold medals. You should pay her just like you pay Lomachenko,’ ” Shields said, “it’s about getting respect, getting the TV time, getting the equal pay. I don’t just represent myself. I represent women’s boxing.”
She makes no apologies, either, for being confident and ambitious.
“I’m not gonna change who I am,” Shields said. “I’m gonna keep being myself until the world accepts that women are not pushovers, women are not quiet, women are not weak, and some of us really have the definition of when you say strong woman, you can use the strong arm emoji and put the woman’s face next to it.”
Showtime will air Shields’ fight against Nelson (17-0-3, 2 KOs), of Ashburn, Virginia, as the main event from Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. That “ShoBox: The New Generation” card is set to start at 10 p.m. ET.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.