By most accounts, Claressa Shields is the best women’s boxer on the planet. She’s won two gold medals and multiple world titles in two different weight classes. Shields is scheduled to face Ivana Habazin on October 5 in the former’s hometown of Flint, Michigan. The vacant WBO junior middleweight championship will be on the line. If Shields wins, she’ll claim a title in her third weight class.
Her appetite for titles is akin to Vasiliy Lomachenko’s, and her transition from success as an amateur to a pro is similar to the pound-for-pound contender’s journey. However, even with all of those honors, Shields doesn’t get the same respect and attention that her male counterparts receive.
I had an opportunity to speak with Shields about this and a variety of other topics, including a potential run in the UFC, and her time sparring with male professional boxers. Here is a look at that interview:
Among other things, Shields has an issue with the shortness of rounds in women’s boxing. Unlike the men’s bouts, the rounds in women’s fights are two minutes rather than three. Shields contends this difference limits the amount of knockouts that she and other women can produce, thus eliminating some of the appeal for women’s boxing. Obviously, there are other factors, but Shields believes this distinction hurts her sport.
Shields made headlines earlier this year when she called out a number of male boxers in her weight region. She said she could beat Gennady Golovkin, Keith Thurman and a few other male fighters. I talked to Shields about this, and she doubled down on the concept. Shields says she has held her own in sparring sessions with IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence and gotten the better of middleweight contender Matt Korobov, a man who pushed WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo the distance.
Based on these experiences, Shields rebuffs the idea that she isn’t good enough to compete with men.
Shields pursuit of the prizes that come with being the best in a combat sport have been elusive, and have led to her entertaining ideas of crossing over into mixed martial arts. She has mentioned taking on current pound-for-pound women’s champion Amanda Nunes. Claressa and I breached that subject during the interview as well.
Shields understands she’d need extensive training to prepare for the grappling and kicking aspects of MMA, but feels confident she could be ready for the challenge. It’s clear, Shields has a desire to be more than just an athlete. The outspoken 24-year-old sees some similarities between herself and other great female athletes like tennis legend Serena Williams.
However, Shields sees herself as “more real” than Williams because of her willingness to speak on more of the issues that plague women’s sports. In totality, the interview was fascinating and enlightening.
Hearing the frustrations and plight of an elite athlete who appears to feel underappreciated makes for an eye-opening experience. Perhaps this is the best temperament for Shields to be in as she approaches her next fight. Clearly she isn’t satisfied, and it’s possible that hunger is what keeps her so sharp in the ring.
Habazin is the next opponent set to try to knock the chip off of Shields’ shoulder.