Claressa Shields is not just a fighter by profession that specializes in the craft of professional boxing and mixed martial arts. Claressa as a fighter extends outside of the ring and her upbringing clearly indicates that.
Having to endure the challenges that she encountered being born and raised in Flint, Michigan, a city reknown for its financial woes and notorious for its high crime rate and scarce opportunities, seemingly led her to fight or flight mode. In addition to the environmental issues that plagued the city of Flint, she had weighty psychological issues to address.
Dealing with her mother’s struggles with drug addiction, which rendered her unfit to be her guardian, and her father who was absent for the most part, was her motivation. Her father went to prison when she was only two years old.
Fortunately for Claressa, throughout her despair, she found great support in her grandmother who ultimately raised her, along with her great aunt. Her grandmother was the one who instilled her pride and purpose and assured her that she shouldn’t marginalize herself based on gender restrictions.
By the time she was 11 years old, Claressa was already boxing. She was introduced to the sport as a viewer by her father, who had her watch a boxing match that featured Laila Ali, the daughter of the legendary Muhammad Ali.
Boxing was already in her DNA because her father was a fighter himself, who spent time boxing in underground leagues. Ironically he was opposed to her being involved in the sport as a participant. He didn’t see it as a sport suited for females. However Claressa’s interest overrode her father’s opposing stance on her boxing pursuits as she saw it as a means of escaping poverty in order for her to live a more fruitful life.
Dedicated to her training from conception, her career path had already looked promising under the tutelage of Jason Crutchfield, who noticed her talent and commitment.
Her amateur career was exceptional as she won two Junior Olympic Championships, and also won the Middleweight Title at her first National Police Athletic League Championships in 2011. She was named the top overall fighter which landed her a spot at the qualifying US Olympic trials.
Yielding the results in order for her to qualify, by winning her 165 pound weight class at the US Olympic trials as the youngest boxer that same year, she went on to win her first Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Olympic games.
For the next few years, still in the midst of her amateur career, one could say winning became habitual for her and she sealed it with winning the Pan American games and becoming not only the first African/American but the first American woman in history to have done so.
Her second gold medal would come at the following Olympics in 2016. Held in Rio, Brazil, she defeated the Dutch Boxer Nouchka Fontijn in the middle weight category. By the time her amateur boxing career had concluded her record stood at 77 wins and one loss.
In November 2016 she turned pro and continued to showcase her dominance by winning in historical fashion and winning over new audiences who didn’t pay much attention to female boxing before. This was apparent as her fight on March 10, 2017, was the main event on the United States TV network Shobox where she won the middleweight title.
Throughout the next 12 months she secured two more victories and wound up becoming a two weight professional champion in the fewest number of fights ever. By 2019 she had accomplished what few boxers could ever do. She had the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO titles under her belt.
Though her legacy and career are still growing and ongoing, those who know of her have found Claressa’s life to be one of fascination. The 2015 documentary T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold… highlights her journey from the adversities she experienced growing up to winning the Olympic gold.
Her life and achievements resonate well with kids too, as she was voted by them online, as the biggest powerhouse of the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Awards. This is an award reserved for the best athletes in the world. In 2018, the Boxing Writers Association of America named her the female fighter of the year and she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the USA Boxing Alumni Association.
Contributed by Tarik Daley
Disclaimer: This information was generated through CHATGPT.