In only her fourth professional bout, two-time Olympic gold medal winner Claressa Shields (3-0, 1 KO) will challenge Nikki Adler (16-0, 9 KOs) for the WBC Super Middleweight world title in the main event of Showtime’s ShoBox series on Friday, August 4 at the MGM Grand in Detroit.
The 22-year-old Shields is coming off an impressive one-sided unanimous decision victory over Sydeny LeBlanc earlier this month at the Masonic Temple, also in Detroit, which is an hour south of Shields’ hometown of Flint.
The world title bout will be Shields’ second go round headlining a card on Showtime. Back in March, Shields became the first female boxer to headline a card on premium cable TV when she knocked out Szilvia Szabados in four rounds in what was her first homecoming bout since capturing her second consecutive gold medal at the Summer Games in Rio last July.
“This is a huge step up for me and a big accomplishment,” said Shields today by phone. “It will also prove that I really am as great as I say I am. Only [Vasyl] Lomachenko fought for a world title sooner than me and it shows that us Olympic champions can compete with anyone.”
Vasyl Lomachenko and his promoter Top Rank received some criticism for challenging for a world title in only his second professional bout against Orlando Salido, a bout in which Lomachenko lost. Shields and her team are not worried about facing similar scrutiny.
“I want to fight the best fights out there,” said Shields. “I hear criticism from other female boxers about me fighting on TV and getting big fights, but I am taking fights they turned down.”
Shields’ promoter Dmitriy Salita believes his fighter will not be subjected to the same type of criticism because unlike Lomachenko, Salita is confident that Shields will persevere and dethrone the champion.
“Everything leads up to Claressa winning this fight,” said Salita. “The women who feel Claressa may be getting this opportunity too early, well they all turned down the chance to face Claressa.”
While Shields will focus on the Adler bout, the fight she really has been coveting is a showdown against unbeaten Middleweight world champion Christina Hammer.
“The Christina Hammer fight is what I really want, but they are making us wait a year so what am I supposed to do in the meantime?,” asked Shields. “I don’t want to take baby steps like some of the other fighters take. I told my team I want to step up not pad my record with easy wins.”
Shields expects Adler, who will be making her third defense of the title she won by defeating Szabados in Germany in 2015, to try to assert her power in the bout and try to be the aggressor.
“I watched her last bout which went the distance,” said Shields. “She has a good 1-2 and has power, which is why she has a lot of knockouts but she’s not as skilled as me and I think she’s actually pretty basic.”
Although her career is moving at lightning-fast pace since making her professional debut last November on the undercard of the first Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev bout, Shields said she was steadfast about not skipping any steps along the way.
“I told my team I want to follow the process,” said Shields. “I don’t want to jump from a six-round fight to a 10-round fight overnight. I want a six rounder, then an eight rounder and then get 10 rounds. That’s how I learn and get better. For example in my last fight, which I already watched four times, I should have stayed out of the pocket when we were both on the inside and I wasn’t throwing punches.”
The magnatutde of the opportunity to become a world champion is not lost on Shields or her team who are quickly building a fan base in Detroit for the 22 year old who is also nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award.
“I think Claressa will be the face of women’s sports for years to come,” said Salita. “Claressa is a gifted athlete and knowing what she has had to overcome both inside and outside of the ring is what will help make her a great role model for young people all over the world. It is extremely difficult to achieve all the accolades Claressa has achieved and do it from Flint, Michigan, which is a difficult place to live. You actually have a better chance of hitting the lotto.”
Shields relishes the opportunity to be a role model and understands with that recognition also comes responsbility.
“I represnt women,” said Shields proudly. “Strong women in sports were often feminine and pretty, but boxing is changing the definition of what a strong woman is. Strong women are strong not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. I’ve had to fight so much, not just in the ring, but also in school and everywhere and if I was not mentally tough I would not have survived.”
With her growing popularity, Shields has made other athletes fans of her work including MMA superstar, Cris “Cyborg” Justino who last weekend invited Shields to California to help her spar and prepare for Cyborg’s upcoming bout.
“I enjoyed every minute of that,” said Shields. “Cris is so strong and talented and it was great to spar with her. I was there to help her realize some of her flaws so she can work on them.”
So, if Shields had to think of a boxer, male or female, who can help her work on her flaws, whom would it be?
“Andre Ward of course,” said Shields with a smile.
Header photo by Hogan Photos