Fresh off her impressive victory over Hannah Rankin earlier this month in Kansas, two-time United States Olympic Gold Medalist and current WBC, IBF and WBA women’s Middleweight champion Claressa Shields (7-0, 2 KOs) continues to cement herself as the face of women’s boxing in the America by being invited by GENYOUTH to appear at a star-studded awards gala in New York City to share her story with the young people the charitable organization hopes to empower.
Shields, joined New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz at New York’s famed Ziegfeld Theater on a panel billed as the “Fantastic Four” superheroes by the CEO of GENYOUTH Alexis Glick to go along with the superheroes theme of the evening.
“Claressa, you are far from being the Invisible Woman,” said Glick. “You are a She-Hulk and we are so happy to have you here.”
GENHYOUTH partners with the National Football League and National Dairy Council to be the Nation’s largest in-school wellness program having reached 38 million students in over 73,000 schools in almost ten years. The organization strives to help children eat better and move more in an effort to instill a health and nutritious lifestyle at an early age.
“Claressa being invited to speak at such a huge event further illustrates her ability to transcend boxing,” said Dmitriy Salita of Salita Promotions who promotes Shields. “Claressa is the one who can lift up women’s boxing and she is doing it now.”
On the panel moderated by former NFL player and current co-host of Good Morning Football Nate Burleson, the 23-years-old Shields shared with the audience who inspired her as youth growing up in Flint, Michigan and what drivers her to keep moving forward through adversity.
“My grandmother and Muhammad Ali inspired me and were my heroes when I was growing up,” said Shields. “I actually first thought Will Smith was Muhammad Ali because he played him so well in the movie. Muhammad Ali always said to stick with what you believe in and in a sport dominated by men I always believed women can be just as good as men and worked very hard to prove it.”
Speaking on some of the challenges for a women’s world champion Shields told the audience she spars men 90 percent of the time while in camp.
“I need to go hard and see what I can and cannot do in the ring and sparring men helps me do that,” added Shields. “Sparring women I often hold back and drop my hands. I can’t do that with men.”
While Judge and Cruz talked about when they were first became aware that their talent far exceeded that of other kids their age Shields reflected back to winning gold first in London in 2012 and then becoming the first American boxer–male or female–to win gold in back-to-back Olympics when Shields did it again in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“When I won the gold medal the second time I knew my life could be bigger than boxing because of how people were affected by me winning,” said Shields. “People from back home in Flint were crying because I inspired them to believe in something good instead of the negative things that were happening in Flint. Now some people tell me I am a role model and need to watch my language, so I am working on myself,” said Shields with a smile.
Shields also had a flashback to when she was 15 years old, working out in the gym and her coach put her up to spar with the then No. 2 ranked women’s boxer in the world who was visiting the gym.
“She was 178 pounds and big,” recalled Shields. “I was happy to test myself, but then the girl asked me how many rounds I wanted to go. At that time I never really went past three rounds with a girl before so we started to spar and she threw bombs at me in the first round. I stayed calm and moved my head and started throwing back and when I hit her I could tell by her face she knew she was in trouble. After the fourth round she had her hands down by her knees and said she was done. I said to myself maybe I am the best if I can beat the No. 2 woman in the world.”
Shields now has a quick turnaround as she will appear on HBO’s last boxing telecast on December 8 when she takes on WBO Middleweight champion Femke Hermans (9-1, 3 KOs) at StubHub Center in Carson, CA.
“Having spent a quarter century at HBO it will be very meaningful and memorable to see Claressa Shields in that ring on December 8,” said Shields’ manager Mark Taffet. “Claressa will continue to amaze fans by breaking records and doing what no other woman boxer has ever done before, including being mentioned on the overall top pound-for-pound lists.
Another key accomplishment for Shields is she will be the only boxer to have appeared on Showtime, HBO and DAZN in the same year.