"I'm the most dominant, I'm taking the best challenges"; with her spectacular performance against Savannah Marshall, Claressa Shields won a landmark moment in the sport of boxing; the two-time Olympic gold medallist and multi-weight professional champion is a trailblazer
Monday 24 October 2022 12:04, UK
Claressa Shields is still just 27-years-old yet her place in boxing history is assured.
A decade ago she was one of the first three women to win gold medals for boxing at an Olympic Games. At Rio 2016 Shields became the first American boxer to become a two-time Olympic champion.
She cut a swathe through the professional sport, winning world titles at multiple weights, culminating in her victory over Savannah Marshall at the O2 Arena in London to become an undisputed champion for the third time.
The Shields-Marshall fight was a breakthrough moment. It headlined a historic all women's boxing card and drew over two million viewers on Sky Sports.
Shields, the victor, had made history.
Echoing Muhammad Ali's famous declaration: 'I am the greatest', she describes herself as the 'GWOAT' or the Greatest Woman Of All Time. With her track record of achievement, few could argue with that.
"I think I represent African-Americans everywhere I go," Shields said. "To be on an all-female card was amazing, 20,000 fans all for us after all these years of telling us, 'Women don't have boxing fans and women can't sell out venues', which I already knew was a lie. But we finally got to prove it and I was the head of the bill. So I was super-excited about that.
"I am the greatest woman of all time."
The fighter from Flint, Michigan is a trailblazer. "I think representation is everything. I think if I had a Claressa Shields to look up to when I was coming up of course I would be a lot better, of course I would know the game and wouldn't have to work as hard as I'm working now," she said.
"Right now I'm creating a blueprint for a lot of young women on how to become a world champ, on how to captivate a crowd, how to do the things that I'm doing."
Her latest fight was the defining moment of her career. In Marshall she at last had her great rival.
Marshall, who beat Shields in a 2012 amateur contest, remains the only opponent to have beaten Shields in a boxing ring. As professionals, on the largest stage of all, the American got her revenge.
"I've always gotten the recognition because I've always had the belts. Regardless of what people like to try to say, I have been dominating all of my performances to be world champ. Just because people look to 10 years ago like there was a black cloud over my career, doesn't mean that I did," Shields said.
"I think that everyone needs a dance partner, everyone needs a good fight and that's what it was with Savannah Marshall. That just solidified my GWOATness more. It solidified everything that I've been saying is not a myth and that she can't knock me out, she's not the better fighter and what happened 10 years ago was simply out of my control."
The performance was spectacular and so was Shields' entrance, taking the time to dance, with backing dancers, before marching to the ring for the biggest fight of her life. That was a demonstration of pure confidence.
"It was a very hostile environment walking out," she said. "I was so zoned out and focused on getting my hands on Savannah Marshall it really didn't matter to me.
"I had to come out there and be me. The moment was about me. Yes the greatest woman of all time can choreograph her dance, come out dancing, get in the ring, still show that grit, those skills, that toughness, win the fight. I just had to get comfortable. Even when they were booing and stuff, they were still enjoying the dance.
"I'm just as hostile as you all. It just felt like me versus everybody. It was fun. I just had to dance."
Marshall is strong, skilled and put Shields under pressure. But the American still rose to the occasion.
"Some of the rounds were challenging because of her size. She switched the game plan up, she started trying to lay on me and make it ugly. That's when I had to change my game plan," Shields said.
"Even when Marshall was trying to put the pressure on, I was still landing the bigger shots. I was digging to her body.
"I was pushing her back, I had her on the ropes and when you're against a power puncher like that, I wasn't supposed to do that, but if Marshall hit me with one hard shot, I came back and hit her with two or three."
In all likelihood Shields will continue to go from strength to strength in her career. Women's boxing too will be a very different sport from what it was 10 years ago.
"Women's boxing can co-exist with men's boxing. It's not a problem. But when you put the best female fighters on the card you're always going to have a great outcome. If you put a female fighter as a co-main event on a men's card, it's going to help grow women's boxing. I just want every network to just include women and to know that some of us do deserve the main event spot, especially when it comes to those big venues. Because we do have fans and they're ready to spend their money and come out and see us," she said.
"I think that women's boxing will never die again. I think right now where we're at, we're going to keep building off this."
Shields' own chapter in that story is assured.
"I'm just taking the best challenges," she said. "I'm losing weight and I'm gaining weight. Really I'm at a disadvantage in a lot of my fights with these girls and if it's not height, it's their records. I've always had less fights than all the girls that I've competed against fighting for these world championship fights, and I've had less knockouts and less pro experience, but I was able to get in there and beat them.
"I'm the most dominant, I'm the greatest woman of all time."