This is part of The Shadow League's Women's History Month In Focus series celebrating excellence in sports, entertainment and culture.
Flint, Michigan is the poster child city of dysfunction for most. With a water crisis still in full swing and unemployment rates skyrocketing, finding the silver lining is a challenge. But that’s until you realize that the lining is actually gold and its bearer is a two-time Olympic gold medalist named Claressa Shields.
You can’t tell this story without Bo Shields, Claressa’s father, who boxed in the underground circuit. After some time in prison, he talked to his daughter about the sweet science, piquing her interest in the sport. However, he believed that boxing was a man's sport and refused to allow Shields to pursue it until she was eleven.
The Swift Rise
Shields began boxing at Berston Field House in Flint, where she met her trainer, Jason Crutchfield. Together the team set out to make history and have done so relentlessly.
After winning two Junior Olympic championships Shields competed in her first open-division tournament, the National Police Athletic League Championships in 2011, winning the middleweight title. Shields was named the top overall fighter and qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials.
At the trials, she defeated the reigning national champion, Franchon Crews, the 2010 world champion, Andrecia Wasson and Pittsburgh's Tika Hemingway to win the middleweight class. Then in April 2011, she won her weight class at the Women's Elite Continental Championships against three-time defending world champion Mary Spencer of Canada.
Following Shields' victory at the U.S. Olympic trials, she headed to the 2012 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in Qinhuangdao, China, in order to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. Shields won her first round, but suffered an upset loss in the second round to Savannah Marshall of England, bringing Shields' record to 26-1.
However, Shields qualified to compete at the 2012 Olympics, the first year that women's boxing was an Olympic event and won a gold medal after thrashing Russian boxer Nadezda Torlopova 19–12.
The accomplishments just kept on piling up.
In 2014, Shields won the World Championships. In 2015, Shields became the first American to win titles in women's boxing at the Olympics and Pan American games. In 2016, Shields won gold at the 2016 AMBC Olympic Qualifying tournament in Argentina. Finally, she culminated a sensational amateur career, winning the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics by defeating Nouchka Fontijn of the Netherlands.
When the world was talking about silver medalist Shakur Stevenson possibly signing with The Money Team, Shields quietly became the only American gold medalist and was awarded the Val Barker Trophy at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.
Shields officially went pro last year winning her first match, against Franchon Crews, by unanimous decision. Tonight she is set to make history again, scheduled to face Szilvia Szabados for the NABF middleweight title as the main event on Showtime. This will be the first time women's boxing will be the main event on a premium network card.
Claressa Shields is America’s golden girl who now joins Heather Hardy and the Serrano sisters as boxing trailblazers in women’s combat sports. Tonight we all will get to watch true history from a great American woman.