Claressa Shields Goes for the Gold
By Robert Ecksel on December 2, 2020
“I’ve done everything I can do in boxing and I still haven't made a million dollars for a fight.”
“Boxing is for men, and is about men, and is men. A celebration of the lost art of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost.”—Joyce Carol Oates
Some people think boxing and MMA are comparable, whereas others will fight to the death for the combat sport they love.
The face of women’s boxing, undefeated lightweight, super lightweight, and current middleweight champion Claressa Shields has finalized a deal to fight, at least for the time being, under the banner of the PFL (Professional Fighters League).
“I’m still gonna box and do MMA at the same time,” Shields told ESPN. “I could box in my sleep. That’s not something that I really have to worry about. I’m gonna spend a lot of time learning and just growing in MMA, but I’m still gonna accept my mandatory challenges in boxing. I’m gonna fight those girls. I’m gonna beat them, but I plan on having maybe two or three boxing matches and two to three MMA fights next year.
Boxing’s loss is MMA’s gain and Shields, who started out in mixed martial arts, believes she’ll get a fairer shake fighting in a cage instead of the square circle.
“I feel like I’ve had fights in boxing that have captured the sports world, [but] women’s boxing isn’t treated equally,” she said. “Every MMA league, they have women fighters main event. The PFL give women a chance to fight for a million dollars just like they give men a chance to fight in a league for a million dollars. In boxing, there aren’t those kinds of opportunities for women.”
Despite its increased visibility, women’s boxing hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm. Old habits die hard, while boxing tradition dies even harder.
“You have two or three of us that are getting paid good money,” continued Shields, “and then the rest of them are kind of just like opponents, and they don’t really have a large following and a big backing. In MMA, in the PFL, you create your own destiny, and that’s what I want to do. I created my own destiny in boxing as far as in becoming a two-time Olympic champ, starting from the Junior Olympics to the real Olympics, world championships and now being a professional world champion. I just wanna test myself really.”
Every boxing match should be a test, but Shields has shown herself superior to everyone she has faced and has even spoken about fighting men to test her mettle. But there are other issues that caused her to make the switch, one of which is the way women boxers are treated.
“I accomplished everything there is to accomplish in boxing,” she told TMZ Sports. “I’m a world champ. I’m a two-time division world champ. I’m a three-time division world champ. Undisputed, ranked number one by Ring magazine, ESPN, number one pound-for pound for a woman, I’m on Errol Spence’s top five pound-for-pound list. I’ve done everything I can do in boxing and I still haven't made a million dollars for a fight. Boxing is so sexist. These men are fighting for multiple millions and haven’t accomplished half of what I accomplished, but I'm supposed to just be happy? Pay me $300K and then offer me $150,000 for the next fight? Yeah, that’s cool.”