She grew up in Flint, Michigan, a city so poor and underserved that the local government doesn’t care their children are being poisoned by lead in the water. But she had a talent – to hit, and hit hard.
Claressa Shields is the world’s strongest female boxer in the middleweight class (75kg), and is a favorite to win gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In fact, she could become the first American to win boxing gold in two successive Olympics.
She is a marketing phenomenon heading into the Summer Games – the most recent being her appearance in the recent Sports Illustrated The Magazine’s Body issue, which features nude photos of some of the most famous athletes in the world. But it is the documentary, T-Rex, which tells the story of a fragile young girl turning into a determined woman and Olympic champion, that put her firmly on the American pop culture map.
Will she have strong competition at the Rio Games? Of course, she still has to be win her three or four contests. But as Shields stated recently in Slate’s sports podcast, Hang Up and Listen, she has fought all her known competition and beat them all at least once. And when she won the middleweight women’s world boxing championship on May 27 this year in Astana, Kazakhstan, she beat the only strong contender she had not faced, Nouchka Fontjin of the Netherlands.
She’s (Nouchka) pretty tall, she’s a heavy hitter. For the last two years, I just can’t wait to fight her. I can’t wait to run into her. She was ranked number 3 in the world, and when someone’s ranked that high, and I hadn’t fought them, there’s always some talk. I want to prove the doubters wrong, prove that I’m the best, prove that I cannot be beat by anybody. For the last two years, she’s been an opponent I’ve been hitting on in the gym against her because I thought she was top competition. I fought her in the worlds and dominated her, 3-0. She was competitive. But I was just great.
Shields is 74-1 in her career, a two-time world champion, gunning for a second Olympic gold. Chances of success? High.