It may be a step back for Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields, but at least it lands her back in the ring.
Shields, the lone American to win a gold medal in the debut of women’s boxing at the 2012 London Olympics, will return to international competition later this month at the Women's Junior/Youth World Championships in Albena, Bulgaria.
The 18-year-old, who recently started her freshman year at Olivet College in her home state of Michigan, was forced to drop down to the youth division due to a rule change in the age divisions by AIBA, the international governing body for Olympic-style boxing.
The ruling, she told the Detroit News, was "devastating."
As a 17-year-old, Shields handily beat 33-year-old Nadezda Torlopova of Russia in the Olympic final. Since then, silence. Struggling to find anyone willing to fight her, a year went by between bouts. Shields finally returned to the ring last month in her hometown of Flint and beat Canadian Alison Greey to improve her record to 34-1 (which includes 15 TKOs).
Shields, who has won two Junior Olympic titles, is seeking her first youth championship. She plans to enter the elite age ranks in 2014 and has her eye on defending her middleweight gold at the 2016 Games in Rio.
The Women's Junior/Youth World Championships begin Sept. 22. The finals are scheduled for Sept. 28.