LAS VEGAS -- Super middleweight Claressa Shields, the two-time U.S. Olympic gold-medal winner, made her professional debut in action-packed style as she powered to a four-round decision victory against amateur rival Franchon Crews on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Shields, a 21-year-old from Flint, Michigan, was the best female in amateur boxing and named the most outstanding fighter of the women's tournament at the Rio Games in August. She began her pro career by defeating Crews, a decorated amateur who had lost three times to Shields in the unpaid ranks.
Shields beat Crews again in the paid ranks and did so handily, winning 40-36 on all three judges' scorecards in a blazing fight. ESPN.com also had Shields winning 40-36. Shields' victory took place on the undercard of her idol Andre Ward's light heavyweight world title challenge against Sergey Kovalev.
"It feels so good to have just made my pro debut," Shields said. "This is what I've been training for. I'm faster and I hit harder. And I'm the better fighter. But Crews brought 100 percent, and I respect her for that. I hope to fight next in January or February."
As soon as the bell rang to begin the fight, Shields and Crews stormed toward each other with all-out aggression in what was a blazing first round. There were several heated exchanges, and they both landed clean punches. The action did not let up in the second round, but Shields appeared to get the better of Crews, even landing a heavy left hand as the round wound down.
Referee Russell Mora twice warned Crews (0-1), 29, of Baltimore, for pushing Shields to the canvas and sneaking in some solid blows.
Shields (1-0), who earned $50,000, was going hard for a knockout in the fourth round and rattled Crews, who made $10,000, with several hard punches.
"It's not what I wanted, but to be called on, last minute, for a fight of this magnitude, I am proud of myself," Crews said. "We will fight again in the future."
Shields, the most decorated female amateur in history who is also a four-time U.S. national champion and two-time world amateur champion, has not lost since 2012 and finished her amateur career 77-1.