Claressa Shields was the first American boxer to defend an Olympic boxing gold medal, storming through the women's middleweight tournaments at the 2012 and 2016 Games virtually unchallenged. Now she is primed for another first.
The 21-year-old Shields (1-0, 0 KOs) will take on Hungary's Szilvia "Sunset" Szabados (15-8, 6 KOs), a former world title challenger, on March 10 in the six-round middleweight main event of Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" (10 p.m. ET/PT). The fight, which is for a regional belt and will take place at the MGM Grand Detroit Event Center in Detroit, not far from Shields' hometown of Flint, Michigan, will be the first women's fight to headline a boxing card on premium cable.
"It is a dream come true to be the first woman to headline a boxing card on premium television," Shields said. "March 10 will be a historic night for boxing and all of the women who give so much to advance our sport. I want to thank Showtime, MGM Grand Detroit and Salita Promotions for this opportunity, and I will do everything to give my home state fans and the viewers a night to remember."
Said Mark Taffet, Shields' co-manager and the former HBO Sports vice president, "Claressa is on a mission to be a game-changer, to chart a new course in history. She is proud to be the first woman to headline a main event on premium television, and she intends to be the first woman to be ranked in boxing's top 10 pound-for-pound list. The journey begins March 10."
Shields, who went 77-1 as an amateur, with the lone defeat avenged, made her professional debut on Nov. 19 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and won a shutout four-round decision against amateur rival Franchon Crews, who was also making her pro debut. In an action-packed fight on the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev undercard, Shields won 40-36 on all three scorecards in a super middleweight match.
Now Shields will take on Szabados, 26, who has much more professional experience, although she is only 5-5 in her past 10 bouts. In July 2015, Szabados lost a 10-round decision to Nikki Adler challenging for a super middleweight world title.
"Fighters always say their next fight is the most important one of their career, but you get an opportunity like this, and it really is. This is an unbelievable dream," said Szabados, who will be boxing in the United States for the third time. "I am very happy to be receiving this opportunity. I know this fight is important for Claressa also, and I don't really know what will happen in the ring. We both want to win. Claressa has more amateur experience, but I have more experience as a professional. It's going to be an exciting night."
Former professional junior welterweight Dmitriy Salita, who has carved out a niche putting on cards in Detroit, will promote the show.
"Detroit is America's greatest comeback city and I am thrilled that [Shields] has chosen MGM Grand Detroit as the site to fight for her first professional title on March 10," Salita said. "Although it is just her second professional fight, Claressa has chosen a former world title challenger for her opponent, a tough Hungarian named Szilvia Szabados, a woman who knows what's at stake if she can win that night. Detroit deserves to have world-class events such as this and I'm very proud to be able to bring it here."