Claressa Shields has already made plenty of boxing history. She is the only American boxer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals, winning the women's middleweight tournament at the 2012 and 2016 Games. Shields was also a four-time U.S. national champion and two-time world amateur champion. She has not lost since 2012 and finished her amateur career 77-1.
But that was amateur boxing. Now Shields is in the pro game and looking to make more history when she challenges Nikki Adler for her super middleweight world title, as well as for a vacant belt, in the main event of "ShoBox: The New Generation" on Friday (Showtime, 10:30 p.m. ET/PT) at the MGM Grand Detroit, not far from Shields' hometown of Flint, Michigan.
In the junior featherweight co-feature, Vladimir Tikhonov (15-0, 9 KOs), 27, of Russia, and Jesse Angel Hernandez (8-1, 6 KOs), 26, of Fort Worth, Texas, will square off in a scheduled eight-round fight between southpaws. "ShoBox" was supposed to be a tripleheader, but the original 10-round co-feature pitting junior welterweight prospects Bakhtiyar Eyubov (13-0, 11 KOs) and Sonny Fredrickson (17-0, 11 KOs) was canceled because Eyubov is ill.
The 22-year-old Shields (3-0, 1 KO) will go for the two title belts far sooner than boxing's most famous female fighters. For example, Laila Ali, the daughter of Muhammad Ali, is considered by many to be the best female boxer in history. She won her first world title, also at super middleweight, in her 12th bout. Christy Martin, a pioneer in women's boxing, claimed a world title in fight No. 21. Lucia Rijker won her first in her ninth fight. Ann Wolfe, who became a trainer, won a world title in her 10th fight. Cecelia Braekhus, currently the best female boxer in the world pound-for-pound and the unified welterweight champion, won her first belt in her 11th fight, the same number of bouts needed for Holly Holm, who went on to bigger stardom in mixed martial arts.
"It's a great honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Lucia Rijker, Christy Martin, Laila Ali and Ann Wolfe, among others," Shields said. "I want to lift boxing to new heights and help open doors for women in boxing. Beating Nikki Adler is a must for me to achieve my goals."
Shields is moving very quickly in her pro career. She turned pro in November on the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev I undercard in Las Vegas and then made history in March when she knocked out Szilvia Szabados in the fourth round in a "ShoBox" main event at the MGM Grand Detroit. It was the first time a women's fight had ever headlined a boxing card on premium cable.
On June 16, Shields cruised to an eight-round shutout decision win against Sydney LeBlanc in Detroit, and she will now fight for two titles in her first scheduled 10-round bout (women's world title fights are 10 rounds, while men's world title fights are scheduled for 12).
"We want every one of Claressa's fights to occupy a special place along her historic journey," co-manager Mark Taffet said. "(Friday) against Nikki Adler, and the opportunity to win a world title in just her fourth pro fight, is an important 'first' in what will be a career of game-changing firsts for Claressa Shields."
Adler (16-0, 9 KOs), 30, of Germany, who will be making her third title defense, obviously has far more professional experience than Shields. She will be boxing outside of Germany or Russia for the first time, but she does not sound intimidated.
"Just a warning: America needs to be strong when I take my belts back home to Germany," Adler said. "I said it once before and I will say it again and again: The higher the quality, the more attractive is the fight for the fans. The state of woman's boxing needs tough women like Claressa and me who are not afraid of a challenge.
"To be honest, I've never watched her fight, but I am sure Claressa is a fighter from the bottom of her heart. So am I. This will create magic moments on (Friday). Fans will see a fit fighter. They can expect a tough puncher and, finally, a dominating reigning champion."
Adler also said that the United States is ready for Shields to be beaten, which Shields brushed off.
"I always have the entire world watching. Some people want me to win and some want the opposite," Shields said. "But I know what I can do, I'm just going to do it and dominate like always. No pressure. Nikki has to pump herself up, so she will say a lot. The U.S. is ready alright -- ready for its two-time Olympic gold medal winner to win her first pro world title. I've never been intimidated by anyone. I have had worse things said to me. I was gonna punish Nikki whether she talked trash or not."
Shields said she also doesn't buy Adler's assertion that she has never watched her fight before.
"No, I don't believe she hasn't ever watched me fight. That's all mind games," Shields said. "She wants me to believe that. But in all honesty, nothing on the internet can help her in a fight against me."
But Shields, who has received visits during training camp from Detroit boxing legend Thomas "Hitman" Hearns, said she doesn't dislike her opponent.
"Dislike is for emotional females," Shields said with a laugh. "I love her! I'm gonna kick her ass! And give her a big thank you after."