Meet Claressa Shields, The Toughest Teenager In The World
Claressa Shields is fast. She's powerful. She's athletically intimidating. She is also hilariously unfiltered and the star of a forthcoming documentary, called "T-Rex," that chronicles her rise from Flint, Michigan, to the London Olympics, where she won America's only gold medal in women's boxing. Also important to mention: She was 17 years old then, and is only 19 now.
This past Monday, Shields practically maxed out her amateur resume. She not only won the middleweight division of the AIBA world championships in South Korea, but she was named "Outstanding Boxer of the Tournament," too.
But that wasn't all. At a banquet a few hours later, Shields was also named 2014 elite women's boxer of the year for dominating the 19-40 age category, even though it was her first year in the largest and most prestigious age group. Funny, Shields (52-1 in her career) said she went into the tournament simply hoping for a rematch with the Englishwoman who was responsible for her only loss, two years earlier. But her nemesis, Savannah Marshall, lost early, so Shields had to just crush everybody else. Which she did, including a TKO in which the opposing trainer saw enough in 11 seconds to immediately throw in the towel.
espnW caught up with Shields hours after winning her world title.
What did you receive for being the outstanding boxer of the tournament and 2014 fighter of the year?
For best fighter of the world championships, you get this nice piece of paper with your name on it. For the elite fighter of the year, I got this massive trophy. I'm just so humbled. It healed my heart. I felt all the pain from losing my only match (in 2012) go away. I was overjoyed.
Your first bout in South Korea, against Uganda's Hellen Baleke, lasted 11 seconds. What happened?
It was too bad that she had to get me on the first draw. I wasn't gonna fight her like she was coming to her first tournament. I was gonna fight her like she was the world champion -- so she had a lot of problems on her hands. Her coach knows my history. After he saw me hit her with that right hand, he started thinking and threw the towel.
Had you ever had a fight end that way before?
Yeah, I had some throw in the towels. This one happened so fast, and he didn't throw it in. He kind of just put it on the ropes, so I didn't see it. When the ref broke us, I thought maybe one of our shoes was untied. I went back to the corner and was like, "What's up?" They told me, "It's over; her coach threw the towel in the ring." I was disappointed. I love to get in there and rumble. The 11 seconds is great for my record but I wanted to fight. I understand where her coach was coming from, though.
Which bout was your most difficult at the world championships?
My fight against Lidia Fidura from Poland. She was a straight brawler, throwing bombs. She didn't care what I hit her with. Her goal was to push me against the ropes and just fight, fight, fight. I don't mind doing that, but I would hit her with everything I had, and she would keep coming. We fought from the first bell to the last bell. I landed the cleaner shots. And I hurt her, at least twice. I thought I deserved the 8-count and I didn't get it. She was a great fighter.
I know you want to make yourself proud when you box, but is there anyone else you fight for these days?
A lot of people don't know, but I adopted a little girl. She's about 6 months old now. Her name is Klaressa Shields like mine, just spelled with a K. My cousin had her. She already had two kids; she didn't want to have another. I told her I wanted to have a baby after the Olympics but with my career and everything, I can't afford to get pregnant right now. So she decided to keep the baby, and now the baby lives with me. I was there for her birth and got to cut her little cord. It was scary seeing her come out. I was like, "What is going on here?" We're still going through the adoption process, but I have her when I'm at home. When I leave, my best friend's mom and her birth mother have her.
At the London Olympics, you won gold at 17 and were technically considered to be a "youth." Then, in 2013, the international boxing association tweaked its rule book so "youths" (17 and 18) were no longer allowed to compete against "elites" (age 19-40). What was that like?
I had to fight 17- to 18-year-olds for a whole year. I'd already fought the women who were 19 through 40, and I dominated them. Nobody who's 17 or 18 years old is going to fight an Olympic gold medalist. When they made that rule, I disappeared because I had no one to fight. Everyone was wondering, "Where's Claressa Shields?" People were asking me on Twitter and Facebook, "Do you even still box?" And I'd be like, "Wow." I laughed, but it was upsetting because I take boxing so serious.
Do you think spending your post-Olympic year in the youth division cost you, financially?
I really don't know. Right now, I don't have any sponsorships and I don't have any endorsements. I can't explain why. That is something I don't have any control of. Maybe in 2016 when I go back to the Olympics and I win another gold ... maybe then, you know? I think I'm a great person to represent anybody's foundation. I carry myself the way that a boxer or that a lady should. But there's nothing I can do about that. I just continue to grow as a person, to grow as a fighter, and to keep going up the ladder because the ladder never stops. You've got to keep climbing.