Claressa Shields wins Christy Martin Award as BWAA's female fighter of the year

Claressa Shields, the three-belt unified women's middleweight world titleholder, added another significant line to her growing résumé Monday when the Boxing Writers Association of America named her as the recipient of the 2018 Christy Martin Award for female fighter of the year.

Shields, 23, of Flint, Michigan, won the second annual award named for Martin, the trailblazing women's boxing star of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"I am thrilled and honored to receive the fighter of the year award from the Boxing Writers Association of America. It is a dream come true, and it furthers my goal to lift women's boxing to new levels," Shields said. "In 2019 my goals are to become undisputed (middleweight) champion, to be ranked in the top 10 pound-for-pound list regardless of gender, and to continue the march of women's boxing toward equality with men."

The BWAA has given out awards annually for 80 years in a variety of categories, but with the growth of women's boxing, it created a women's award last year and gave it to undisputed women's welterweight world champion Cecilia Braekhus in a vote of the BWAA women's committee.

Shields will receive her award, along with the rest of the award winners -- who have not been determined yet -- at the BWAA's annual awards dinner in the spring.

Shields (8-0, 2 KOs), a two-time Olympic gold medalist, had a big 2018, going 4-0. She defended her two super middleweight world titles by shutout decision against Tori Nelson in January and then moved down to middleweight, where she won a lopsided unanimous decision over Hanna Gabriels to win two vacant world titles.

Shields defended the belts by shutout decision against Hannah Rankin on Nov. 17 and then shut out Femke Hermans to defend both belts and win a vacant title to give her three of the four major 160-pound titles.

"In such a big year for women's boxing, it wasn't a surprise that there were so many worthy nominees for this award, but in 2018, Claressa Shields took things to a new level by becoming a two-division world champion and successfully defending her titles at both 168 and 160 pounds in Showtime- and HBO-televised bouts," said Thomas Gerbasi, the chairman of the BWAA's women's boxing committee. "That's impressive in its own right, but the fact that she's done this all before her 10th pro fight and under the glare of the spotlight that comes with being the face of the sport in the United States made her a unanimous choice for this year's Christy Martin Award."