Three-division titlist Claressa Shields will be returning to the ring for the first time in over a year to fight IBF super welterweight champion Marie-Eve Dicaire in a bout to unify the super welterweight division March 5.
The fight will be the headliner of an all-women pay-per-view card on FITE TV, taking place at the Dort Financial Center in Flint, Michigan. The winner will hold the WBC and WBO titles currently held by Shields, the IBF title Dicaire has, and the new WBA (super) belt in the division.
"Listen, women have to stop depending on men to give us shots at everything," Shields told ESPN. "Women's boxing is a hot commodity. Don't let no other network tell you that it's not. Women's boxing is in, just like women's MMA. All we need to do is have our own platform and show them that we have fans and that we can sell pay-per-view buys.
"So I'm super excited to be having my first pay-per-view card and I'm hoping that everybody who has been waiting on me to fight, everybody that supports me, that they all get behind me and get behind the women athlete movement and just join us because not only are we yelling equal pay, equal opportunity, equal TV time, we're also working just as hard. We're equally working."
This will be the first women's fight to headline a pay-per-view card since Laila Ali vs. Jacqui Frazier-Lyde on June 6, 2001, a fight Ali won by majority decision in Verona, New York.
Shields had this fight pushed back multiple times throughout 2020 because of COVID-19 and also because other opportunities fell through. It was a frustrating year for Shields, who had wanted to fight multiple times. Initially she was supposed to fight Dicaire in May, then prepped to fight her in August, September and December.
She said this is the longest she has trained for a single opponent and she's glad to finally be returning to the ring. And she sees the all-women card as the beginning of a new era of boxing.
"Some of us are putting in overtime and we've been underpaid for a very long time," Shields said. "This is a start to something new and this is going to show them that, 'Hey, you guys may not give us opportunities, but opportunities are out there and we'll create our own opportunities.'
"And the best will fight the best and women's boxing can sell pay-per-view. That's the whole goal of this, and I'm just super excited to start it."
Shields (10-0, 2 KO) has held titles since her fourth pro fight. Dicaire (17-0) will be making her fourth title defense and will be fighting outside of Canada for the first time.
If Shields wins, she will be the first person to become undisputed champion in two divisions since boxing went to four main belts.
"Claressa Shields and Marie Eve Dicaire are not just undefeated champions in the ring, they are fierce supporters of women's boxing and equality outside the ring," said Mark Taffet, Shields' manager. "At a time when too many networks in the US are under-supporting women's boxing, Claressa and Marie deserve tremendous credit for taking matters into their own hands and agreeing to take their undisputed world championship fight to pay-per-view."
The fight is being put on by Shields' promoter, Salita Promotions, along with Groupe Yvon Michel.
This is the beginning of a busy year for Shields, who plans to fight in MMA as well as with the PFL. She has been training for future MMA fights at Jackson Wink in New Mexico. She will head to Florida to train for the Dicaire fight. After the Dicaire fight, she plans on taking a week or two off before heading back to Jackson Wink to train for her PFL debut this summer.
"This is going to be a big year for me," Shields said. "And I want to take advantage of all my opportunities and I feel like God set me to the side a little bit just so I can grow mentally, physically, spiritually and just be ready for what the world holds for me this year.
"I feel like it's going to be a big year."