The two-sport plan for WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight champion Claressa Shields over the next 18 months is starting to take shape, but it's no longer clear whether it will include an undisputed middleweight title fight against WBO champion Savannah Marshall.
Shields told ESPN on Tuesday that a possible fight with Marshall, which potentially was going to take place in July, might now be pushed back further, which would conflict with commitments she has made to the Professional Fighters League in mixed martial arts.
Marshall told Boxing Social last week she needed surgery for an undisclosed injury after her April 2 knockout of Femke Hermans and was asking for the fight to be delayed so she could be at full strength. Marshall told Boxing Social she would still like to fight Shields.
Shields was ready to fight Marshall in July and said she had agreed to two contracts on different dates that month.
"Right now, I don't know what's going on with boxing because I was told July 9 for me and Savannah Marshall and then I was told July 30," Shields said. "And now I'm being told September, and I can't fight her in September because I'm going to be in preparation for my MMA fight."
Shields said she is expecting to fight on a PFL card in November, her third professional mixed martial arts fight. It's all part of a preparation for a bigger MMA push in 2023, when she expects to take part in the PFL's full league.
It has been a half-year of fights moving for Shields, who was initially supposed to compete in December 2021 as the first fight in her BOXXER contract. Then that fight moved to January following an injury on the main event of the card Shields was on. A suspension of boxing because of COVID-19 protocols in Great Britain in January moved her bout against Ema Kozin to February, a fight Shields won by unanimous decision.
Shields' initial plan was to box in February, fight Marshall in July and fight in the PFL in November 2022. Then, in 2023, focus more on MMA because she'll have more fights in that sport due to the structure of the PFL.
"I'm going to probably have one boxing match at the beginning of the year next year because I really want to focus on PFL," Shields said. "I really want to focus on the championship, and I don't know if people know yet but I hate losing. I cried when I lost my split decision in PFL and even though people were saying, 'You did great; you have improved.' Yes, yes, but I lost.
"And I don't train to lose, even though I'm not that experienced in MMA, I do have a desire to be good at MMA and to win."
Shields (12-0, 2 KOs boxing; 1-1, 1 KO MMA) might still box in July, even if it is not against Marshall (12-0, 10 KOs) -- those details are still being worked out -- before she moves back into MMA training. But fighting Marshall in September is "absolutely a no-go" because of the PFL plans.
If a July fight doesn't materialize, Shields said she's going to use that time to continue training in MMA -- not necessarily preparing for a fight, but continuing to pick up skills for a sport she's still working at getting comfortable in.
As part of her MMA training, Shields said she plans on spending at least some time training at former UFC flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo's gym along with time at the gym where she began training for MMA, Jackson Wink in New Mexico, as she tries to find the best training for her in each discipline.
As far as Marshall? Shields says she wants the fight to happen. She would have fought Marshall last December. If they don't fight in July, Shields left open the possibility of fighting her in the start of 2023 before PFL training starts.
"I've never had to place my career on hold for anybody," Shields said. "And it's not going to start with Marshall."