Claressa Shields was supposed to fight on May 9, defending two of her championship belts and trying to win a vacant third against Marie-Eve Dicaire in Shields' hometown of Flint, Michigan. Instead, like the rest of the sports world during the coronavirus pandemic, she's waiting to find out when she'll fight again. In an as-told-to story with Michael Rothstein, she shares what life has been like during this time.
Just like everything else, my fight was rescheduled. I don't know if I was ahead of the game or not, but I was kind of waiting for them to tell me that. Because I already knew. The NBA shuts down and all these other sports shut down and they are pushing back the Olympics; it wasn't even a thought in my mind I would still fight on May 9. I know I'm a big boxing star, but there's no way I'm going to still fight if all these other sports are not.
It feels like it's my first real break in probably about 10 years. Then, I was a teenager. I went nine months without boxing before, but I was still training. I didn't really have to travel a lot because we knew most of the tournaments I would have to go to I would be uncontested, which meant I wouldn't have a matchup, so I would stay home.
I'm glad I've actually got some downtime. I watched all my favorite TV shows: "Supergirl," "Black Lightning," "For Life." I'm watching "Good Girls" now; Season 3 just started before stay-at-home orders. I watched any movie I could possibly think of on Netflix already that I'm interested in. It got to the point where if I have to get up one more day and watch another movie, I'm going to break this damn TV.
I started reading a book called "Millionaire Mindset" and started taking a digital marketing business class. That's occupying more of my time, and I think it's a great thing to do. It's inspired from former welterweight world titleholder Andre Berto saying if you haven't learned a new skill with the time we have off during the coronavirus, you're never going to learn it.
When he said that, I was like, dang. I want to learn about business and I want to learn about promoting and all this different stuff. Here I am with all the extra time and I'm freaking watching TV. Let's get productive.
I was supposed to start T-Rex Boxing Promotions when I was scheduled to fight last August. I had a fighter I was even going to sign, but since I dislocated my knee, we didn't do it. But all the paperwork for T-Rex Boxing Promotions is filed. It's an actual entity.
I wanted to start promoting my own shows here in Flint and Detroit, so I wanted to learn about it. That's what keeps me from doing a lot of things. I'm not, like, a half-doer. If I do something, I give it 100 percent. Whatever it is, I give it 100 percent. If I can't give it 100 percent and I don't know what I'm doing, I just won't do it. That's just how I am.
That's the thing about self-care during this time. Self-care for me is resting. Self-care for me is training. Self-care for me is learning new stuff. That's self-care for me. Sometimes some of the stuff involved with boxing isn't self-care. I'm not talking about the training part but the interviews, having to go back-and-forth with my opponent and social media. That's not self-care. I'm just keeping it real.
People say that's a part of my life. No. I get tired of telling girls they are lying and they are not telling the truth and they don't want to fight me. They are scared of me. There was a point in time earlier in the year where I actually deactivated my Twitter page for a whole month. I was going to do the same thing with Instagram, but my manager, Mark Taffet, was like, "Claressa, no way. No." I'm like, "Well, you guys run it." I get tired of having to block people and having to deal with trolls.
I've been watching some influencers on Instagram and it's eye-opening. I can actually handle some of these situations better. I don't have to continue going back and forth arguing with other fighters or fans or trolls. Actually, there's different ways to handle it. So after this, I may come back and be not as argumentative as I am now.
I don't do anything at 50 percent. I'm definitely pushing my MMA debut back. Right now, I can't start my MMA training. Before I get in the ring with Amanda Nunes, I would have to have some sort of experience. Not just training experience, but some experience inside the cage and fighting someone who is even close to as good as her. She knows I'm going to give her hell in the boxing ring, and I know she's going to give me hell inside the Octagon. So I have to give myself a fair chance. It wouldn't be like she would be my first fight in MMA. I don't know who came up with that idea.
My first fight in MMA was supposed to be end of the year, beginning of next year. Now maybe it'll be the middle of next year. I'm not going in there blind. I'm not. I can kick a little bit and I've been learning some jiu-jitsu and some submission moves, but I haven't done this seriously enough to where I can do this stuff in my sleep. I can box in my sleep, but I can't do that stuff. I have to really think hard about the moves I've learned and the techniques of kicking. In boxing I know how to let my hands go and the form and the power and everything. It's just already embedded in me. I want MMA to be the same way.
I was in Spain doing some Olympic Channel commentating when COVID-19 started getting some air. This was in early March. The first thing I knew was Spain closed down its schools. Then I saw Donald Trump said no flights from Europe would be able to come to the United States in the next 24 hours.
I wanted to leave earlier than my flight was initially booked that day because they were also canceling flights and raising prices. It was crazy. I booked a flight for $2,000 that had me leaving at 7 a.m. I was told I can cancel it because my flight was safe to make and it wasn't getting canceled. If it did get canceled, they said to reach out to them. I'm like, I'm not going to get stuck in Spain for a whole month.
My main thing was get home. Even if I have to get to New York and drive a car back to Michigan, just get back to the States.
No one was telling us to stay inside in Michigan at the beginning of all of this. So I was going to my friend's house, my mom's house, doing the usual things I do like going to the grocery store and taking pictures with fans that see me. Then they said we have a death from the coronavirus in Michigan and this many people are testing positive for COVID-19, and we don't want any groups of more than 100 and then no groups more than 50 and then no groups more than 10.
My 25th birthday was on Tuesday, March 17. I was supposed to have a bowling get-together for my party. I wanted to have a nice dinner for the older people and then wanted to have something for the kids and take them bowling. Then everything closed. So I went out to my balcony, got my hair flat-ironed by my beautician and went outside to take a picture in my yellow dress. While I'm taking it, the wind is messing up the picture because my hair was so soft and blowing so I couldn't get a good picture.
I talked to my party planner on my birthday and he said that the party was still going to happen. The next morning he's like, "We got to cancel the party." So there was no big celebration, but the people around me made me feel very special. My brother got me this Muhammad Ali poster sent all the way from China. My boyfriend gave me a Build-A-Bear. My mentor and her daughters, who I consider my best friends, gave me red velvet and strawberry cupcakes.
Now I've been sheltering in place with my little brother, his girlfriend, my 4-month-old nephew and my boyfriend, L.J., and my other two nephews for some of the week. I'm actually teaching one how to box, how to protect and defend himself. He's 6, and on top of boxing, I'm also teaching him how to read. He knows the sounds of letters, so that's a good start.
I just bought a house before all of this and built my gym in the basement in a rush in anticipation of everything closing. I went and got some floors, and we put those down. Then we added the punching bag and the crunch bench. I bought my treadmill, and my boyfriend, best friend and nephew put it together. I have a treadmill, boxing bag, battle ropes, crunch bench, weights, boxing gloves, all that stuff in my basement. I even went and got a space heater. We moved in to the new house as soon as we could.
I started my YouTube channel, the Claressa Shields GWOAT channel, to stay motivated, work out and keep people in the house for 20, 40 minutes at a time. That's me playing my part. I tried to put some advice out there for people. Hey, if you're gaining a little bit of weight, don't just sit around, don't get depressed. Do some chores. Go outside and go for a walk but don't go where everybody else is. Open a window. Wash your dishes. Clean under your couches for once. That's a place we don't clean under.
I was never scared of the coronavirus, and I'm still not. Just because you're aware of something doesn't mean you're scared. That's where I've seen a lot of people, especially in my community and world, they are taking it for granted. We're all adults who believe in God and are protected by the grace of God but also, it's more of, like, being aware. I think people are lacking in this situation, thinking that for you to respect you can get sick from the virus means you have to be scared of it. No. It's a serious virus going around, and everybody's catching it. Don't go outside. Don't be in large group gatherings. That's all it is. You know, that's what people need to be aware. Respect the awareness. Not out of fear. Respect the awareness. Just be aware. That's all. Be aware.