Laila Ali’s Former Promoter Yahya McClain Talks Claressa Shields Leveling Up

    Claressa Shields steps out on faith tonight chasing her second status as an undisputed light middleweight champion.

    Teaming with her promoter, Dmitry Salita of Salita Promotions and fight industry veteran, Mark Taffett, the trio are taking Shields’ talents to Fite TV for her first pay-per-view.

    Shields’ fight against Marie Eve Dicaire is now the second PPV headlined by women with the first being Laila Ali vs. Jacqui Frazier-Lyde back in 2001.

    Ali’s former promoter/husband Johnny “Yahya” McClain stopped by PRITTY Left Hook Live to discuss the women’s game.

    “I think what Claressa’s doing is exactly what she needs to do,” said McClain. “With social media, there’s really no excuse for any fighter to not get their reputation up. The promoters are going to gravitate to those with the big followers, the big numbers; right now the game has changed.

    ”Get them Instagram numbers up, promoters come knocking. With all of Claressa’s accomplishments, she should be a lot further than she is, she should be a lot bigger than she is but it takes more than just being successful in the ring.

    “You have to have a likable personality, you have to be able to cross that line and go into that other world so that you can have more than just your fans from Flint.

    “You want to have Black fans, White fans, Mexican, green blue, whatever, you want everyone to love you and want to see you win or you can take the route of everyone wanting to see your butt whooped but it’s best for everyone to see you in a positive light.”

    McClain, a former two-time world champion, helped guide Ali’s career, making her the biggest women’s boxing draw in history. She retired undefeated after a 9-year career facing the biggest names in sport of her era: Christy Martin and Erin Toughill.

    Before selling over 100k views on PPV, McClain experienced similar challenges as Shields when it came to a broadcast partner.

    “One of the first challenges was to have Laila on ESPN. At that point there had never been a women’s main event. We talked to Don King and Bob Arum of Top Rank and they wanted to put her on ESPN and said we’ll give you $10,000. This was for her pro debut.

    “I was like nah, I didn’t know exactly how much she was going to be worth at that point but I knew that Laila had never fought, she never fought any amateur fights because in the amateurs we can’t control who she fights and starting out we knew everybody was going to want to kill that Ali name.

    “We just learned on the job but when it came to that first fight, I did not want that first fight on TV. So that’s what the promoters were trying to do. They even went up to $15,000 and I say no because I knew from when I was fighting that there’s always more but I couldn’t get the money out of them but Laila definitely did.”

    McClain feels that Shields needs to watch her profanity, be more visible serving her community, although her fight braids are always blue to bring attention to the Flint water crisis.

    Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.