Making The Case For Claressa Shields As Boxing’s GOAT

Last Friday, Claressa Shields made history again by claiming the WBC and WBO 154-pound world championships. She dominated Ivana Habazin with a unanimous decision win on SHOWTIME from Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City.

Shields (10-0, 2 KOs) overpowered Habazin from the opening bell, utilizing a strong jab and a steady diet of body shots that left the Croatian mostly in defensive mode throughout the 10-round fight. In the sixth round, a series of body shots forced Habazin to take a knee in the first knockdown of her career. It was also the first knockdown for the world champion in her professional career.

Following the knockdown, Habazin continued forward but did so without throwing many punches. Habazin (20-4, 7 KOs) threw just 285 compared to 516 for Shields, who also connected on 38 percent of her power shots compared to just 18 percent for Habazin.

The near-shutout was scored 99-89, 100-90, 100-89.

Shields is the self-proclaimed “Greatest Woman Of All Time” aka the “GWOAT” yet she has received flack for the title. In boxing, it is not unfamiliar for champions to brand themselves after a storied career. It also comes part in parcel for the industry and the fans to balk at the labeling. Floyd Mayweather‘s “The Best Ever” or “TBE” claim is the biggest example with many pointing to Julio Cesar Chavez as the true claimant to that throne.

However, with Shields crossing gender boundaries with her fast track to success, it begs the question: is she currently the greatest boxer of all time?

Making The Case For Shields

Shields became the fastest fighter in history, male or female, to win world titles in three different weight divisions. With the win she surpasses the record of Vasiliy Lomachenko and Kosei Tanaka, who both accomplished the feat in 12 fights.

The 24-year-old Shields is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and the current undisputed middleweight champion of the world, as well as a tireless advocate and ambassador for her hometown of Flint, Michigan.

Shields is one of only seven boxers in history, female or male, to hold all four major world titles in boxing—WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO—simultaneously. She joins Bernard Hopkins (2004–2005), Jermain Taylor (2005), Cecilia Brækhus (2014–), Terence Crawford (2017), Oleksandr Usyk (2018–2019), and Katie Taylor (2019–).

In a decorated amateur career, Shields won gold medals in the women’s middleweight division at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, making her the first American boxer—female or male—to win consecutive Olympic medals.

Shields was the youngest boxer at the February 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, winning the event in the 165 lb middleweight division. She qualified for the 2012 Olympic games, the first year in which women’s boxing was an Olympic event, and went on to become the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing. In 2018, the Boxing Writers Association of America named her the Female Fighter of the Year.

Shields has never experienced the support of her progenitors. You’ve never seen her with Laila Ali, Ann Wolfe, or Lucia Rjiker as a mentor or even her native Michigan star, Floyd Mayweather.

Her promoter is the lesser-known Salita Promotions and former champion Dmitry Salita. Her manager is Mark Taffett., a former HBO boxing executive  She is the unintended star in a crowded space that is brash enough to tout her own accomplishments while still being active.

Still, while fighters like Lomachenko are celebrated for quick success, Shields is criticized for it. Last year, former champion Christy Martin was highly critical of Shields’ claim on an episode of the PRITTY Left Hook podcast. The vitriol behind Martin’s comments were dismissed as “hate” by Shields but her comments and the absence of Laila Ali from the Shields machine is deafening.

There is only one other major challenge for Claressa Shields and that is welterweight queen, Cecilia Braekhus. Can Shields make that lower weight or meet at a catchweight is the question but without that fight, Shields will constantly be on the hunt for quality opponents.

But with the landmarks she has already achieved, the narrative should be revisited about what constitutes being the greatest athlete in boxing.


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