If you only know Claressa and Laila, you don’t know “ish” about boxing.
Claressa Shields crowned herself the “G.W.O.A.T.” way before her face-off this weekend was announced against Christina Hammer.
The claim to the “Greatest Woman Boxer Of All Time” throne can never be truly claimed by an active fighter. However, when looked at through the prism of true athleticism, or even star power, is the claim really true?
Many will throw it back to Laila Ali, daughter of the “Greatest” and undefeated two weight class world champion. Ali mixed beauty with boxing ferocity, breaking down barriers such as the lack of women’s boxing on PPV.
However, before Ali and Shields, there were other OGs who shook up the world.
The First Tyson Was Ann Wolfe
Many consider Ann Wolfe (24-1-1) to be the greatest women’s fighter and one of the world’s best boxers, period. Wolfe is also considered the hardest puncher in women’s boxing history as well.
Ann had a record of 3-1 as an amateur boxer and fought at the 1998 U.S. National Championships. She won a decision over Tami Hendrickson of Seattle in the quarter-final, 50-39, then went on to stop Shanie Keelean of Chicago within 46 seconds of the first round. In the semifinal, Wolfe lost to La’Kiea Coffen by disqualification at 1:23 of the third round.
Wolfe made her professional debut in 1998 and beat Brenda Lee Bell by a four round decision. Her first and only career loss came four fights later when she was knocked out in three rounds by veteran, and future world champion, Valerie Mahfood.
After that lone blemish, Wolf turned it all the way up.
When she won the IBA world light heavyweight title in 2004, she was officially holding a total of three world titles in three different weight divisions all at the same time. It’s a record she shares with the great Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Armstrong, The Ring’s 1937 Fighter of The Year.
Her last fight took place in 2006, thumping down her adversaries Cassandra Giger (via knockout) and Lisa Ested (via decision). She retired from boxing to become a trainer and currently coaches boxers such as James Kirkland.
To the delight of boxing fans, Wolf was in the cast of the 2017 movie “Wonder Woman” as the Amazon warrior, Artemis.
The Legend of Lucia Rijker
The Dutch-born fighter was once dubbed “The Most Dangerous Woman in the World”.
Lucia Rijker is a fighter’s fighter. She was a kickboxing champ before she entered the world of boxing, amassing an impressive, unblemished record of 36-0, with 25 of those victories coming from knockouts. This was all before Holly Holm became a kickboxer, boxer and mixed martial artist.
Rijker’s boxing career was nothing short of inspirational.
She was the former WIBF world Super Lightweight champion and WIBO junior welterweight world titleholder. She was also undefeated as a boxer, boasting a record of 17-0 with 14 victories by way of knockout. Rijker, started fast, winning her first 14 boxing matches before taking a hiatus from the sport.
Unfortunately, Rijker never fought her nemesis at the time, Christy Martin, which is what fans clamored for.
Rijker reentered the scene in 2002 and won three straight fights. In 2006, she took a break from boxing once more, saying that she would only consider going back to the ring if Laila Ali would fight her.
That fight never occurred.
This is why the Shields vs. Hammer fight is so necessary. The best female fighters rarely faced off, leaving many questions unanswered.
As the battle of undefeated women will result in an undisputed champion on Saturday night, take a moment to acknowledge those who predated this historic weekend. Boxing owes its female fighters the same respect and honors it confers upon the men in its popular culture.
Anything less, and you don’t know “ish” about boxing.