Claressa Shields steering into a dead end?
By Gav Duthie: It is entirely possible that Claressa Shields 4-0 (2) is just too good. The unified Super Middleweight world champion faces Tori Nelson 17-0-3 (2) tonight. Boxrec has the 41-year-old Nelson at #2 in their rankings so the question is what does Shields do after this.
I have little doubt that she will win this fight and when it happens she is well ahead of schedule. For most men unifying world titles and beating the next best in your division would take 30/40 fights even if you are world class. Shields could do it at 5. Boxrec has only 18 women registered in the Super Middleweight division and half of them are not worth Shields fighting so the question is where does she go over the next 5-10 years? She is only 22 years old so is female boxing in her generation big enough to sustain a worthwhile career?
Providing she wins tonight Claressa has already set 3 ambitious goals for her career. The first is to fight middleweight champion and female P4P contender Christina Hammer 22-0 (10) in the summer. Both girls are promoted by former male jnr welterweight contender Dimitry Salita 35-2-1 (18) so that shouldn’t be a problem. Then she wants one of the world’s best female boxers ever in Cecilia Braekhus 32-0 (9) who is the current welterweight champion. That is a full 20lb drop for Shields unless they can agree to a catchweight. Fights like this are extremely rare in men’s boxing (Kell Brook-Gennady Golovkin up 13lbs, Guillermo Rigondeaux- Vasyl Lomachenko up 8lbs) but in female boxing it is more common because there just isn’t enough quality within the divisions themselves. Christy Martin gained 15lbs to face Laila Ali over a decade ago, but she looked overweight and it was a mismatch. Her third ambition is to break into the men’s pound-for-pound list. Not to fight them (which she could probably do by the way) but just to be in the list of greatest current boxers.
Other potential opponents
The only other legitimate contender for Shields is prospect Savannah Marshall but she has only fought once so far as a professional. Englishwoman Marshall is promoted by Floyd Mayweather, so her progress might be slow if she is looking to be on undercards. Shields amateur record was 79-1 (19) and her only loss was to Savanah Marshall. Perhaps a bit left field would be Laila Ali 24-0 (21). She retired in 2007 but was only 30 at the time and it was mostly due to a lack of opponents. The reason I think it might be remotely possible is twofold. Ali was talking a couple of years ago about fighting Ronda Rousey when she was a big name. The other is that she is a super middleweight, so it could happen however unlikely.
I have speculated before that the likes of Shields, Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams are maybe a generation too early to make the best of women’s pro boxing. They are pioneers and inspirations to future females. Every Olympic games will breed new stars and lots of women are now taking up boxing to get fit from watching these athletes. There simply isn’t enough quality right now and with greater quantity will provide better opponents. There is also more talk of crossover between boxing an MMA. Amanda Serrano has declared she is done with boxing soon and Cyborg has stated her ambition to box Cecilia Braekhus. At 22, Claressa is in a better position than Taylor, 30, and Adams, 35, to have a top career as a pro but she could be running out of ideas to fulfil her goals very quickly.