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OLYMPIC CONTENDER Claressa Shields

Sunday, January 29, 2012

CLARESSA SHIELDS (Middleweight 165lb/75kg)
Age: 17
Age started boxing: 11
Record: 2012 Olympics Team USA 

Listen to Claressa's audio diary.

Biography: Like most miracles, Claressa Shields is hard to describe. In a way she’s just a kid with a kid’s smooth skin, hyperactive mind, and addiction to portable electronics. Then she gets in the ring and the temperature of the room rises ten degrees. In terms of pure talent, she’s probably the best woman boxer I’ve ever seen.

Her father could have been a contender, but jail put an end to his career. When he made an offhand remark about admiring Laila Ali, the 11-year old Claressa thought he was encouraging her to box. He wasn’t, but the misreading was typical Claressa, whose innocent optimism may be her greatest weapon. Shields opened up in a recent feature in Essence magazine, revealing a tale of childhood abuse not unlike Underwood’s. This shocking revelation makes Shield’s radiant self-confidence even more astounding. 

Boxing style: Claressa possesses a ferocious desire to establish dominance over her opponents. She has a naturalness in the ring that only comes to those who took up boxing as children. Her balance and handspeed are superb. She’s probably at her best in center ring where the judges can get a good look at her five- and six-punch combinations, but I’ve also seen her fight quite effectively off the ropes. She slips punches like a pro.

In China, Great Britain’s Savannah Marshall stunned Shields – and me! – by handily outboxing her, ruining Shields' unspoiled record. Marshall is a tough, rangy fighter who knows how to use her height. Shields’ inexperience finally caught up with her, as she was unable to deal with Marshall’s movement and skillful use of the clinch.


(Sue Jaye Johnson)

Luckily, Marshall was the eventual gold medalist in the tournament, which pulled Shields high up enough in the standings relative to the other middleweights from the Americas to punch her ticket. This was a valuable learning experience for Shields, who goes to London bloodied but unbowed. "God wanted me to lose," she says.


Claressa Shields absorbs her first loss at the Women's World Championship in China. (Sue Jaye Johnson)

Shields’ medal chances in London: Shields has seen what Marshall can do, so the question is: Have she and trainer Jason Crutchfield done enough to prepare her for the rematch? I know that US Head Coach Basheer Abdullah and crew will do their best, but the last-minute coaching shifts do not inspire confidence. (The US team was still leaderless just a month before the Games, and Abdullah himself will be banished from the London field of play for an AIBA rule infraction.) The strategic leadership will likely come from Shields herself and the work she’s done with Crutchfield back home. Middleweight strikes me as the weakest division of the three, with a big drop off in talent after Shields, Marshall, and the skilled Elena Vystropova of Azerbaijan, a tall fighter who gives great angles. Canada’s Mary Spencer could also contend, although she’s probably post-peak and has looked sluggish lately. I’m sticking to my guns and betting on ‘Ressa to take home the gold.

See Claressa's New York Times Magazine video.

Claressa Shields
(Sue Jaye Johnson)

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Comments [10]

Tony Morales from NYC

HOLD YOUR HEAD UP HIGH CLARISSA, YOU'VE MADE THE USA PROUD! GOD BLESS YOU.

Aug. 10 2012 07:01 AM
Ms Wanda

The gold is yours Clarissa. I happened upon ur story last week. I knew u could do it(present tense). The gold is Clarissa's!I pray God continue to bless u and ur family and Mr jason.

Aug. 09 2012 01:41 AM
Terri

I've heard snippets of Claressa's story a few times and find it so touching. What a wonderful young woman to serve as an inspiration to people of all ages and genders.

Jul. 24 2012 05:23 PM
Kehinde from Nigeria

Love your spirit and dedicated ambitions. The sky is your limit
Love from Africa Nigeria

Feb. 28 2012 06:28 AM
ebwally from BROOKLYN

Congratulations Claressa! Non-stop til gold. Enjoy every step and hit. Thank you!

Feb. 19 2012 02:31 AM
ebwally from New York City

Go get 'em Clarissa! We're all with you in the ring, all the way to London. From Brooklyn, NY with love and gratitude.

Feb. 17 2012 10:18 AM
onya liggins

Give them hell lil cuz, bring it home Muffin. Luv you!

Feb. 13 2012 10:42 AM
Bryant BB Nolden from Flint Mi

Clarissa, I know you are already, a Champion! Now the world will see, show them were you are from FLINT MI! (Berston Field House)

Feb. 11 2012 05:49 PM
Aliah Scroggins from Flint

Claressa, You ready! It is not a question but a statement. I know your hard work and determination will pay off. Go represent your family friends and city; Flint, and give it your all. You are already a champion, now go ahead and snatch that Boxing title champion as well. Best wishes, Good luck! love ya!!

Feb. 10 2012 07:12 PM
Monique Wilson

i've attended school with Clarissa and also played basketball wit her. she's a great asset to any environment. she has heart mind and strength to win. and i knew she was going to blow her competition out of the water from the beginning. gook luck Clarissa help flint look like more than it is!

Feb. 06 2012 10:24 PM

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