Claressa Shields became the first boxer in United States history to win two Olympic gold medals, claiming the women’s middleweight (75kg) gold in Rio, just as she did four years ago in London.
With women’s boxing only added to the Olympics in 2012, Shields has established herself as the best women’s boxer in the amateur ranks, pound-for-pound, period. The 21-year-old from Flint, Michigan, has dominated in both Olympic Games, meeting little by way of true resistance, because she’s simply that far ahead of her competition.
To put it another way, if a male boxer from the U.S. were as dominant on the amateur level as Shields, he would be considered a phenom. That’s what Claressa Shields is: a phenom.
Her opponent int he final was Nouchka Fontijn of the Netherlands, a second-seeded fighter in the division. And the fight was not close. Fontijn, 28, can fight. So can Dariga Shakimova, 27, the bronze medalist from Kazakhstan, dispatched handily by Shields in the semifinal. There is a sense that the women’s divisions lack the depth of the men’s side. And it’s true, for what it’s worth, but once you get to the top few fighters, at the very least, they can fight. And Shields is a handful of classes above even the best of the rest at 75kg.
The question now is whether or not Claressa Shields will turn professional. Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions is known to be interested. Floyd Mayweather, a fellow Michigander who has long supported boxing in his native state, would likely be interested, too.
Mixed martial arts has proven that women fighters can headline pay-per-views and be big crossover stars. Boxing, as usual, is behind the times. But Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza has said he believes the market is there for her to become a star.
Women’s boxing has never taken off in the United States, other than bits here and there with the likes of Laila Ali or Holly Holm, who was really a regional star in Albuquerque, and a couple of others, but that doesn’t mean it can’t. And Claressa Shields, a charismatic, young, powerful, and skilled boxer, might be the woman to lead a breakthrough.