Three days after the footage emerged, the double Olympic gold medalist was scheduled for her first world title fight on Aug. 4 against unbeaten super middleweight champion, Nikki Adler. Despite only contesting three professional bouts thus far, the 22-year-old has been able to fast-track her way to the WBC and vacant IBF title on the back of a stellar amateur career that saw her beaten just once in 79 outings.
The disparity in punching prowess between MMA proponents and boxers is under the microscope more than ever with Floyd Mayweather’s meeting with Conor McGregor looming. Many have questioned whether the Irishman’s infamous knockout power will translate to boxing. According to Shields, even though she competes over 20 pounds heavier than Cyborg, the Brazilian knockout artist’s power was evident from the rounds they shared in Las Vegas. However, Shields stressed that the real test is maintaining that strength over 12 rounds.
“She’s physically strong, you know?” Shields told MMA Fighting.
“We decided together before what we were going to put out on social media. There are two videos out at the moment. One of them is a full round of sparring and the other is a highlight that Cris put together of both of our good moments during our session.
“Everybody likes to see action. We sparred at a pretty high pace and I think that made it a good watch for everyone. Cris is strong, but it’s really about how much time she has spent purely boxing.
“Cecilia Braekhus is the number one pound for pound women’s boxer at the moment at 147 pounds,” Shields added. “Cris may be stronger than her, but when you have to be strong for twelve rounds, that’s where the big differences in skill are going to show up.
“The jab isn’t as established as you see in the pro ranks, and the combinations too. If Cris worked on both of those things she could transition to boxing very well. I really believe that.”
There has been a lot of debate about whether McGregor can land a punch on Mayweather given his unparalleled defensive savvy in the ring. “T-Rex” believes the Dubliner is capable of “touching” Mayweather, but insisted that 49-0 boxer would need to uncharacteristically throw himself into exchanges with McGregor to get caught clean.
“McGregor might be able to touch him, but when you’re talking about hitting him clean, that can only happen if Mayweather decides that he is going to exchange with McGregor,” Shields said.
“When you look at the footage of me and Cris you’ll see that I’m constantly engaging her and going forward.
“I don’t fight like Mayweather. He’s a counter puncher. He likes to move backward, left and right. I might move left and right, but I’m always going forward to engage. You see with Cyborg, she kept coming forward and meeting me in the middle and that forced the exchanges.
“For Conor to have a chance at catching Mayweather, Mayweather will have to meet him in the middle of the ring and exchange,” Shields continued. “Maybe then he could catch him clean.
“Other than that, if Mayweather fights like he usually fights, it's very unlikely that he’ll be caught clean. Look at his fights with Manny Pacquiao and ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. He doesn’t care what the fans think. All he cares about is winning.
“If Mayweather sticks to his usual counter-punching style, I can see it being a long night for Conor McGregor, especially in the later rounds. He’s used to being in the cage for five rounds of five minutes rather that twelve three-minute rounds in the ring. That’s a big difference.”
As someone who has reached the pinnacle of the amateur sport, Shields is in a better position to question the sporting merit of the polarizing boxing bout than most. Yet, she seems happy for both Mayweather and McGregor as they look to capitalize on the “genuine interest” that the masses have in their matchup.
“I’m not upset about the fight at all,” stated Shields.
“Conor McGregor has his fan base and Floyd Mayweather has his. Just like in the news and the media, they know how to draw people in. There’s genuine interest in this fight.
“I’m not mad about it in the slightest,” she continued. “All I know is, when my time comes, I’ll be fighting top prospects in front of millions in Vegas. I’ll be the main event on pay-per-view. Right now I’m happy that I’m able to enjoy my journey. I like that I can go to the store without bringing a team of security guards with me.
“A few months from now, I probably will need security guards when I’m walking around town. Every time people will recognize me they’ll be chanting, “When I say two times, you say ‘Champ!’”