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Claressa Shields fed up with sexism in boxing: ‘We’re not going to keep waiting on men to give women the opportunity’

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Claressa Shields
Claressa Shields
ESTHER LIN/MMAFIGHTING.COM

Despite winning two Olympic gold medals, nine championships and becoming the fastest person to ever claim titles across three divisions in boxing, Claressa Shields just couldn’t seem to book a big fight.

After building her professional record to a perfect 10-0 while becoming the WBC and WBO light middleweight champion in January 2020, Shields was looking forward to staying busy for the remainder of the year but the coronavirus pandemic kept her from competing for several months.

Unfortunately, even after boxing got restarted later in the year with several notable events, Shields was still stuck on the outside looking in when it came to finding a spot on a high-profile card.

“We had worked very, very close with Showtime, had a good working relationship with them,” Shields explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Then all of a sudden dates kept being pushed back and dates were being cancelled. Promises kept being made. Then before we knew it, they made a huge announcement where they basically announced their whole 2020 and Claressa Shields was nowhere on there.

“After that they said ‘don’t worry about that, Errol Spence wasn’t on there either’ and all of a sudden Errol Spence’s fight gets announced. Are we going to fight? And they just kept stringing us along and finally we just decided we couldn’t keep waiting on them so we started exploring our options.”

Shields and her team began looking at possible landing spots for her next fight but they eventually settled on an idea that has been kicking around her head for quite some time.

Rather than hoping that Showtime or another outlet would put Shields under the spotlight on pay-per-view where boxers routinely make a much larger share of the profits, she decided to take ownership of her career by building something from scratch instead.

“I always thought I should be pay-per-view,” Shields said. “I always thought that. Women’s boxing would flourish a lot more if we start now, and even if the numbers aren’t great, at least we’re starting to build our pay-per-view base.

“I always wanted to fight on pay-per-view or fight on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao or Errol Spence when they fought on pay-per-view. That was something I had said to Showtime and was just never given those opportunities.”

At just 25 years old, Shields has already accomplished a lot but she’s also constantly butted up against a glass ceiling when it comes to the perception that women’s fighters in the sport of boxing just aren’t as much of a draw as the men.

Shields has called out promoters as well as television broadcast partners for refusing to showcase women’s boxing at the same level as her male counterparts.

That’s a huge part of the reason why she’s now headlining an all-women’s pay-per-view on FITE TV against Marie-Eve Dicaire on March 5 called “Superwomen” because she was tired of waiting for the powers-that-be in boxing to finally come around to her way of thinking.

“We’re not going to keep waiting on men to give women the opportunity,” Shields said. “We have to go out and make it ourselves. My team went out and did what they do best, Mark Taffet and Dmitriy [Salita] and now we’re here.”

Shields has often spoke out for equality in boxing, especially after the attention she received when recently inking a multi-year deal to sign with the PFL to begin her mixed martial arts career.

As soon as that news broke, Shields saw her social media channels explode with new followers and supporters from around the globe not to mention a huge number of media outlets reaching out to speak to her.

Once upon a time, UFC president Dana White famously said that women would never fight in his promotion but just a few years later he was touting Ronda Rousey as the biggest superstar across all of sports — regardless of gender.

Seeing MMA stars like Rousey or upcoming UFC 259 co-headliner Amanda Nunes competing on the biggest cards and drawing millions of pay-per-views is proof to Shields that boxing has just woefully under appreciated the women’s fighters.

She’s hoping to change that narrative starting with her pay-per-view fight this weekend.

“This is what women’s boxing needs,” Shields said. “Men need to know that we’re not going to wait on them. I’m going to a place where no man has had to go. Like no man has had to go and fight his own pay-per-view card without any backing from the boxing networks. No man has had to do that. But the fact that I have to do it is showing that boxing is sexist.

“It’s also showing that I’m not afraid to go out here and make something for myself. I think that this will set a whole new wave for women’s boxing and other women are going to be fighting against the other best women and you’re going to have some super fights and there’s going to be women’s pay-per-views after this fight. This is just a great start.”

This will also hopefully be the beginning of a huge year for Shields after she was only able to compete once in 2020.

With plans to fight on March 5 and then turn her attention to her PFL debut later this year, Shields plans on making the most out of the year ahead and she’ll be damned if anybody is going to stop her.

“This is great. I have a busy year,” Shields said. “I have the fight in March, my boxing match and then I have my MMA debut in June. Then I want to have another boxing match. I would love to get Savannah Marshall in the boxing ring this year. She’s been doing a whole lot of mouthing off and talking, saying I went to MMA to run away from her and all this stuff she’s been saying. Like girl, you only got one belt and I’ve got nine. Hush up. I want to shut her up.

“So hopefully we make that fight happen, maybe August or September and then have my last MMA fight to close out the year.”