Fighting

She has two title belts and her own TV deal. Meet the new face of women's boxing

Claressa Shields poses with her championship belts after defeating Hanna Gabriels, of Costa Rica, during their IBF and WBA women's middleweight championship boxing bout Saturday, June 23, 2018, in Detroit.
Claressa Shields poses with her championship belts after defeating Hanna Gabriels, of Costa Rica, during their IBF and WBA women's middleweight championship boxing bout Saturday, June 23, 2018, in Detroit.

For a 15-year period, women’s boxing neared mainstream acceptance. Beginning with Christy Martin fighting in promoter Don King’s pay-per-view telecasts in the mid-1990s to Laila Ali headlining events in the mid- to late-2000s, women’s boxing enjoyed wider appeal.

The Academy Award-winning film “Million Dollar Baby” in 2004 further underscored the sport’s approval. Now, after a decade of disinterest, women’s boxing seeks to reclaim followers, and Claressa Shields is gaining consideration as the face of this new mission.

Thanks to a decorated Olympic career, Shields earned a world title opportunity in her fourth professional bout. Moreover, Shields landed a TV deal with Showtime. On Friday night, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, who represented the United States in 2012 and 2016, headlined a card and Showtime telecast with her bout against Hanna Gabriels in Detroit.

Just as she amassed Olympic gold medals, Shields is capturing professional belts at a rapid pace following her unanimous decision victory over Gabriels. Shields overcame a first-round knockdown and dominated the remaining nine rounds. The victory earned Shields (6-0) a vacant world middleweight title after she won a super-middleweight belt in her fourth professional fight.

“Tonight was my night, and I have to show the world I’m the greatest of all time,” Shields said. “I showed who I am. Now, I’m really dangerous because you can even put me down and I’ll still come back to win.” Helping recapture women’s boxing popularity is a role Shields, 23, gladly welcomes.

Shields Gabriels Boxing(2).JPG
Claressa Shields, left, throws a punch at Hanna Gabriels, of Costa Rica, during the 10th round of their IBF and WBA women's middleweight championship boxing bout, early Saturday, June 23, 2018, in Detroit. Shields won the bout by decision. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

“I want to lift women’s boxing for all the women past, present and future,” Shields said. “I want equality for women and men in boxing.”

Shields’ new trainer, John David Jackson, who recently guided light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, agrees that his fighter possesses the characteristics to raise the sport’s profile.

“She’s bringing boxing back in two ways — one, for the female fighters but also for the boxing community,” Jackson said. “She’s refreshing.”

AROUND THE RING

Unbeaten local welterweights Harold Calderon and John David Martinez headline the second South Florida show of the year July 6 at the Seminole Hard Rock Events Center in Hollywood. Calderon (16-0, 10 KOs) and Martinez (10-0, 8 KOs) will fight in a scheduled 10-round bout that tops a card promoted by Fort Lauderdale-based Heavyweight Factory.

For ticket information, go to www.ticketmaster.com or call 800-745-3000. Telemundo network will resume its seasonal Friday night broadcasts July 20 in Kissimmee.

Flyweights Jonathan Gonzalez, of Puerto Rico, and Mexico’s Julian Yedras will fight in the card’s main event. Promoted by Miami based All-Star Boxing, the fight will begin the first of four summer Telemundo telecasts that run through Aug. 10.

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