In the Nov. 3, 2016 issue of the Cheney Free Press, I wrote a column about two-time Olympic medalist Claressa Shields and her announcement that she would be competing in her first professional boxing bout a couple of weeks later. I didn’t expect that I would be returning to Shields less than four months after I penned the column — then again I didn’t think she would make a splash like she has done, less than six months into her professional boxing career.

Claressa Shields wins NABF championship

On March 11, Shields defeated Szilvia Szabados in her second professional Boxing bout to win the North American Boxing Federation female middleweight title — the first pro championship of her career. Although it was only her second foray as a pro fighter, it helped Shields establish a foundation that will allow her boxing career to grow.

At 90 seconds into the fourth round, Shields landed a strong right hand, followed by a left hook to Szabados that resulted in the referee stopping the match.

Critics would argue that the stoppage was early, and I would be inclined to agree with them if Shields hadn’t landed 95 of the 265 punches (36 percent) she threw — compared to Szabados successfully landing 11 of 137 strikes. Eighty of Shields’ shots were power punches. That said, props to Szabados for not backing down.

Shields’ fight with Szabados, which took place in front of 1,000 fans at the MGM Grand Ballroom in Detroit, an hour away from Shields’ hometown of Flint, Mich., was the first female fight to main event a premium television broadcast.

Claressa Shields could go far in her career

Shields has the talent, confidence and branding to achieve stardom in a sport that has had its share of great women fighters, but has yet to have a female athlete on the same level — in terms of star power — as boxing greats like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

What I like about Shields is her confidence. She says her boxing style is a combination of Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Leonard.

When she came to the ring and before the fight started, she commanded the crowd, like past fighters. Some may look at Shields' attitude as arrogant, but she’s displaying the same confidence that other combat sports stars like UFC champions Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. A personality like Shields is probably what’s missing in boxing these days. Part of Shields’ rise to superstar status will come from her ability to market her fights. Another part is making sure she gets quality opponents from boxing promoters.

Claressa Shields going forward

Shields is eyeing Christina Hammer, who is undefeated at 20-0 and holds both World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization female middleweight titles. It’s probably too early to tell whether or not Shields will be the saving grace of boxing, but if she continues to defeat good opponents, break barriers and achieve milestone after milestone, she will become one of the sports’ most successful stars.

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