'The Female Floyd Mayweather', 'the GWOAT' (Greatest Woman of all Time), 'the T-Rex' and 'the Wolf'.
No, that is not the opening exchange of a woefully executed 'walked into a bar joke'. Instead, they are just some of the many nicknames boxing behemoth Claressa Shields has been attributed. But in a few days’ time, the outspoken, controversial, but undoubtedly deadly, WBA, WBC, IBF, and The Ring middleweight champion will walk into a sold out O2 Arena to face Savannah Marshall – the WBO middleweight champion and the only woman to have beaten the American in the ring.
Their status as the headliners of the first ever all women’s fight card has already cemented both fighters into boxing history, if they were not already chiselled into it. However, this battle will be remembered not as the crowning achievement of women’s boxing, but as a brutal and, potentially final chapter of a vicious, personal rivalry characterising Shields as the villain of this affair.
READ MORE: Savannah Marshall and Claressa Shields separated by security in furious insult exchange
“I’m getting made out to be the bad guy in this fight, because people dislike me for how great I am,” Shields said, proudly, in an exclusive interview with Daily Star Sport. “People dislike me because of how vocal I am about women’s boxing, about how great I am about my skills and my accomplishments, and they see that as bragging or intimidating.
“But when I speak about my record and I speak about what I have done, that’s not bragging, that’s facts. That’s factual. You can go and find it in black and white.
“If you just walk around like ‘I’m alright, I’m a decent fighter’ people may want to get behind you because they think ‘oh that’s a good person, they don’t make me feel intimidated’. But I think my greatness rubs people up the wrong way. They don’t understand that I am just embracing what God wanted me to do.”
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Do Shields’ self-coronations of greatness strike a particular chord? Are your bells of familiarity ringing at the sound of her ostentatious statements? Does one name come to mind when such conversations of boxing greatness are catapulted into the conversation? Is that name Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Jr?
The 50-0 legendary middleweight was difficult to love but impossible to ignore. Naturally, he is a particular admirer of Shields’ work, regularly visiting the 28-year-old at her gym and even reaching out to her in a congratulatory face-time after her recent victory against Ema Kozin
Shields’ hip-shooting interviews and supreme confidence in herself has, as you would expect, drawn natural conversations with Mayweather. Yet, all boxers are the No.1 in their own eyes and very few are unwilling to administer the crown on their own head when the cameras set upon them.
"I think people consider me like the girl Floyd Mayweather," Shields added. "They want to see me fight, but they also want to see the person who is undefeated lose. The person who people say is unbeatable. The person they say is cocky, confident, they want to see that person lose, who believes in themselves."
Shields’ record as a professional boxer is currently 12-0 – identical to Marshall’s record in what is another fascinating angle on their clash at the O2. However, the 28-year-old’s staggering 64-1 record in the amateur division is staggering and, perhaps, deserving of the glorious, if not overly cliched, ‘GOAT’ or ‘GWOAT’ tag.
But while the likes of Ricky Hatton have accused Mayweather of abandoning his humble roots in exchange for cash, gold, and super car fleets, Shields’ feet remain, firmly, in her Michigan roots. Her straight talking and often intimidating persona was overwhelmed by sheer emotion when a street in her home-town of Flint, Michigan, was renamed ‘Claressa Shields Street’.
Her infamous braids were dyed blue to raise awareness of the Flint Water Crisis that saw her town’s drinking supply become contaminated. But that is one aspect of her dedication to her hometown.
“God blessed me to be a woman fighter, God blessed me to change the women’s boxing game, he put the skills and all the assets inside of me, and he told me to speak on it. Let the world know a young black, poor girl from Flint Michigan, made it out to become the best in the world. How? By relying on me, by listening to me, believing in her purpose.
“But what I will say is that I embrace people, I love boxing, and I accept my purpose, and if you don’t understand that, you will always see me as the cocky fighter and the bad guy.
"But in real life, I am the super hero. I am the one that when people don’t have any hope in themselves, and they say ‘oh, I’m poor, I’m black, I’m a girl’ they look at me and they say ‘I can become something because Claressa Shields did. I can become something because she believed in herself, so I need to believe in myself’.
"When you look at that, then you will understand how I feel when people disrespect my greatness and my hard work."
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