I’ve written about quirky athletes and unusual sports, but Claressa Shields is just physically and mentally tough. And that’s perfect, because she’s an Olympic boxer.
17-year old-Claressa from Flint, Michigan will represent the USA in London in the first ever Olympic Women’s Boxing competition.
I first heard about Claressa on a February “All Things Considered” podcast from NPR. She was preparing for the US Olympic Trials and we got to hear what a typical day was like for her.
At the time she was sleeping on a couch at her aunt’s house. Despite living there with her younger brother and three cousins, it was easier for her to focus on her boxing without the distractions and ups and downs of living with her mother.
Like other juniors in high school, she also had to deal with the distraction of boys. Her phone rang once at the end of a workout as her coach, Jason Crutchfield, was giving her post-workout instructions. He asked if boys would be an issue with her training and she assured him they were just friends.
Claressa’s father was in prison from the time she was two until she was nine. He was known as “Cannonball” in the underground fighting world. One day she asked about boxing and he replied it was a “man’s sport.” I guess she was intent on proving him wrong, because she’s been boxing since age 11. Now they review video of her fights together and share his passion for boxing.
Shields says she leaves all stress behind when she enters the gym; if she could, she’d live there. She is at a place in her life where most people start to decide what they want to do in the future. Boxing has given her goals that are leading her to places and opportunities she wouldn’t get to experience otherwise.
Her journey to London started out strong. At the Olympic trials Claressa was the tournament’s youngest boxer but was named its most outstanding after defeating reigning national champion Franchon Crews and 2010 world champion Andrecia Wasson to win the 165-pound weight class. Not long after her victories at the trials, she beat the world’s top ranked boxer at 165, Mary Spencer of Canada, at a continental championship.
She had made the team, but now she had to qualify for the Olympics.
The World Championships were last week in Qinhuangdao, China and a finish in the top-eight finish would secure her spot in London. It was a totally different experience than that of the trials. Claressa had to wait to hear her destiny after a loss in the second round to England’s Savannah Marshall. Shields earned her spot when Marshall won her semifinal match.
Talking to Crutchfield about her loss to Marshall she said “Coach, I’m going to tell you this: I lost my cool, I lost my legs, and I lost my composure.” I believe her when she says it’s not going to happen again and I think now we’re going to see the fire and hunger of this 17 year old fighter as she proves it.
I hear NBC will offer 5535 hours of Olympic coverage… any bets on how many of those hours I’ll watch? I’ve never followed boxing much (besides betting on Pacquiao just because I was in Vegas) but I will be watching Claressa August 5th-9th.