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From childhood abuse to absolute war with Billy Walsh, Claressa Shields has earned this the hard way

Rape survivor, Olympic champion, ‘The GWOAT’: Claressa Shields was dealt one of life’s most rotten hands, so she put her own to good use.

5728712547_2a8f964009_b Saginaw Street, Flint, Michigan. Source: Tony Faiola

THEY SAY THERE’S a difference between tough and being ‘Flint-tough’.

The birthplace of motor group GM and a former car-manufacturing powerhouse, the city of Flint, Michigan, flanks the river after which it is named, sitting about an hour’s drive from Detroit and the same distance from Lake Huron depending on which way you turn.

Its people have long been forced to prove their fortitude. The population of Flint has halved to less than 100,000 since 1960, and continues to drop by the year; the workforce at GM — formerly the chief driver of employment for ‘Flintstones’ — has decreased literally tenfold from its 1978 high of 80,000.

Since the turn of the millennium, the city has twice plunged into states of financial emergency. Between 2010 and 2012, it had the highest violent crime rate of any American city with 100,000 or more inhabitants. In 2016, it was technically America’s poorest city, US census data showing 45% of its total inhabitants and 58% of its under-18s to be living below the poverty line.

‘Forever chemicals’ seep into Michigan’s water — and House races Workers wait to hand out water to Flint residents from a Community Point of Distibution site at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church on 5 August, 2016 Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

More recently, Flint has sprung to international prominence for a water crisis which has resulted in 12 citizens dying from Legionnaires’ disease, the city’s insufficiently treated drinking water contaminated with lead from the pipes through which it flows.

Four city officials have since resigned from their posts, four more have been fired, and there have been 15 criminal indictments on top of multiple lawsuits filed against the city.

Then-US presidential candidate Donald Trump graced Flint with his presence in September 2016, taking in the city’s water plant and a local African-American church.

In the latter, he was interrupted by the pastor who reminded him that she had invited him there to speak about Flint and its Flint-tough citizens, not fire barbs at Hilary Clinton.

In the former, he promised to fix the city’s water crisis, joking:

It used to be that cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now cars are made in Mexico, and you can’t drink the water in Flint. That’s terrible.

Two years and seven months later, the crisis continues.

Flint Water Legal Bills Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced criminal proceedings against six Flint city officials last October. Source: Jake May

And so, contrary to the old Robert Schuller quote, tough times do last. They have in Flint, at least. But in keeping with the same quote, the city’s tough people have endured too.

There is a big difference between wanting to fight and needing to fight, and in a watertight contest it is usually the boxer with the deeper well from which to draw who has their hand hauled upwards when all is said and done.

Sure enough, Flint has birthed fighters such as the Byrd siblings, two of whom — Chris and Tracy — boast a plethora of honours, as well as the Dirrell brothers who have knocked around at the top end of the super-middleweight division for years. The late Tony Burton, who starred as ‘Duke’ Evers in the first six Rocky films, also hailed from Flint, and as well as being a two-time all-state football player was a Michigan Golden Gloves heavyweight champion.

But atop the pile of her punching predecessors from Flint stands Claressa Shields, aka ‘The GWOAT’, or ‘Greatest Woman Of All Time’.

Shields Hammer Boxing Unified middleweight world champion Claressa Shields. Source: AP/PA Images

The dust has settled in 2019 to unveil the indisputable truth that Shields and Ireland’s greatest, Katie Taylor, have become the chief catalysts in a culture shift within the overall sport of boxing; their post-Rio Olympics arrival in the pro game, along with the influx of their fellow former amateur talents, has seen the male and female codes begin to interweave, the latter having finally been identified by promoters and TV executives as an opportunity rather than an opt-out.

Here’s another truth, though: Shields and Taylor are female boxing’s Present but only one of them is also The Future. Taylor, though still only 32, will likely run out of road before she runs out of diesel; the Irish icon has maybe eight to 10 major stops left on her career itinerary and Shields, eight years her junior, will take the wheel from there, steering their sport to loftier heights still.

But most extraordinary about female boxing’s future flagship fighter is her past, and specifically how Claressa Shields overcame being dealt one of life’s most rotten hands by putting her own to good use.

Afflicted by a serious speech impediment, Shields didn’t start talking until she was about five. By that stage, her father Clarence ‘Bo’ Shields had been in prison for three years on a breaking-and-entering conviction. She wouldn’t meet him again for another four.

Shields’ mother, Marcella, abused alcohol and struggled to hold down a job. Marcella loved her children, of course, but they were often left to fend for themselves for days on end: Shields and her younger sister would sometimes wake at dawn and search for their mother to no avail. Shields would often forego food to feed her younger siblings; she would forfeit the couch and sleep on the floor so that one of them wouldn’t have to.

When she was five and scarcely able to speak, Shields was raped and sexually abused repeatedly by a male acquaintance of her mother’s.

During the 2012 Essence Magazine interview with journalist Lisa Armstrong in which Shields first spoke publicly of her having been raped, she posited that her speech impediment rendered her a target for these acts of pure evil; how would she speak up when she could barely speak at all?

When she did try to verbalise to her mother the horrors inflicted upon her at the age of five, it fell on deaf ears: Shields was 17 before Marcella came to terms with this darkest of realities. There was a profuse and tearful apology from Mom to her daughter. Seven years later, their bond could scarcely be more watertight.

But back when Shields was five, it was aunt Mary who listened. And then watched: pointing at a doll, Shields was able to communicate the crimes that had been committed against her.

Soon afterwards she moved in with her grandmother, Joanne, a former GM employee and the unconquerable force whom Shields would later tell people “stood at 5’10′ but with a 6’2′ attitude”.

‘Granny’ Joanne was recovering from cancer when Shields arrived on her doorstep, bags in tow. There was a symbiosis to their arrangement: Shields aided Joanne in her physical recovery, and Joanne inspired Shields to free her mind of the cruelty that had been inflicted upon her. Crucially, Joanne and her quiet abode afforded Shields the time to begin to find her words.

When she was 11 and back living with her mother for a stint, Shields, troubled in school, convinced her father — long removed from prison by this stage — to let her take up boxing.

The motion was passed via a family vote, but ‘Bo’ was initially reticent having himself previously graced the underground prizefighting circuit under the nickname ‘Cannonballs’, by all accounts to significant success.

Though he felt his daughter was “too pretty” to box — this was the first time Shields had ever considered herself pretty and it still pissed her off to no end — Bo eventually parted with the few bob and signed his daughter up for boxing lessons at Berston Field House on Flint’s Saginaw Street.

It was there, under the watch of trainer Jason Crutchfield in the basement gym, where a terrible beauty was born.

***

Shields Hammer Showdown Boxing Claressa Shields (R) in action against Hannah Gabriels in 2018. Source: Carlos Osorio

The phone rings sometime in March.

The caller’s area code is +1 (561), under which it says ‘Palm Beach County, Florida’.

The caller is Claressa Shields, who lives and trains out of the Sunshine State but will soon head for the snow-capped mountains of Colorado Springs, and then back again, to prepare for the most significant fight in the history of women’s boxing to date.

She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and the first American boxer — male or female — to win consecutive Olympic gold medals. She is a two-time amateur world champion. She is a two-weight and twice-unified professional world champion. She is the reigning Ring Magazine Women’s Fighter of the Year, the reigning Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) Women’s Fighter of the Year, and many — including the BWAA — currently consider her to be the finest female fighter on the planet. She is the first woman to headline a boxing card on premium TV in her homeland, and all but one entry from her eight-fight revolution as a professional has been televised.

Soon, her story will pivot to the big screen: director Barry Jenkins, whose 2017 film Moonlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture, is currently scripting a biopic based on her life.

When Shields was 17, she was paraded through the streets of Flint and given the freedom of her home city.

Now 24, she carries that city on her back, a sport on her shoulders, and has the world at her feet.

“Oh, man, it’s a big difference, being from Flint, Michigan,” Shields proudly tells The42. “Girls know that when they face me, I’m different to anybody they’ve ever faced. I’m not just tough. I’m mentally tough; I’m tougher than people give me credit for.

“But to be a woman and box the way that I do, it’s a blessing and it’s a curse at the same time.

It’s always been hard for me to get opponents. I haven’t just been avoided in the pros — it began in the amateurs. When I was 13 or 14 years old I was stopping girls, and when the Silver Gloves tournament would come around, my opponents would pull out; we’d sign in, we’d weigh in, and then my opponents’ families would get word from somebody, or somebody would show them some film, and they would pull their daughter — or whoever they had fighting against me — right out of the tournament.

“That was going on when I was 13 right up until I was 16 years old,” Shields adds. “I started getting fights in the women’s ranks but then I was taking them out easily also, so it’s just been that way for me since I was a kid.

“I didn’t really talk much, though, in the amateurs. I started doing most of my talking in 2016. Before that, all I wanted to do was box and win. I was really quiet and kept to myself.”

Right up until her early teens, that quietness was dictated by Shields’ inability to clearly articulate her thoughts.

There were too many doing laps of her young mind for her to relay at once, for starters. It caused a kind of neurological backlog, affecting her speech and, in turn, accentuating an already inherent fury.

School was a nightmare. Shields was tall and wafer-thin, sporting what she describes as “nappy hair”. Her fellow students would hassle and harry her, rip up her papers and shove her to the ground.

She recalls a tale from her pre-teens when she was at the end of her tether. A female schoolmate walked past her and pulled her hair. Adhering to conventional wisdom, Shields tried to ignore it, bowing her head and continuing with her business. But the unsatisfied prankster princess on this occasion came back for seconds.

Poor call.

Shields lit her up. Bish, bash, bosh. Boomf. Don’t bother with a count.

Nobody ever again pulled Claressa Shields’ nappy hair upon her return to school from a brief suspension. But an incident during which she threw a chair at a teacher dictated that there were anger management classes from fifth grade. Then came speech therapy.

“And really, the speech class wasn’t a speech class,” she says. “It was a ‘thinking’ class. It was like, ‘think before you talk’. And I was always talking before the thought in my head had been fully processed.

“I used to stutter really, really bad. I stutter sometimes now, but it used to be way worse. People would be like, ‘Just spit it out!’ Because it would truly take me so long to even say one sentence.

“I feel all of the different countries and people that I’ve been around — just boxing, period — helped me to open up and deal with my anger better.

“But once you know what you want to say, and you mean what you say, it also kind of gets easier to say it.

So, I think that when I first had my speech impediment, I was a really angry kid. I had so many things going on at home and at school, and so many thoughts were becoming clumped together, I just wanted to spit everything out but I couldn’t communicate it.

She had found her fists in a school hallway and was slowly beginning to find her feet outside of it. Within months, Shields was channelling that thunder into a pair of mitts, alleviating her pain within the more controlled environs of the gym at Berston Field House.

Shields Hammer Boxing Claressa Shields in preparation for her undisputed middleweight world championship clash with Christina Hammer in Atlantic City. Source: AP/PA Images

She would discover, too, that the pen was a mighty tool.

And then there was the almighty man above, to whom she was introduced by a divine presence in her life on the ground floor.

“To overcome any kind of abuse — sexual abuse, being neglected by family members or by your parents — I believe you do it through the grace of God,” Shields says.

“You know, my grandmother raised me along with my mom, and she instilled a lot of things in me. She instilled that toughness, that believing in myself. But she was also that person to talk to; she was there when I needed to talk to someone. Just being around her, I learned so much.

“Some of the things she said to me still live with me to this day. I try to follow her legacy the best way that I can. But she taught me about God, also. She took me to Church and she tried to talk me into getting baptised when I was about eight or nine. She told me that getting baptised was like riding a motorcycle down the aisle of the church. And I was like, ‘Oh, yeah! I wanna do that!’

“And I ended up not doing it because I saw somebody get baptised and I thought: ‘Aw, hell, no! I ain’t letting no pastor put me under no water!’

“Still, to this day, I’m scared to swim and scared to put my head underwater,” Shields laughs.

“When I did get baptised when I was 13, it kind of just changed everything for me. My grandmother was a fan of me boxing, and she pushed me in that regard. But not only in boxing: she pushed me in school, she pushed me in athletics — I played basketball, football, volleyball; I ran track and I ran cross-country in high school.

I’ve gotta say, it was through prayer and boxing that I overcame some of the things from my childhood. Boxing allowed me to release a lot of stress that I had. I mean, you couldn’t imagine how many days went by where I wanted to punch someone in the face. But obviously I couldn’t — I would have wound up in serious trouble. So being able to go to the gym and relieve some of that frustration was really important.

“Even going for a run relieves so much stress.

“Boxing”, Shields says, “and God putting his hand on me and trying to lead me the right way, and me trying my best to follow him — that’s the only way I made it through it.

“Oh, and through writing!” she adds. “I have like nine diaries that I wrote from eighth grade ’til 12th grade.

“If I wanted to say something bad about you, I would write it in my diary. After that, I would have no feelings for you because everything I wanted to say, I already would have written it down.”

Shields Hammer Showdown Boxing Shields speaking at a press conference in New York ahead of the Hammer fight. Source: Bebeto Matthews

In 2009, when Shields was 14 and had been boxing for just over two years, it was announced by the International Olympic Committee that women’s boxing would be included in the London Games in 2012. Shields’ trainer, Jason Crutchfield, told her that she could win the whole thing.

When she was 16, she saw the man who had raped her for the final time. He was walking his dog. He looked at her. She looked at him.

Shields resisted the urge to give him the beating he deserved, deciding he would never exert control over her again.

Were it not for that decision, she might never have made it to London a year later where, as a 17-year-old high school student, she climbed atop the podium clasping her first Olympic gold medal.

***

Despite her prodigious talent, Shields’ road towards a defence of her crown at Rio 2016 was scarcely smooth.

When it converged with that of a man from County Wexford, she very nearly took the next exit.

Despite her best efforts to stifle them, Billy Walsh’s name evokes a lengthy giggle from Shields, whose American team he took to the Rio Games following his acrimonious departure from the Irish Elite setup months prior.

Billy Walsh Former Ireland head coach Billy Walsh took charge of Shields and her team-mates before Rio 2016. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It’s put to Shields that in the 2016 Loosehorse/UTV documentary Emigration Nation — filmed some six months after Walsh’s arrival in the States — she spoke of a dispute with Walsh over music at the USA’s Colorado Springs High-Performance base after which she found herself hoping that the US Boxing powers would “send him back to Ireland”.

What?” she asks, some two-and-a-bit years later. “Did I? Ohhhh… Okay…

“Well…” Shields sighs, “Coach Billy got a weird way of introducing himself to people.

“He kind of came over here and I don’t know who gave him our background stories or if he just had his own impression of us, but he was just like, you know… I think because I was an Olympic gold medalist and I had seen the promised land, he felt he had to be extra hard on me. But he didn’t have to be, because I was the hardest worker and the most determined on the team.

He came and just forced the whole Ireland culture, the whole Ireland style of boxing on us, and I was just like, ‘I don’t wanna box like Katie Taylor’. Like, I love the way she boxes, but that’s not what I prefer. I was thinking: ‘What I do works. Now, I’m willing to learn whatever it is you want to teach me, but I’m only going to use what I feel is beneficial to my style.’

“There are so many different ways to be a world champion or to be an Olympic gold medalist, but he tried to force that Irish style — or his style — on us at first,” Shields adds.

“I was kind of thinking, ‘Look, this can be a 50:50 thing; if we meet each other halfway, we can figure this thing out.’

But Coach Billy was like, ‘It’s either my way or the highway’. And I was like, ‘Well, Coach Billy, I want you to know that I like driving cars, and I will get my ass on the highway!’

She laughs for a few seconds, then continues.

Listen… We had our differences. We bumped heads a lot. Like, those first few months… Wow. I had so many meetings with USA Boxing, I had one-on-one meetings with Coach Billy, I had meetings with him and other people and it was extremely frustrating.

“It was not working out. I was living at the Olympic training centre and there were times when I said, ‘Look, I’m gonna move back home. If we don’t fix this, I’m leaving!’

“And then, finally, I think he saw that I was really about what I was talking about; he saw that I was for real, that I really believed and knew that I could win the Olympics again; that I was a hard worker and that I pushed myself; that weight was never a problem for me.

And actually, I’m happy that he taught us some of the things that he did. For example, the culture that he brought over from Ireland where everybody on the team becomes friends despite our differences, despite us fighting each other before — that was him. He brought that ‘we’re all friends’ type of culture; he brought activities that we did together daily or weekly, and it definitely made us closer as a team. So I’m happy that he did come over and that he introduced that new culture to us.

“I’m glad, also, that he kind of lightened up!” Shields laughs. “I would never try to tell him what to do or try to do his job, but if he was the ‘captain’ in that team environment, I was the co-captain: those athletes were about to go home — they didn’t want to be there with all of the changes he was bringing — and it was me who told them, ‘No, we’re going to figure this out.’

“Because nobody was trying to listen to Coach Billy at the beginning. Like, it was hard. Man, it was tough. But when he couldn’t get through to an athlete, I was the one who talked to the athlete. And I didn’t get paid for that! I only got paid [via funding] for participating.

“But we found a way to make things work, and obviously I won my second Olympic gold medal in 2016.

And I did learn some things from him: I know how to do a check-hook like Katie Taylor if I ever need to do one.

“Listen, Coach Billy and I had it out. We had it out for sure. But we have a great relationship now. Every time I see him, it’s nothing but laughs,” Shields gushes. “I mean literally: we’ll laugh about the hard times, the good times, and we have a good time now.

So I’m thankful for Coach Billy Walsh… Even though he did get on my damn nerves!

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Sixteen Shields celebrates her second Olympic gold medal in 2016. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

It was over three years before she first encountered Walsh when Shields became familiar with the great Irish fighter whose check-hook he would later attempt to add to her artillery.

In May 2012, in the Chinese city of Qinhuangdao, the young American learned of her transatlantic equivalent — a woman who she still considers to be her one true peer in female boxing’s highest echelon; one who she now considers a friend.

But she wasn’t blown away by Katie Taylor to begin with.

“It’s crazy,” Shields muses. “I actually heard about her for the first time when I was 16 years old, going to the World Championships in China. It was the tournament where I lost — it was the only fight I’ve ever lost [against Britain's Savannah Marshall].

All the girls on our USA team were like slobbering over Katie, like, ‘Oh ma Gahd, she’s so good!‘ And I’m watching her fight, and I’m like… ‘I mean, she’s aiite?’

“I thought she was all right, but I didn’t really get why my team-mates were slobbering over her. But as the tournament went on, it was like, ‘Damn. This girl is really good.’

“And so I did my research, I read up on her, and I saw that she had won the World Championships I don’t know how many times [three by then, soon to be four]. And she got better as the tournament went on. The first day, maybe she was a little bit rusty, but after that you saw her quickness, her strength, and she didn’t care about getting hit but she had good defence. And you had to just be like, ‘Dang’, you know? ‘She’s good.’

You know, Katie is… I feel like she’s a great person. I do feel like she’s too quiet. But I’ve had personal conversations with her where we’ve bumped into each other and we’ve spoken briefly. After all of her fights, I always inbox her like, ‘Girl, you did it again!’ And she always responds and we have a laugh or two.

“So I would say that we are friends. I love the way she boxes.”

Katie Taylor celebrates Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Shields Hammer Showdown Boxing Shields and Taylor both hold three of the major belts in their respective divisions, but Shields jokes she'd have to cut off an ass cheek to face the Irish icon. Source: Bebeto Matthews

“I really haven’t seen a woman fighter be explosive like that besides myself,” Shields continues. “I’ve seen some good girl boxers, but very few of them are ‘A-plus’ fighters.

I’ve seen some A-minuses, and I know some B-plusses who are really good and can come in as the underdog and can win. But Katie Taylor is an A-plus fighter, and I believe she’s a phenomenal person.

“Actually, I wish Ireland would find a way for us to be able to watch her documentary [Katie, 2018] in the US! I want to learn more about her and see how she grew up. Because when you read articles and stuff, she’s so short-winded — it’s usually one or two sentences and she’s done,” Shields laughs.

But that’s something that you have to learn to love about her: when she speaks, you pay attention. I could say something and people be like, ‘Oh, Claressa’s just talkin’ again’, right? But if Katie says something, it’s like, ‘Oh… She’s speaking. Be quiet and listen.’

These aren’t throwaway remarks from Shields. She has a point. Where the reserved Taylor is considered ‘ladylike’ and rarely has a bad word said about her, the American is considered ‘too mouthy’ and is not universally popular even in the country for whom she won two Olympic golds.

Shields’ frequent proclamations of her greatness stir a poison in fragile men who still believe oven mitts to be more befitting of a woman than those of the boxing variety, her unrefined joie de vivre and unabashed self-confidence a dagger to the hearts of the miserable.

In their droves, they come for her online. They attack her race, her physique, her weight, her looks, her sexuality, her intelligence. Sarah Deming, whose forthcoming novel Gravity is inspired by Shields’ life, recently noted to BoxingScene that the unified middleweight world champion “offends because she so brazenly adopts the cocky heel persona. It’s honestly not different than how Ali offended the conservative white critics.”

To Shields’ mind, the vitriol aimed towards her comes with the territory of being an outspoken black woman in 2019. And for the most part, she couldn’t give two hoots about it.

“I mean, most of the time, when I tweet or whatever, I’m just having a bit of fun,” she laughs. And then she gets serious.

“But if there’s any girl, or anybody, who says I’m not the Greatest Woman of All Time, just get in the ring and beat me. Step me right up.

I’m not the kind of person to go off giving opinions — I like to state facts. I’m a two-time Pan-American champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time world champion in the amateurs, two-division world champion in the pros. That’s not me bragging — those are facts! You know what I’m saying? I’m all that and a bag of chips… I’m all that and a bag of chips and a Coke!

“Look, you don’t have to agree with everything I say, but I think we can all agree that I’m a great fighter. If I was a man, I would still be a great fighter.

“And I see myself taking women’s boxing to a height that it’s never been at before,” she says. “In fact, I feel like I’ve already done it — me and some of the girls that are doing things now. I feel like we’ve already taken women’s boxing to the highest level that it’s ever been at. But it still needs to get higher.”

Shields Hammer Boxing Shields speaks with kids in Atlantic City. Source: AP/PA Images

On Saturday night, Shields will elevate her craft to its greatest height yet when she faces the also-undefeated Christina Hammer in what has been described, probably rightly, as the biggest women’s boxing match of all time.

In a winner-takes-all headline event live on Showtime, Shields and Kazakh-born German Hammer will slug it out for the undisputed world middleweight championship in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, where the victor will become only the second-ever unequivocal ruler of her division in female prizefighting after reigning undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus.

Shields has channelled Ali in the build-up. Hammer has channelled another iconic cultural figure, Regina George from Mean Girls, responding to Shields’ jibes about her being too focused on modelling by claiming that she simply looks better in a bikini than Shields does. At one point, she mused aloud to camera that Shields might be jealous of her face.

Shields has said her piece on Hammer at this stage, vowing to “knock her the fuck out”. She has utterly revelled in the conflict.

After Saturday night, she wants more, and not just for herself:

We need those Laila Ali versus Anne Wolfe fights, you know? We need to add more of that. Me and Hammer, that’s one. But we need that Katie Taylor versus Amanda Serrano fight. We need all the top girls to start facing each other.

“Part of the reason why women’s boxing is in such an exciting place is the fact that we’re starting to get on TV, and thank God for Showtime taking me on because it opened up so many other doors for me. I’ve fought on Showtime, DAZN and HBO — I don’t know if there’s any other fighter who’s done that so far.

“That, for me, is a big deal. Women’s boxing was never able to get on TV, no matter how good the fighters were. And that, to me, shows how great I am.

“People are like, ‘Oh, you were just born at the right time.’

“No,” she adds firmly.

“There’s a lot of girls that came up who were dominant in their weight classes, and I’m not going to say they weren’t good enough to get put on TV, but the promoters didn’t want to get behind them and take a chance on them. And there’s gotta be something different about me if the promoters are taking chances on me, making me the main event — the headliner — and putting guys under me on shows.

“There’s gotta be something different about me, and it can’t just be, ‘Oh, she won two Olympic gold medals’. A lot of women have gone to the Olympics in 2012 or 2016 and won gold medals. To get the publicity that I’m getting, I bring something different to the table.

And I think, until now, we haven’t seen the big fights because girls aren’t going to put their unbeaten records on the line against a risky opponent while not getting on TV and not getting paid.

“Like, really, in women’s boxing — at least before now — when you have a loss on your record, it kind of makes you look bad because it’s like, ‘Well, who did you lose to? Where can we watch the fight?’

“Some girls don’t even put their fights or even their training on YouTube or social media, because if somebody figures you out and you lose the ’0′ on your record, your stock value goes down.

“So I think that’s why a lot of women have thought: ‘I’m not going to take a fight where I could possibly lose not only my ’0′, but my title, while I’m not getting paid any money and I’m not getting on TV!’

“But it has changed, or it’s changing. Now, I think they’re starting to be like: ‘Yeah, let’s take this risk now because there is reward’.

“Whereas before, for one fight, my team and I went 0-18 looking for an opponent! And when you think about the talent pool within women’s boxing compared to the men’s, 0-18… Look, not a lot of girls have told me ‘yes’.

“But you don’t have to call me to ask me if I’ll fight this person or that person — the answer is always ‘yes’”, Shields laughs. “I’m ready to fight whoever and claim whoever’s titles and add more to my legacy.”

In Atlantic City on Saturday night, Shields can bolster that legacy significantly in what will be only her ninth professional contest.

After that, she is intent only on fastening her claim to being The GWOAT.

“I’m a two-weight champion at 24 and I could become a four-division champion by the end of this year. I could go down to 154 and I could go back up to 175. I know I’m definitely going to be a three-division champion this year, because after I beat Hammer and become undisputed champion at 160, I want to go down to 154.

“And whatever or whoever they decide to put in front of me, I’ll be ready.”

And that’s why they say there’s a difference between being tough and being Flint-tough.

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