By: Hans Themistode
The argument for who is the greatest male boxer of all-time is a difficult discussion.
Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis and even the recently retired Floyd Mayweather all have a claim to the throne as the best to ever do it.
Although receiving a consensus answer is nearly impossible, on the women’s side, the argument has become obsolete.
Two division world champion Claressa Shields has already established herself as quite possibly the best female fighter of all-time. During a recent interview with Boxing Insider which airs every Tuesday and is available on iTunes, Spotify and on Boxinginsider.com, Shields was given the floor to discuss her feelings about many topics in the sport of boxing including Anthony Joshua’s near shutout win over Andy Ruiz Jr and the growth of women’s boxing today.
A few weeks have passed since the biggest fight of the year has taken place. Anthony Joshua did what many were unsure he could actually pull off, and that is reclaim his Heavyweight titles from the hands of Andy Ruiz Jr, in Saudi Arabia. Earlier this year on June 1st, Joshua was surprisingly stopped in the seventh round of the contest in Madison Square Garden, in New York City. Due to the nature of his one sided beating, many believed that Joshua was stylistically a bad matchup for Ruiz.
With just one loss to his name, he was essentially left for dead. It was a mistake that Claressa Shields believes happens far too often in the sport of boxing.
“You can’t write off a fighter because they lost one time,” said Shields to Boxing Insider Radio. “He was getting his Muhammad Ali on. He’s not as fast as Muhammad Ali but he was jabbing the mess out of Ruiz. He was shining on him.”
The performance by Joshua on the night was a more tactical one rather than his typical brute force. Those who saw him coast to an easy decision victory were critical of the once again champion. Did he play it safe and opt for a more conservative approach? Absolutely. But don’t you dare claim that he was scared in anyway, shape or form.
“He didn’t fight scared. A person that is fighting scared, they don’t even have the time to land clean punches and he cut Ruiz. He knew for a fact that he couldn’t beat Ruiz on the inside. He tried that in June in New York and we seen what happened. He got caught. It’s not because Ruiz is a big puncher, he’s not a knockout it’s because Andy Ruiz is a great inside fighter, Joshua is not. People wanted to see a war but he fought a smart fight.”
The critics of not just Joshua, but fighters in general have always shown to be of vagarious nature. Giving the fans what they want to see is of the utmost importance to every fighter, but just how plausible is that notion? The ongoing needle movement in every fan is one that can drive a fighter crazy. For Shields, at this point, their opinion is becoming extraneous at best.
“Just last month everybody was giving Deontay Wilder shit for knocking Luis Ortiz out with one punch but then, they say he’s got no skill, he’s just a knockout artist. But then now you get the opposite end. Anthony Joshua out boxes this man for not three or four rounds but for twelve. He used skill, style and great technique but people are still giving him shit. You can never please a boxing fan. Some of these fans have never put on no gloves or boxed or nothing in their lives and they have the nerve to disrespect a world champion. We’re putting our lives on the line.”
Disrespect should never be tolerated, but there is always a reasoning behind it. Fans had long grown accustomed to Joshua putting away his opponents in devastating fashion. This new version of Joshua where he will seemingly get on his bike for a full 12 rounds and coast to a decision is not what the fans want out of their Heavyweight champions.
Another complaint for fans across the world are the persistent installations of new world titles. It can become mind numbing with the amount of belts that are currently up for grabs. Add Shields to those who aren’t the biggest fans of so many new titles as well.
“There’s just too many belts. From what I hear you can’t even lose that Franchise belt. If you lose a fight and you’re still the WBC Franchise champion, like what the hell? I never heard anything like that in my life.”
Halloween candy isn’t passed around nearly as often as these aforementioned belts. It isn’t just on the male side of boxing either. Constant title fights in the women’s division has become the norm as well. Although it can certainly become confusing, women’s boxing has come a long way from where it once was.
Forget about the overflow of titles that are seemingly wrapped around a fighters waist before they even step foot inside of the ring for the first time in their career, but pay attention to the names of the fighters that are currently anchoring arguably the strongest pool of talent that the women have ever dished out.
If you believe Shields is not leading this group of women because she only has nine fights, then you haven’t been paying attention. She is the only American, whether male or female to win two Olympic gold medals and will look to capture yet another world title in her third weight division in only her tenth professional contest come January 10th, 2020 when she takes on Ivana Habazin.
“There’s a lot of great fighters. Katie Taylor being one. Amanda Serrano, myself we got some up and coming fighters as well. There’s a lot of good women in the sport right now who are all doing a good job carrying the sport.”
Bringing women’s boxing to the forefront isn’t impossible, but it certainly won’t be easy. Women are already playing at a disadvantage. For starters, the pay gap between men and women are ridiculous. For as accomplished as Shields is, she has failed to make at least half a million dollars for any one contest in her entire career.
We all know the issues, but what about the solutions? Shields has a few. For starters, women currently fight two minute rounds as opposed to the three minutes that are afforded to men. Shields has long been interested in changing the time frame. Her campaign for this adjustment finally achieved what she had been looking for as both Seniesa Estrada and Marlen Esparza fought their last contest in three minute rounds. The bout ended early due to a cut, but regardless, it was a step in the right direction. At least, according the Shields.
“I thought it was a great fight and it had a great build up. A lot of fans ringside were satisfied. A lot of fans after we go ten two minute rounds, they say oh that’s it? They wanna see more. They actually enjoyed the fight and you can see the damage that was being done with the three minute rounds. I either wanna do twelve two minute rounds or ten three minute rounds. I’m comfortable with either or.”
The addition of one extra minute per round may not seem like a big deal to the casual fans, but it certainly isn’t something that promoter Lou Di Bella would like to see implemented. You can also add WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman to this list as well. It isn’t because they want women’s boxing matches to be over as quickly as possible but it’s more so about the safety and health of women boxers around the world.
“Women are more susceptible to head injury and concussion than men are,” said Di Bella. “It’s just a fact.”
The ongoing fight for an increase in the rounds in which women are currently fighting might seem like a losing battle for Shields, but she has much more on her plate to focus on than simply how long her contest will last.
No one is expecting Shields to have a difficult time with Hazabin when the two enter the ring with one another on January 10th.Shields may not be looking past her opponent but she does have her eyes on the entire landscape of women’s boxing and who could possibly be next for her.
Not many would be anxious for a crack at Shields, but not everyone is Alicia Napoleon. The current WBA Super Middleweight champion is one of the few who not only has the skills but also the physicality to match up with Shields. If everything goes according to plan and these women face off with one another, fans might want to sit back, relax and enjoy this one.
“She’s definitely a future opponent. But which weight class? 168 or 160? And are we going to have all the belts up for grabs or just mines? When it comes to this sport we have to make certain people feel comfortable to make certain fights made and I just think that it’s always bullshit that I gotta put my belts up and people get to hold their belts to the side.”
A matchup between Shields and Napoleon would be a fight of the year candidate. Shields willingness to move either up or down in her career to take on the best fighters is what she has built her career on. For the two time gold medalist, she has no problem stepping into just about any division to take on a perceived great fighter. She also apparently has no issue leaving the sport of boxing entirely to prove it either.
Shields might be dominating the sport of boxing, but one can make the argument that she hasn’t been nearly as dominating as MMA star Amanda Nunes. The mixed martial artist currently holds two titles simultaneously and has dominated everyone that has come across her path. Her last ring appearance saw her put an absolute beating on Germaine de Randamie in Las Vegas, Nevada this past weekend.
In attendance on the night, was Shields.
No she wasn’t there to enjoy a night of MMA fights. And she certainly wasn’t in Vegas to catch a magic show either. No, her trip to the event was strictly business.
“I would love to get a super fight with Amanda Nunes. People say that she box better than me but there is no way in hell. People get so caught up in MMA and feel like since she knocked out Cris Cyborg and me and Cris Cyborg sparred that she could do the same thing to me. If Amanda Nunes wants to come to the ring I would show her that she’s good but I’m great.”
Interesting? Yes, competitive? No. If you took the time to juxtapose both women, there is no way you could come to the conclusion that a boxing match between the two would be even remotely competitive. Those who believe so are simply giving a spurious statement.
Grudge matches between boxers and MMA fighters have long been the norm, but one arena is usually chosen. Either the two combatants will fight each other in the Octagon or the boxing ring. For Shields however, she wants them both.
“I want to fight her in a boxing match. I even want to fight her in an MMA match. I’ve done some wrestling and worked on some kicks but I’m going to get serious about it after my next fight. I have a meeting with Dana White so it should go very well and I’ll know what we’re looking forward too for 2020.”
Shields interest and quest to becoming the greatest women fighter of all-time has become one that many of us has become invested in. With two gold medals, multiple world titles and more seemingly on the way, Shields has already had herself an impressive career. At just 24 years of age, it’s safe to say that things are only just beginning for Claressa Shields.
“God has already showed me what he has in store for me. He’s going to do for me what he did for Serena Williams but in a different form. There sleeping on me, but I’ll give it not even all next year and I’m going to be on that platform where you have to pay for interviews and you have to go through ten people to get to me. People just don’t understand what greatness is. Greatness isn’t something you just say, it’s something that is inside of you.”