Claressa Shields took a huge risk when she decided to split her time between boxing and MMA while still at the peak of a career as a boxing champion which saw her win two Olympic gold medals and professional titles in three weight categories.
It remains to be seen whether this risk will pay off. Shields was faltering in her first two MMA fights and suffered a split decision loss to Abigail Montes at a PFL event in October.
One of Shields ‘contemporaries on the pound-for-pound boxing women’s list, Irish champion Katie Taylor, is in awe of Shields’ willingness to make the leap into MMA as countless other boxers balk. She knows it is not an easy thing to do. Still, Taylor recently admitted that she hopes Shields’ MMA experience will be short.
“I really wasn’t expecting it,” Taylor said earlier this month on MMA time when asked about Shields’ transition to MMA. “But I thought it was a fantastic challenge for her because boxing and MMA are two completely different sports. It’s very, very difficult for anyone in boxing to cross, because obviously we don’t have a floor game.
“If someone knocked me down, for example, that would be a huge problem for me. I think obviously you might still have a shot at hitting, but that’s a priority – it’s very, very hard to stand. So I think it was an admirable challenge for her to take on. But I would like her to focus on boxing now.
Shields (1-1 MMA) is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of her time. In addition to the gold medals she won at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, Shields won professional titles in the light middleweight, middleweight and super middleweight divisions, and is the only boxer in history – regardless of gender – to hold the big four of boxing. titles simultaneously in two different weight categories.
At 26, Shields is essentially in the peak years of her athletic career – and Taylor believes Shields could do more good for women’s boxing than she could for MMA.
“There are a lot of big fights going on for her,” Taylor said.
“The likes of Savannah Marshall, who’s a fantastic world champion fighter, and I think Savannah actually beat her as an amateur fighter, so it’s a huge, huge, huge fight for them. It’s probably one of the biggest fights in women’s boxing.
Shields is currently set to defend her middleweight belts on January 29 against undefeated Slovenian champion Ema Kozin, so it’s not like her boxing days are behind her.
Still, Taylor and Shields agree on at least one thing. Both women strongly criticized the unequal standards and conditions of women’s boxing compared to their male counterparts, and both argued for the need for promoters to focus more on providing adequate opportunities for female boxers.
“In fact, the first meeting I ever had with [boxing promoter] Eddie Hearn just before I turned pro I wanted to take women’s boxing to where women’s MMA had gone, “Taylor said,” where they’re actually headlining, where they’re actually the biggest names in. UFC, like Ronda Rousey, Amanda Nunes. These kind of female fighters are absolutely making the headlines, and that’s exactly where I wanted women’s boxing to go.
“And I think we’ve crossed a lot of borders in the last few years, we’ve covered a lot of ground. But we obviously still have a long way to go.