A stand-out from the 2012 Summer Olympics but did not receive nearly the hoopla as gymnastics or swimming, Gold Medal Boxer Claressa Shields is taking it on the chin and that’s ok. Claressa was born March 17, 1995 and at just 17 years of age went on to become the first American woman to win a boxing gold medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games. She won the Olympic middleweight title by defeating the Russian boxer Nadezda Torlopova 19-12 in a resounding win. It was only in May of 2012 when she qualified to compete for the games in the very first year that women’s boxing was an Olympic event. Shield was easily the youngest boxer at the February 2012 U.S. Olympic trials where she won the 165-pound weight class.
Claressa was born and raised in Flint, Michigan where she was just a high school junior in the Spring before the Olympics. Claressa was introduced to boxing by her father Bo who had boxed for some years in underground leagues. Although Bo was in prison when Claressa was two, he returned to her life after his release when she was nine. Upon being reunited with his little girl, Bo began to tell her about boxing lore and particularly Laila Ali. Claressa became very interested in the sport but Bo was adamant that boxing was a men’s sport. Bo relented when Claressa turned eleven and that was when she started boxing at Berston Field House in Flint. Claressa gives props to her grandmother for encouraging her not to be discouraged or pushed around because of her gender. It was at the Berston Field House where she met her coach and trainer Jason Crutchfield.
Claressa was a natural and after winning two Junior Olympic titles, the young pugilist competed in her first open-division tournament at the National Athletic League Championships in 2011. She won the middleweight crown and was named the top overall fighter in addition to qualifying for the U.S. Olympic trials. At said trials in February of 2012, Claressa overcame the reigning national champion Franchon Crews, the 2010 champ Andrecia Wasson and Pittburgh, PA’s Tika Hemingway to win the middleweight class. She worked her way up to an impressive 25 & 0 record and after the 2012 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in China to qualify for the Olympics. After earning her Olympic berth, Claressa went on to become the first American female to win a Gold medal in boxing.
Despite the hoopla made over many of the returning athletes from London and the endorsements they received for their excellence in sport, Claressa did not received the attention that her and her family had hoped for. Save for a local car dealership sponsorship, Claressa was not as “hot” as some of the other American athletes. Still, she is very young and has lots more Olympic gold in her very bright future. She is really living “The Million Dollar Baby” life as seen in the Academy Award winning film. Hopefully her time will come because everybody loves an underdog.