Claressa Shields accomplished everything an amateur boxer could imagine.
She’s been the dominant figure in women’s amateur boxing in recent years, going 77-1 and capping her career in the unpaid ranks with a second consecutive Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, as she became the first American to win back-to-back boxing gold medals.
Now, in just her fourth professional fight, Shields will contend for a world title.
Shields will challenge Nikki Adler for her women’s super middleweight world title — as well as fight her for another organization’s vacant belt — on Aug. 4 in the main event of a “ShoBox: The New Generation” card (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the MGM Grand Detroit, which is not far from Shields’ hometown of Flint, Michigan.
“It is a dream come true for me to be fighting for a major world title in just my fourth professional fight,” Shields said. “I thank the champ, Nikki Adler, and her team for accepting the challenge and for coming to the U.S. for this championship [fight]. This fight is not only a milestone for me; it also is the biggest fight of the year in women’s boxing.
“I want to thank Showtime for their commitment to me and for their support of women’s boxing. I promise to be in the best shape of my life and to give all my fans a performance to remember.”
The 22-year-old Shields (3-0, 1 KO) turned pro in November on the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev I undercard in Las Vegas and then made history in March when she knocked out Szilvia Szabados in the fourth round in a “ShoBox” main event at the MGM Grand Detroit. It was the first time a women’s fight had ever headlined a boxing card on premium cable.
On June 16, Shields rolled to a shutout eight-round decision win against Sydney LeBlanc in Detroit, and now she is back on Showtime in a world title bout.
“This second main event telecast on Showtime represents yet another historic step forward in the journey of Claressa Shields,” Mark Taffet, her co-manager, said. “Claressa is committed, in return, to pursuing the biggest and best fights available as the profile of women’s boxing in the U.S. and around the world continues to grow. This world title fight against Nikki Adler, a monumental challenge for Claressa in only her fourth pro fight, shows how committed Claressa is to fulfilling her dreams and leading the sport to unprecedented levels.”
Shields, who has also fought as a middleweight, wanted to challenge unified women’s middleweight world titleholder Christina Hammer (21-0, 9 KOs) of Germany. But Shields told ESPN that Hammer’s camp dragged its feet, so she decided to move up to super middleweight, where Adler has a belt.
“We moved up from 160 to 168, and we did that because Hammer was taking too long to give us a chance to fight,” Shields said. “I wanted to fight for a world title. I wanted my respect. I know I’m the best female fighter alive and the best to ever put on a pair of gloves. If I have to have a world title to prove that, that’s what I have to do. So we gave Adler a call and I’m glad she had heart and is willing to fight and give a young fighter like me a chance. I feel I have everything I need to beat her. I look forward to fighting her.”
Shields has had one eight-round bout and will be in a scheduled 10-rounder for the first time against Adler. She said she is not concerned with having the stamina to go the distance if needed.
“I’m fine,” she said. “In my last fight I fought a really good eight rounds and I felt like I could have gone more. I am in the best shape of my life and I know what I’m getting prepared for. All I have to do is get prepared and everything will fall into place. Adler has fought 10 rounds before and this is my first time. I give her that. But she’s never fought against a fighter as good as me, as fast or strong as me. She’s never seen anything like me.
“I’ve watched her fights. I feel like she can’t beat me. I may go in there and jump on her or I may use my jab for the first two or three rounds. Who knows? But I know I can outbox her and if that doesn’t work I know I can outbrawl her too.”
If Shields wins, Showtime is committed to having her back on the network in either November or December, but first she has to get past Adler (16-0, 9 KOs), 30, of Germany, who will be making her third title defense. Her first defense, in 2015, was a lopsided 10-round decision win against Szabados.
“It’s a huge opportunity to fight in the U.S. on Showtime against Claressa Shields,” Adler said. “I am the multiple-time world champion and Claressa is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Why not fight in the biggest matchup possible? This is a great challenge and we both will show our true potential.
“I know I’ll give everything I have to be successful, as I have always done. I’ve fought throughout the world, but never in the U.S. It’s really a dream to fight in the biggest women’s boxing event in 2017.”
Shields is moving quickly as a professional as Adler figures to be by far her toughest test. Promoter Dmitry Salita, who recently signed Shields, said he is happy to be able to get her the opportunity to fight for a world title so soon.
“I am thrilled to be promoting what I expect will be the biggest women’s boxing event of 2017,” Salita said. “Claressa Shields is on a quest to make history and is seeking to become a world champion in only her fourth professional bout less than a year after winning her second Olympic gold medal. Shields versus Adler is the kind of matchup we expect from great fighters. These two women, both skilled, both determined, are certain to give fans around the world, and those watching on ‘ShoBox,’ an action-packed fight that is fought at the highest level. It will be a night to remember where the sports world may see the emergence of a new star.”