Cecilia Braekhus isn’t the only star in women’s boxing. On June 22nd, Claressa Shields will drop in weight class to fight the 18-1 Costa Rican challenger Hanna Gabriels for the vacant WBA and IBF middleweight titles. Despite Gabriels having more experience, with fights dating back to 2007 on her record, most will think of Shields as the favorite.
After all, Shields is already a star. She has the name value to make this a Showtime card, and she’s already known by many American fans despite only having five professional bouts so far. Not because of those five professional fights, three of which came from 2017, but because of her two gold medals in the Olympics.
Shields fought 78 times as an amateur, and only lost once. She’s won every major amateur competition that she entered, taking home gold in both the London and Rio De Janeiro Olympics in addition to winning gold in the AIBA World Championships twice. Those victories came at middleweight, but in 2015, Shields won another gold metal at the Pan American Games, at light heavyweight.
Her dominant amateur career sets her up for stardom as a professional. Winning gold in the Olympics can boost a boxer’s publicity when they turn pro, but most don’t have the added bonus of doing it twice. Furthermore, women’s boxing needs another star right now.
Cecilia Braekhus has been at the top for a long time, but she’s 36 years old and not getting any younger. Rising Irish star Katie Taylor impressed fans around the world with her six fights in 2017. But at 31 years old, she’s also not the youngest champion. Shields, on the other hand, is 23. She likely hasn’t hit her prime yet, and unlike the others, she’s American.
The American market doesn’t have a mainstream star yet. In the BoxRec female pound-for-pound rankings, the highest ranked American is way down the list at 29. The male rankings, on the other hand, have Americans at 2, 13, 17, 18, and 19.
Shields is ranked at 38 on BoxRec’s list, but she has the chance to rise quickly. After all, she’s in the top 50 with only five pro fights on her record. All of those fights were victories, but this might just be the one that pushes her into stardom. There’s two belts on the line, and Gabriels is the top rated opponent that Shields has faced yet, defending the WBO and WBA Super Welterweight titles in her last two fights.
Once again, the June 22 fight is headlining a Showtime card. Fans from all around the United States, not just Michigan, will witness it. And as two vacant middleweight titles are awarded, the biggest star in American women’s boxing has a major chance to step further into the spotlight… Something that the American market desperately needs right now.
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