Claressa Shields is the first boxer to be lineal and undisputed champion in two weight classes simultaneously.
Mark Brown/Getty Images
PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

Claressa Shields Already Made History. She’s About to Make More.

The undisputed light middleweight champ makes the jump to MMA with the Professional Fighters League on June 10.

Give it up for the GWOAT.

In the parlance of Claressa Shields, that’s “Greatest Woman of All Time.” Not “greatest female boxer.” Not “greatest female athlete.” Just the greatest woman, period.

You may love Oprah. You may buzz around the Beyhive. You may fantasize about running into Fran Lebowitz at Duane Reade. But neither of those individuals won two Olympic gold medals and became the fastest fighter regardless of gender to win world titles in three different weight divisions and the only one ever to be a simultaneous two-division lineal, undisputed champ.

GWOAT. It’s not the simplest term to pronounce, but it’s easy as hell to understand.

In fact, Claressa Shields is such a pugilistic ace just four years and change into her professional career that she’s already branching out into mixed martial arts.

The reigning undisputed light middleweight (154-pound) champion of the world, “T-Rex” agreed to make the leap to the Professional Fighters League, an organization that has something the UFC doesn’t have: a women’s 155-pound division.

She’s not the first championship-level boxer to cross over to the mixed martial arts cage; Holly Holm was a three-division champion with 16 total title defenses and went on to vanquish Ronda Rousey in the UFC octagon in one of combat sports’ most stunning upsets. And as fate would have it, Shields has been training at Holm’s home base gym, Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

For good measure, that’s the same gym that helped catapult pound-for-pound king Jon “Bones” Jones to stardom.

If it’s good for the GOAT, it’s good for the GWOAT.

The champ discusses all this and more on the latest episode of Boardroom’s “Out of Office” podcast with Rich Kleiman:

Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, Claressa’s father, Bo Shields, is most responsible for exposing her to the sport. By the time she was 11 years old, he grew comfortable with allowing her to pursue the fight game, and by 16, she was a two-time Junior Olympic national champion.

Then came the London Olympics in 2012, which arrived shortly after Shields finished her junior year in high school. In the first year women’s boxing was permitted at the Games, she won the gold medal in the middleweight division. Her journey was. captured in a PBS documentary, T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold.

Then, at Rio 2016, she won gold all over again.

As the clock counts down to her PFL debut on June 10, a four-part ESPN+ documentary series will premiere one week earlier, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the champ’s preparations for the MMA cage. Also in the works is a biopic based on the T-Rex doc: Flint Strong, the directorial debut of Black Panther and Mudbound cinematographer Rachel Morrison. Culminating with the London Olympics, the film stars Rachel Destiny as Shields and Ice Cube as her coach, Jason Crutchfield.

In so many ways, 2012 was the year that Shields’ GWOAT journey became real. But based on her current trajectory, 2021 could be the one in which we suddenly need a new acronym to properly capture the increasingly unprecedented nature of her achievements.

Sign Up For Our Newsletters

Get on our list for sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

Subscribe

Enter your email below