Steve Garagiola: The undisputed champ
Athlete carries family and city in her heart
DETROIT – Saturday, April 27th was Claressa Shields Day in Flint. For those of you who don’t know, Shields is a professional boxer who writes a new page in the record book with every match.
It is hard to talk about Claressa’s accomplishments without the words first or only in front of her name. She is the first and only American boxer (male or female) to win two Olympic gold medals. Might she go for a third in 2020? “No.” says Shields. “It wouldn’t be fair to go back to beating up amateurs.”
She makes a fair point.
As a professional, Shields is undefeated. After beating previously undefeated Christina Hammer earlier this month, Claressa became one of only six boxers ever, male or female, to hold all four world championships in her weight class at the same time.
Given her success, she is not short on confidence, having taken to calling herself the G.W.O.A.T. (Greatest Woman of All-Time). In the world of female professional boxing, it is hard to argue with that.
But I have a different scale to measure Claressa Shield’s stature as a champion. It’s not uncommon for people who achieve fame, status, and wealth to look at their humble roots in the rear-view mirror, speeding away until the images become just a distant memory. Not Shields.
“I love Flint,” she says proudly. “The children need faith. They need hope and role models.” Shields started boxing at age eleven, in the basement of Flint’s Berston Fieldhouse. She credits her grandmother with giving her the confidence to fight her way into what was a man’s world. She has never slowed down.
On the day that Flint’s mayor gave Shields the keys to the city, she spent the morning passing out water bottles. That afternoon she signed autographs and posed for pictures for over two hours with wide-eyed kids who nodded when she told them, “You can be a champion. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams.”
Wherever she goes, Shields carries a piece of her family and her city with her in her heart. To me, that’s a champion.
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