Claressa Shields sat down with EBONY correspondent and 2012 New York Golden Gloves Champion Michael Hughes at the Church Street Boxing Gym in New York City just days before her April 13 WBO win against Christina Hammer.
During our exclusive Q&A, Shields spoke about getting into boxing and learning to cope with having been molested.
"It happened to me when I was 5," Shields, 24, said of being sexually abused by one of her mother's former lovers. "Me being sexually abused and boxing has nothing to do with each other. I started boxing when I was 11, and I was angry about a lot of things [including] the sexual abuse, my mom abusing alcohol, not being taken care of as a child and having to fend for my brothers and sisters growing up."
Although people view boxing as a violent sport, "anger does not win fights," according to Shields, but is something that will get you knocked out. Through the contact sport, she was able to learn discipline, to take criticism and to strive to be great at something that didn't relate to what was negatively impacting her at home.
Despite what she went through growing up, the undefeated boxer said it's a part of the story that has led to her current success.
"I would tell [my younger self] not to change [anything] because we turned out so great," Shields joked. "When you make little changes, the future comes out to be different."
And she shared some advice for other women who have been sexually abused.
"Don't let the abuser win," the pugilist urged. "I know a lot of girls, including friends. who say, 'Because I was raped is why I turned gay,' or 'Because I was raped is the reason I started drinking and smoking and dropped out of school.' They try to put this blame on the person that abused them. I'm just like, 'You're giving that person too much power.'"
Shields said her success must make her abuser feel shame and guilt because he was unable to break her.