Claressa Shields recently sat down with EBONY correspondent and 2012 New York Golden Gloves Champion Michael Hughes at the Church Street Boxing Gym in New York City. The unified champion in two weight classes, who holds the IBF, WBA and WBC 160-pound titles, spoke about growing up in Flint, Michigan, and her upcoming undisputed women’s middleweight world championship fight against Christina Hammer.
“I could make a left turn in my life right now if I were to go back to Flint and decide, ‘You know what? I’m gonna throw my whole life away,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist said. “It’s so easy to make that decision, but it’s harder to do the right thing. The reason I do the right thing is because of boxing. I want to be great at boxing.”
Flint has been regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. It was under a state of financial emergency from 2002 to 2004 and again from 2011 to 2015. In 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency because of the lead contamination in the local water supply, currently known as the Flint Water Crisis. Shields, 24, is well aware of how easy it is to be trapped in a community faced with those circumstances, but she takes pride in her hometown and vowed to wear blue hair until the city gets clean water.
“Boxing gave me [a] thing to be great at. We can all be great at bad things, but being great at something hard to do makes your life worthwhile,” the pugilist said.
The Flint native has an opportunity to add to her growing legacy during Saturday’s matchup against Hammer. Shields and Hammer are two of the consensus top-10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and their title match will crown only the second undisputed champion in female boxing history.
“She got dropped by a 147-pounder who came to [the] 160 [weight class],” Shields said of her upcoming opponent. “With stuff like that, I’ll just be like, ‘Whatever.’ I got dropped, but I still won the fight. People always have to finish the story. I don’t think Christina Hammer is hitting like that because if she was, she would have better opponents on her réesumé.”
Shields has her eyes on victory, but no matter the outcome of the historic fight, she promises to remain true to her humble beginnings.
“When you’re from Flint, anything can happen,” she said. “I’m ready to deal with any situation, any fighter, and Flint prepared me for that. [So did] my humble beginnings—and if you have them, that’s where you come from and it’s always in you. I’ll never forget Flint.”
The winner of Shields vs. Hammer, which is arguably the most significant women’s boxing event in history, will join Terrence Crawford, Jermain Taylor, Bernard Hopkins, Oleksandr Usyk and women’s welterweight Cecilia Braekhus as the only fighters to have unified all four major world titles in any weight class.
The fight will air April 13, with coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.