She won a gold medal at the last Olympics and 17 year old Claressa Shields came home to Michigan to the same scene.
No ticker tape parades and making of the rounds on the talk shows, daytime let alone night.
Yes, there were some offers to turn pro for the 17 year old but the women’s game had zero traction then and the offers reflected that.
Shields collected herself, and learned. She kept on working at her craft–hell, she was already the best pure boxer among the Americans at the games, male or female–but also about how society works, how fame is achieved, what the current pathway to prosperity is.
We all ponder that a lot, the pathway to rising up. This election cycle to eject a President is all about that…
Shields, now 21, will return to the Olympics, this one in Rio, a changed person. Not because she’s come into money and been touched by streams of adulation. No; as we saw on a superior segment of HBO’s The Fight Game, she has grown into her persona, her body and brain and all of it syncing together. And, it became apparent to me as I watched the segment helmed by Melissa Stark, she is right now perhaps the perfect embodiment of why boxing is exists, why boxing matters, why boxing, that red headed step child with a stutter of a sport, is a good thing.
Asked about her harrowing upbringing in Flint, Michigan, asked to cite a low point, Shields paused slightly, and said, “The darkest part for me growing up was, one, when I was raped when I was five. And then also just the poverty of it, having to go without meals.” The second oldest sister would funnel food to the little ones, and go without, so their bellies could be filled.
She didn’t speak till age five. Mom was into substance abuse, dad was imprisoned. At 11, she found a gym, and she didn’t know it, but she found a reason to be. Boxing presented a kid who was on track to be a stat, a throwaway stat which this nation so unpridefully features, with a pathway to staying alive. And that cannot and should not be casually dismissed. Shields was not headed to Harvard, was and is living in a demoralized community which has been ignored for decades, as industry fled to find cheap labor overseas. She was destined to fail, as our society has failed those citizens in Flint whose water was infected with lead because some politicians embraced an austerity budget.
Bravo to TFG for spotlighting this person and her fierce perseverance. I recommend you all watch the segment, and refresh yourself why this sport of ours exists. Boxing was there for Claressa Shields at a time when precious few people were. The final word from Shields: “Boxing gave me my true happiness, and I found myself and I know what I’m supposed to do with my life now.”