Claressa Shields is perhaps in the prime of her career, establishing a big enough name as a two-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion in three weight classes to headline the first boxing card in the six-year history of Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena.
The undisputed middleweight champion became the first woman to earn a seven-figure payday in her last two fights and made another $1 million on Saturday night when she beat top-ranked contender Maricela Cornejo at the home of the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons.
Shields grew up poor in Flint, Michigan, and has earned enough money to become rich at 28. Still, she laments the gender inequities in boxing.
“We don’t get the equal TV time, the equal promotion, equal pay. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do with my platform and make sure that I get all of that,” Shields said earlier this week in an interview with The Associated Press.
Shields is boxing in a marquee event in part because sports-streaming service DAZN stepped up enough financially to facilitate the fight.
Women in boxing have shown they can sell out big arenas, as Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano did 13 months ago at New York’s Madison Square Garden, but they’re not compensated as well as men in the same sport.
“It’s like any other profession where the women still haven’t caught up,” said Jackie Kallen, a 77-year-old former boxing publicist and manager who was commissioner of the International Female Boxing Association. “They take a beating just like the men. They bleed just like the men, but they don’t get paid just like the men.”
Shields is 13-0 with two knockouts. She turned pro in 2016 after becoming the first U.S. boxer of any gender to win consecutive Olympic gold medals and is averaging two fights a year.
Shields also is on a mission to be recognized as the “Greatest Woman Of All Time,” or the “GWOAT,” now and in the future.
“People that say that women’s boxing don’t have fans, well, they’re going to be mad Saturday,” she said.