2023 Sportswoman of the Year Award – Individual Recipient

Published on October 13th, 2023

Claressa Shields

(Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for WSF)

“My goal is to go down as the best women’s fighter in history.” Since stepping into the professional ring in 2016, Claressa Shields has proven to the world she is a formidable force and can excel in the squared circle with confidence, power and dominance no matter what combinations are thrown her way. At only 28 years old, Shields has a long list of accomplishments to be proud of. Largely considered one of the best pound-for-pound women boxers in history, her impressive brawling style — paired with her agility to move from the ring to the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting cages, all while adding wins to her undefeated boxing record — has earned her the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Individual Sportswoman of the Year Award.

Shields is determined to go the distance and continues to show her opponents she is a qualified contender by clinching 14 wins (two by knockout) and zero losses since going pro. The past year, she showcased her prowess by participating in some of the most significant fights in women’s boxing history, including her bout against Savannah Marshall in October 2022, which sold out the O2 Arena in London and drew 2 million viewers on Sky TV, and her one-sided fight in June 2023 against Maricela Cornejo at the Little Ceasar’s Arena in Detroit, Mich. Both were won by unanimous decision.

Shields sparred her way onto the sport’s world’s largest stage when she became the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing at the 2012 Olympic Games, where for the first time the 10 men’s boxing events were joined by three women’s events: flyweight, lightweight and middleweight. Four years later, Shields won a second gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. She is the only American — male or female — to win back-to-back gold medals in boxing. She is also a two-time world championship gold medalist and a Pan American gold medalist.

Looking for a new challenge in the combative sports universe, Shields is working towards becoming a two-sport star. In 2021, while still defending her boxing titles, she made her much-anticipated MMA debut, scoring a jaw-dropping come-from-behind knockout her first time in the octagon. Most recently, she signed another multiyear deal with the Professional Fighters League (PFL) and is expected to return to the PFL’s SmartCage in 2024. To date, she holds a 1-1 record in MMA.

Shields’ journey has been far from easy. From poverty to abuse to bullying, she has overcome many obstacles to get to where she is today. As she points out, “boxing saved my life,” and she often thanks the strong influences who helped guide her along the way, never letting circumstances dictate her actions. She is the first member of her family to graduate from high school, and her story of overcoming adversity to become the greatest women boxer in the world fuels her advocacy work in her hometown of Flint, Mich., where she is deemed a local hero and global sports icon. 

Winning titles in three weight classes, Shields has proven time and again that no matchup is too great for her as she continues to build her legacy as a pioneering athlete, inspiring young girls to keep jabbing until they reach the top. 

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