2012 Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) joyfully punched her way to her second consecutive gold medal bout in today’s boxing action at the 2016 Olympic Games. Shields faced off with Kazakhstan’s Dariga Shakimova in the first of two middleweight semifinal bouts at Riocentro Pavilion 6 in Rio de Janeiro on Friday afternoon.
Shields came flying out of corner at the opening bell and went straight at Shakimova, making her intentions known early in the contest. The reigning Olympic, World and Pan American Games champion was playing no games in her second bout of the tournament, firing off her signature right hand, left hook combination and controlling every second of the bout. Shields dropped her hands, inviting the Kazakhstani boxer to come forward and then unloaded shots on Shakimova after backing her in to the ropes. She mixed in several strong body shots in the third round of the bout and danced back to her corner after building up her lead even further. Shields didn’t let up in the fourth, throwing several fast and powerful combinations and extending her existing lead. For the second straight bout, Shields closed the show by giving her an opponent a standing eight count after landing a left hook in the final seconds of the match. At the end of four rounds, Shields took the victory by unanimous decision to move on to the women’s middleweight gold medal bout.
“I give it an A-. I did great. I went out there and showed my skill. I went out there and showed my class. I showed I was the better, stronger and more skilled fighter. I actually could have stopped her but I was having so much fun, I was like why do that. I decided to go out there and have fun in the rest of the rounds. I was able to start seeing a whole lot of shots come open in the third round. When she came out there in the fourth round, she knew she was down so she started to come forward a little more and I was able to counter and get her from there,” Shields said. “I know I made it look easy but that’s because I did what I was supposed to do last night. I ate and I drank POWERADE, a lot of water and I slept. I felt great. I felt energized. I’m in the finals but that’s not enough, we still have one more.”
Shields said she felt much better in her semifinal bout than her tournament opener on Wednesday.
“I woke up today and my body was feeling great and when I went in the back and Coach Kay and Coach Billy always ask how I feel and I said, ‘I feel great.’ When I went out there, I was completely relaxed. Me and Coach Kay prayed right before I went out and he said ‘Lord, just let her have fun and let her do what she’s supposed to do and have a great match.’ That’s what I went out there and did. In the first round, I was a little bit technical. When I started seeing the openings, I started landing and landing. When she started to hold me, I would still punch her on the inside. I started going under her arms, around her arms. Anyway it went, I was able to land my shots. I was landing some pretty hard shots. I think she’s pretty brave for being able to stand up to those shots,” she said.
The number one female boxer in the world believes she entered the Olympic Games with a different mindset than some of her opponents. “A lot of girls are here just to beat me. I’m here to win a gold medal so them beating me is winning a gold medal to them so they go out there and they fight a lot harder than their other opponents,” Shields said.
While she is dominant every time she steps in to the ring, the Olympic Games is about much more than boxing to Shields. “The legacy is definitely important. I want to show that women boxers need to be respected on the amateur level and the professional level. Also that people that come from where I’ve come from or come from an area that’s similar, don’t let your surroundings create who you are or what your parents did or didn’t do control who you are. Your life depends on your decisions and it depends on what you want to do. Growing up in Flint, there was so much darkness around me, but I still had a few good people around and that’s how I was able to see things and become the person I am. I just want to show people that when you make your own decisions for your life, sometimes it plays out the way you want it to. I just want to help people and I want to help them because what I grew up with and what I had to overcome was difficult but look where I am now,” she said.
She will take on Nouchka Fontijn of the Netherlands in the women’s middleweight finale at 2 p.m. Brazil time (1 p.m. ET) on Sunday. “The girl from the Netherlands, she and I just fought a couple months ago at the World Championships. She’s a really great fighter. She’s very tall. I don’t think she has the tools to beat me but I’m quite sure she went home and she worked on a few things. I worked on a few things also. I’m definitely going to go out there and give it 300% and hopefully she’s going to give her 300%, let the best woman win,” Shields said.
Shields will have Saturday off but is excited to cheer on her teammate Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.) in his gold medal bout tomorrow. Stevenson will face 2012 Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba for the bantamweight crown at 2:15 p.m. Brazil time (1:15 p.m. ET). The bantamweight championship bout marks the first time an American male boxer has competed in the gold medal match since Andre Ward won gold in 2004.
The channel and air time for Stevenson’s gold medal bout is currently being determined by NBC.
165 lbs/75 kg: Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich./USA dec. Dariga Shakimova, KAZ, 3-0