(NOV 18) Claressa Shields
and Franchon Crews will both make their professional boxing
debuts this Saturday in Las Vegas. Amateur boxing’s loss is
professional boxing’s gain.
Amateur boxing, especially USA
Boxing, owes a debt of gratitude to both of these athletes, for
bringing their best to Team USA, for elevating everyone’s game
in the amateurs, and for serving as role models for boxers for
generations to come. In sport, champions can only be created if
they have worthy opponents. These two have not only served each
other as opponents, they have made each other better.
As a former Olympic coach, I
selfishly wish they’d stay on as amateurs and earn more
international hardware for Team USA. But these days that world
seems too small for two women who have helped shape
Their fight will be available on the “free view” of HBO’s
pay-per-view telecast, and has the potential to be one of the
most exciting match-ups pro boxing has seen recently. These two
have met before, competing to represent the U.S. in the Pan Am
Games and the Olympics, and there’s a little animosity. And both
are making a professional debut in unique style — a fair
match-up — something rarely seen among professional men.
Both are decorated amateurs. Both are fierce competitors. Both
have openly shared their struggles in and out of the ring.
Claressa Shields is a celebrated two-time Olympic Boxing Gold
Medalist. She is the first modern-day U.S. boxer, woman or man,
to achieve this feat. Claressa Shields is a World Champion, Pan
American Games Champion, and has won countless international and
Beyond her medals, Claressa proved to the world that she was a
fierce competitor when in 2012, she entered the World
Championships to attempt to qualify for the London Games. Her
failure at that event was devastating, but due to a strange
qualification system for women boxers, the 17-year-old was added
to the Olympic roster. Claressa regrouped and made a most
impressive comeback to win the gold medal in London. At the Rio
Games this year Claressa was the favorite for good reason, and
showed dominant form through each fight to the gold. In her
relatively short amateur career, Claressa has won everything at
least once, and along the way has begun to use her platform to
bring attention to the unequal treatment of girls and women in
the sport, finding a way to speak for respect in a similar way
as she commands it in the ring.
Franchon Crews has been in the amateur game since 2004, when she
discovered boxing as a way to lose weight. She is an eight-time
U.S. Champion, and has represented Team USA in numerous
international competitions, including Continental and World
Championships, and the first PanAmerican Games open to women
boxers in 2011. Franchon made a comeback of her own when she
failed a drug test in 2008, and returned to the ring after a
two-year suspension. In a rapidly changing and advancing field,
no other U.S. boxer has ever mounted such a successful campaign.
Franchon has given back to her sport by serving on the USA
Boxing Judicial Commission, and was recently named to the United
States Olympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council.
Saturday night the two meet up for a 4-round professional fight
at Super Middleweight (168-pounds), using smaller gloves, no
headgear, and with a scoring system that credits hard punches
and aggression. Claressa goes in with a career record of 77-1,
is the internationally ranked number one, a two-time Olympic
gold medalist, and has defeated Franchon in each of their
previous meetings — she is heavily favored to win. But Franchon
brings more years of experience, and has positioned herself as a
credible rival with a puncher’s chance.
Together, Claressa and Franchon enter a world of professional
boxing that has long benefited from the farm system of amateur
boxing. Just a few U.S. former champions that have gone on to
excel in professional boxing include Jill Emery, Carina Moreno,
Jennifer Han, Alicia Ashley, Melissa Hernandez, Eileen Kuwaye
Olszewski, Chantel Cordova, and Ronica Jeffrey. Internationally,
another London Olympic champion, Katie Taylor (Ireland), plans
to turn pro next month, and there are rumors of London Olympic
champion Nicola Adams (England) turning pro soon. Whereas men
use National and Olympic podiums to capitalize on lucrative
professional careers, Claressa and Franchon enter the pro world
in hopes of changing it for the better.
As a former team coach of both women, my first reaction was that
professional boxing didn’t deserve these two shining stars.
Women pro boxers are notoriously underpaid and undervalued.
Women’s pro fights fights are rarely advertised or even
televised. While fight fans report enjoying women’s boxing,
promoters are slow to give women athletes their just due. Any
pro women boxers making a living in the sport have done so by
benefitting from hefty sponsorships. But if this is what they
want, then I embrace their choice, and if anyone can make
positive changes in the pro game, it’s Claressa and Franchon.
On Saturday night they will compete against each other, and for
their futures in the sport. They’ll be the only two in the ring,
but they’ll have thousands of supportive fans in their
Claressa and Franchon are boxers, and ambassadors for a vision
of a better world for women in the sport.
Permission: by Christy Halbert Report first