Claressa Shields is about to make history once again. The former Olympian is already the first American fighter of any gender to win back-to-back gold medals, and one of few to have their pro debut televised on a national network. On March 10th, Shields will become the first woman to headline a card on premium cable as she takes on Hungary's Szilvia Szabados on Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation".
"It is a dream come true to be the first woman to headline a boxing card on premium television," Shields said in an interview. "March 10 will be a historic night for boxing and all of the women who give so much to advance our sport. I want to thank Showtime, MGM Grand Detroit and Salita Promotions for this opportunity, and I will do everything to give my home state fans and the viewers a night to remember."
Salita Promotions, named as such after former welterweight contender Dmitriy Salita, will be holding the bout in Shields’s home state of Michigan. While Salita never made it to the elite levels of boxing, he has found moderate success as a promoter, being known to run more ethical productions in a business that too often isn’t.
While “ShoBox: The New Generation” is better known as a platform for the mid-tier skillset of the sport, headlining such a show in a fighter’s second professional appearance is a significant feat. And though the bout is clearly meant to buttress the career of Shields, it isn’t a complete walkover either. Szabados holds a record of 15-8 with 6KOs, and has faced recognized opposition, like Mikaela Lauren and the undefeated Nikki Adler. She certainly isn’t planning to simply lay down March 10th.
"Fighters always say their next fight is the most important one of their career, but you get an opportunity like this, and it really is. This is an unbelievable dream," said Szabados. "I am very happy to be receiving this opportunity. I know this fight is important for Claressa also, and I don't really know what will happen in the ring. We both want to win. Claressa has more amateur experience, but I have more experience as a professional. It's going to be an exciting night."
The fight will certainly shed some light as to how much an amateur background matters in professional boxing, but it might also be the beginning of an answer to a more pertinent calling in the sport. Shields carries an impressive 77-1 record in the amateurs, and pretty much dominated the top echelon of the industry once women were allowed in. She delivered an action-packed four-round shutout in her professional debut on the Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev undercard, and will now be headlining a televised card next month. If boxing has been waiting for their female superstar to break through to the mainstream, Shields might be it.
“Women haven’t been given the opportunity,” Shields told Yahoo Sports. “This is a big opportunity to be on TV and give the fans the chance to see us and cling to us and like the way we fight. This is big.”
Should Shields emerge victorious in March, her co-manager Mark Taffet has been making allusions to pitting her against WBO/WBC middleweight champion Christina Hammer at the end of the year. Should the fight indeed happen that soon, Shields would likely have only one, maybe two more fights, making her a world title challenger with less than five bouts on her record. That would be another huge accomplishment for Shields and for women’s boxing.
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