There can, and should be a healthy debate about Claressa Shields’ oft-repeated boast in which she refers to herself as the GWOAT, the acronym for the greatest woman of all-time (in boxing).
The only American to win back-to-back gold medals in boxing, Shields on Friday in Atlantic City won a world title in her third weight class, routing an overmatched Ivana Habazin over 10 one-sided rounds. Shields won by scores of 100-89, 100-90 and 99-89 and was never seriously threatened.
That made her the fastest to win titles in three weight classes, surpassing Vasiliy Lomachenko, who won featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight titles in just 12 bouts.
She dropped Habazin in the Showtime-televised bout with a body shot, the first time that Habazin was down in her professional career and Shields’ first knockdown as a pro. Habazin had fought a poor caliber of opponent and didn’t seem to have either the knowledge, talent or motivation to push Shields or threaten her in any way.
There was a lot of trash talking and sharp words before the bout, and Shields gloated after the win.
“She can take a piece of humble pie and go back to Croatia,” Shields said.
Shields made a point of going to the body, and according to CompuBox, nearly half of all the punches she landed (68 of 141) were to the body. For the bout, Shields connected on 141-of-516 punches while absorbing just 49 shots out of the 285 that Habazin threw.
Habazin was out of her depth and the bout wasn’t remotely competitive.
While Shields’ record is remarkable, and she deserves plenty of credit for what she’s been able to accomplish, she simply doesn’t have the number of bouts or quality opponents to put her in the ranking with the greatest women in the sport’s history.
She may get there one day, because she is a highly skilled and motivated fighter, but she has a way to go before the GWOAT title can fairly be bestowed upon her.
A way she can do that is by improving her punching power and her ability to finish. Shields has just two finishes in her 10 victories, and so her knockout percentage of 20 percent pales in comparison to that of Lucia Rijker (14 KOs in 17 fights, 82.4 percent); Ann Wolfe (64 percent); Laila Ali (88 percent); Regina Halmich (28.5 percent); Christy Martin (52.5) or Cecilia Braekhus (25 percent).
Because she’s outspoken, Shields gets plenty of criticism. Some of it is deserved and fair, but much is over the top and out of line. She’s a neophyte — just 10 fights and is only 24 years old — and is only going to get better.
Now is not the time to judge her. She should be judged in an all-time context after she’s gained more experience and has fully fleshed out her talents. She’s an amazingly gifted fighter who, despite a few missteps, is trying her best to drag women’s boxing into the mainstream.
She’s an elite talent and that GWOAT crown may someday fit nicely upon her head. It’s a bit early, though, for that kind of talk.
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