Despite an international fight looming in September, The Champ is launching her BYF youth program
FLINT - Drop the W, Claressa is the GOAT. Greatest Of All Time. Adding a qualifier like ‘W’ shortens the heights that she’s reached. I mean, if the Greatest Woman Of All Time has done things that no man has done in her country, doesn’t that eliminate the need for the ‘W’?
The only American to win back-to-back gold medals in boxing at the Olympic Games.
The only person to hold all four major world titles at once, in 2 weight classes.
The fastest person to win 3 separate division world championship belts.
A 12-time World Champion
But most importantly, right now, she is the lead instructor of boxing for the BYF program that launched this past week inside “@ Fitness”, a gym owned by her fiancee Tony Rich and located in the prominent Flint neighborhood of Beecher. “It stands for boxing, yoga, and fitness,” Clareesa explained to Next Up Michigan in an interview outside the gym. “It’s the summertime, no better time. And just because I have a big fight coming up doesn’t mean I can’t give back to my community.” Clareesa stated when asked why she would initiate something requiring her attention at this time.
The question was an honest one, as more history looms for the Champ. On September 10th, Claressa Shields will go toe-to-toe with her “arch nemesis” Savannah Marshall. The bout will take place at the historic O2 arena in London, and will be the first time women have headlined a boxing card in the venue. Shields has her work cut out for her – Marshall is a U.K. native – and anyone with boxing sense knows it is more than a daunting task to defeat a tough Brit in their own backyard. “I gotta fly 6 hours over there to give this girl a beatdown, but it’ll happen” she said without a flinch.
That’s what makes the move to begin the BYF program one of the most selfless acts in recent memory, when speaking of superstar athletes. Sure, many throw money at the issues in their communities – and it works in instances – but Claressa is putting her time where her heart is, and not losing a lick of training for history in the meantime, “I spread my times out the way I do. I’m still training [for the fight] and still working out. I worked out for hours today and I’m still here helping with the fitness class, so its not a big deal that I’m doing the program right now.” and that is coming from a 12-time World Champion boxer. On the near eve of women’s boxing history, United Kingdom history, and the pinnacle of her future Hall-Of-Fame career, here was Claressa outside a Flint gym, patiently waiting to finish her interview and return to her duties with the next generation.
It's a revealing trait about a person who could easily be inaccessible, with reason, to a city that needs her presence. After all, there are none like her. That’s right, the 27-yr old is charting a historical path to greatness and is showing no signs of slowing down. She’s a legend in the making, and is using her platform for others, “I want to find the next Claressa Shields.” the Champ said about her program.
Boxing, Yoga, and Fitness are the fundamental teachings of the BYF program. Boxing is led by Shields, Yoga by Latrese Robinson, and Fitness is led by her fiance Tony Rich. The program is being operated by Claressa’s foundation the SCO, Shields Community Outreach. It is a nonprofit she set up to execute programs like BYF in the city she’s called home forever. A city she hopes to change through the character development that comes with learning boxing from a master, fitness from professionals like her fiance (Tony) and championship bodybuilder Rick Fleming, and Yoga. Claressa went on to explain just how important Yoga is, saying “I think Yoga is like therapy.” further showing her dedication to caring for the next generation. Her care is relevant. She went on to say Yoga is about “mindfulness” for the children; certainly a potent element to any teaching exercise, but even more potent in learning combat. Claressa understands the need to learn the mental side of controlling and defending yourself.
There is a vision steering the ship. Claressa wants to be an agent for change in her community. As an all-time athlete from the 810, she doesn’t care to standby and watch lives be pushed off track by lack of resources and opportunity. Using her ability to connect with Flint and teach the sweet science, Claressa envisions youth using the art of boxing as a coping mechanism, stress relief, and any other need to release. All in the hopes of lowering crime rates and raising the sense of community.
The history-making bout between Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall will air on ESPN on September 10th, 2022. Claressa and the BYF Program are currently accepting new students, as well as donations. Donations can be made to her SCO foundation; checks should be to Shields Community Outreach, and will go toward sponsoring children's monthly $100 fee and other needs of the program.
Check back for the full interview between Claressa Shields and Next Up Michigan!