Claressa Shields: Rose From the Concrete

When people hear of Flint, Michigan they often think of the ongoing three-year water crisis that was brought to light earlier this year. Like many news stories, the Flint water crisis has faded from the media. Thus is the case for a number of Olympic athletes whose fame is short-lived following competition on the world’s stage. Flint native and boxing phenom, Claressa Shields, looks to change that notion after the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Becoming a professional athlete is improbable on its own, but emerging from the streets of Flint as a pro athlete seems damn near impossible. The year Claressa was born there were a reported 3,892 violent crimes in Flint 1995, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. At the age of 5, when she began talking, but with a severe stutter, she became victimized by sexual assault. With her father in and out of prison and her mother dealing with drug issues, Shields was left defenseless to the twisted nature of her mother’s various boyfriends.

At age 11, she finally found a vessel to channel the pent-up anger of her dark past. Her father, a former boxer, told her about the father-daughter success Muhammad and Laila Ali had achieved. Shields became instantly inspired. A man named Jason Crutchfield took interest in a young Shields and eventually coached her into being the first American woman to win gold in boxing at the 2012 London Olympics, when she was just a junior in high school. Yet even though she achieved such success, there was no recognition to be had in the form of a check.

Despite her financial constraints, in 2014 she talked her cousin out of an abortion and ended up adopting her baby daughter, Klaressa. Eight months later, however, her cousin would have a change of heart, meaning Shields would have to reluctantly give baby Klaressa back to her biological mother. In losing Klaressa, Shields was dealt another blow. But the silver lining was that she gained more time to be the best boxer in the women’s middleweight class and continue her Role Model status as Flint’s bright spot.

Since losing Klaressa, Shields’ boxing ability has only grown. And despite parting ways with Crutchfield in 2014, Shields’s dominance has not withered one bit. Leon Lawson II, whose father was the former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali, has stepped in flawlessly by exploiting Shields’ strengths, which are prominent in the video above.

Under Lawson II’s tutelage and leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, Shields positioned herself well for another strong showing. And this past Sunday, Shields’ hard work paid off yet again as she successfully defended her 2012 gold with another gold medal. Being ranked the number 1 female in the middleweight division, you would think she is well out of poverty. On the contrary, she has earned relatively little from endorsements despite a plethora of boxing titles. And instead of treating herself with the monthly stipend provided by the Olympics, she has helped pay her mother’s overdue water bill and care for her three siblings.

At just 21 years of age, Shields shows a tremendous amount of good judgment and leadership. She’s gone through a lot so far in her young life. She’s emerged from a trying environment, fought out of hardship, and reached the pinnacle of the athletic world. But she still remembers who she is and where she came from.

Can you get a better #TBT?? 😍 #whentwogreatscollide 📸: TrappFotos

A post shared by USABoxing (@usaboxing) on

Claressa Shields is the ultimate Role Model for her determination and selflessness. Her maturity at such a young age and willingness to step forward for others is impressive as it is admirable. We can all learn something from her incredible ongoing story of sprouting into a rose from the concrete when faced with the slimmest of odds and toughest of uppercuts.


Follow Claressa Shields on Instagram @claressashields and Twitter @Claressashields

Follow the writer Bryan Jung on Instagram @jungb_4_3 and Twitter @jmula15

Posted 25 August 2016