With the Olympics, it can sometimes seem like America has a new sweetheart every single day of the week. So with that in mind, set your fangirl/fanboy squeeing to “High” and meet Claressa Shields, the 17-year-old female boxer from Flint, Michigan who might potentially be the first female boxing gold medalist…ever. Set to square off against Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova during today’s middle weight bout, Shields has the giddy enthusiasm of your average high schooler combined with the raw boxing talent of someone who could mash your face into paste without breaking a sweat. Those are only a two reasons we love Claressa, however. The rest include:
1. She’s as obsessed with the Olympic athletes as we are.
From Kobe Bryant to Missy Franklin, Claressa is all about the Olympic photo opp. A woman after our own heart! [Photo: Twitter]
2. She’s got Muhammad Ali-level swag.
Shields tweets about how she’s going to win the gold nonstop. It should be annoying, but her boundless optimism makes it endearing. “That’s what I want! That’s my gold medal! U see it?,” she tweeted, along with this photo of some fan love. Hey, it’s boxing! You’ve got to be your own hype woman! [Photo: Twitter]
3. Sometimes she gets a little weird
Claressa’s Instagram is like a window into her non-boxing-related thoughts. Some of those thoughts are adorably cray. “Just bout to have some imaginary tea with my stuffed animals. Lolz. Anybody tryna join.? #justbeinmyself. Bored,” she declared. [Photo: Twitter]
4. She knows she’s in a position to make women’s boxing blow up, and is completely gracious about it.
“I wanted to put on a good show,” Shields told the New York Times this week, “to boost the chance of more women’s weight categories being added to the next Olympics.” Swoon. [Photo: Getty Images]
5. She gives a shout-out to her dad in basically every interview.
Papa Shields started Claressa’s career when she was 9 with a trip to the gym and a comment about Laila Ali. Clearly Claressa hasn’t forgotten. Neither has he. “My dad was shedding tears (after trials). He was emotional. He thinks I’m a real good fighter,” Claressa told USA Today. “He said he thinks I’m better than him, when he was fighting (as a street fighter). He’s got this weird laugh when he be excited. He’s like, ‘Yeaaah, baby!'”
6. Seriously, she is never not smiling.
7. She’s so good, someone is already making a documentary about her career.
The documentary T-Rex will catalog Claressa’s rise to Olympic greatness, and her greatness in general. Meanwhile, Radio Diaries in conjuncture with WNYC’s Women Box followed Claressa during her training last year and premiered an audio documentary about her journey this past February. Peep the trailer for Teen Contender here.
8. When the Amateur International Boxing Association arbitrarily discussed having female boxers wear skirts for the Olympics, Claressa had the best retort.
“I really didn’t understand that,” Shields told the Washington Post. “We got different names! Women got breasts! We got butts! Can’t you tell which one is who?”
9. She obsessively watches old videos of Sugar Ray Robinson to get psyched up to fight.
Probably doesn’t hurt that she thinks of herself as a Sugar Ray. “Claressa knows Sugar Ray Robinson was the best boxer ever,” her coach Jason Crutchfield told the Detroit Free Press. “Sugar Ray was somebody — like (Sugar Ray) Leonard, Tommy Hearns — that she likes to pattern herself after. She thinks of herself as old-school like them, a throw-back fighter.”
10. Four words: DYI. Olympic. Nail. Game.