By: Mike Coppinger
LAS VEGAS — Claressa Shields’ winning ways have carried over to the pro game.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist easily passed her first test Saturday in the paid ranks with a shutout four-round decision (40-36 from all three judges) over Franchon Crews.
Shields, who topped Crews three times in the amateurs, was in control from the onset and hurt her foe badly in the final round, but was unable to put her down.
It’s the start — Shields hopes — of a journey that will lead her to break through in a sport dominated by males.
“It feels so good to have just made my pro debut,” Shields, a Flint native, said. “This is what I’ve been training for. I’m faster and I hit harder. And I’m the better fighter. But Crews brought 100% and I respect her for that. I hope to fight next in January or February.”
The 21-year-old Shields fought in front of a sparse crowd at T-Mobile Arena hours before the much-anticipated Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward pay-per-view telecast kicked off, but she received a roar of applause when the final bell tolled.
She impressed with speed and power, and seemed well beyond her 21 years. Her fight also was seen by fans as part of the “freeview.” Crews also was making her pro debut, and was unhappy that she had little time to prepare as a late replacement.
“It was really different getting hit with the head gear off but I proved a lot to myself and everyone else,” Shields said. “The gloves are smaller and even though I have never KO’d anyone, I know for a fact that I can! I came so close.”
The knockouts will definite endear her to fans, but it’s going to take a lot of personality, too. She went through the ringer of press demands for the first time, and her pro debut now is in the books.
Now it’s up to Shields to continue the hard work in an attempt to break through as a pioneer for women in boxing.
(AP Photo/John Locher)