One is a UFC champion with quick hands and one of the most feared names in the sport. The other is an undefeated boxer, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who has broken a number of professional boxing records and the two could be on a collision course.
A crossover fight with the UFC’s Amanda Nunes is being targeted by boxing phenomenon Clarissa Shields. Such an contest could prove to be the biggest in the history of women’s athletics and have crossover appeal to casual fans of both combat sports. Shields, who won a world title in a third weight class is promoting the idea of fighting a series of bouts with Nunes. One would take place in UFC’s octagon with the other to take place in a standard boxing ring.
Such a contest would undoubtedly be the biggest fight in combat sports since Laila Ali (the daughter of Muhammad Ali) took on Jacqui Frazier-Lyde (the daughter of Joe Frazier) in a fight billed as Ali-Frazier IV in 2001. The match was entertaining, and it garnered decent attention, but this fight is built on the accomplishments of both fighters – not their family names.
Ali overcame her father’s hesitations to become a world champion, and women’s boxing still has its critics. Shields has dealt with them before.
One of those antagonists is Russia's Sergei Kovalev. The former light heavyweight champion and active boxer is a critic of women in combat sports.
In an encounter the year before she told him that maybe he would be on one of her fights -- in an undercard match. They later teased each other about the benefits of winning an Olympic gold medal in their respective countries.
Winning gold in the 2012 Olympics usually provides an American fighter with enough fame to launch a pro career; although, there was little economic opportunity. However, Shields began training for a second Olympic run after winning her first gold and won a second at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
A viral video from 2016 shows Shields talking to then light heavyweight champion Sergei Kovalev. After Kovalev takes some exceptions to some of Shields comments, he asks her how much she received from the U.S. Boxing Association – the answer $25,000. Kovalev with a smile on his face explains that in Russia he received $60,000 for his Olympic win plus access to a car, housing and a monthly stipend in Russia.
Asked about the incident last year and Kovalev’s career by the author she focused on his most recent fight.
“I knew he would get knocked out by Canelo, the only thing different than my prediction is that I predicted it would happen in the 11th round and the KO came in the 8th,” Shields told the author in November -- in reference to Sergei Kovalev's loss to Canelo Alvarez in a fight he appeared to be winning.
Success may be the best revenge and Kovalev was without longtime trainer John David Jackson – who now trains Shields.
In that fight Canelo won a title in a third weight class but, Shields became the fastest fighter to win titles in three different weight classes this year. Boxing’s Manny Pacquiao holds the all-time record in this regard.
Sheilds is one of only seven boxers to have won all four belts in a single division. Four of those boxers are men, three are women. The most recent man to achieve the feat was Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk, who unified the cruiserweight vision. The other men on that list are Bernard Hopkins (2004–2005), Jermain Taylor (2005), and Omaha’s Terence Crawford, current welterweight champion. The other two women on the list are Norway’s Cecilia Brækhus and Ireland’s Katie Taylor. Both women are still active but, fight at a lighter weight than Shields.
Thus, all eyes in the UFC and boxing world will likely turn to the looming potential of a fight between Shields and Nunes.
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