America’s two-time Olympic champion Claressa Shields has the same objective as one-time Olympic champion Katie Taylor — to raise the profile of women’s boxing worldwide.
Shields won on her pro debut in Las Vegas on Saturday night, in a unanimous decision over Franchon Crews. They were on the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward undercard.
Shields, 21, with former Irish head coach Billy Walsh in her corner, claimed her second Olympic gold for the US in the middleweight class in Rio last August and scooped the Val Barker Best Female Boxer Award.
Walsh said they wanted to keep her in the amateur ranks for Tokyo 2020, but that there was little any federation can do when boxers decide to switch codes except wish them the best of luck.
The Irish Athletic Boxing Association would concur, with that, after Taylor, Michael Conlan, and Paddy Barnes all turned pro recently. IABA president Pat Ryan has written to the trio thanking them for what he described as their “absolutely outstanding contribution” to Irish amateur boxing.
Taylor makes her pro debut against Poland’s Karina Kopinska at London’s Wembley Arena next Saturday night at super-feather.
“I feel like I’ve broken down a lot of barriers in the amateur game and I’d love to do the same in the pro game. I’d love to take women’s professional boxing to the next level,” said Taylor, who cites the UFC for investing considerably in promoting its female fighters.
“I have got big dreams. You look at the likes of Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm and they are headlining shows in the UFC and I’d love to bring the same thing into professional boxing.”
Taylor, coached by Ross Enamait of the USA, is expected to meet Kopinska over six rounds on Saturday. Shields, nicknamed T-Rex, debuted over four rounds in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, middleweight Christina Desmond is assured of at least bronze at the European Elite Women’s Championships after claiming an impressive quarter-final win in Sofia, Bulgaria yesterday.
The Cork southpaw beat Russia’s Oksana Trofimova on a unanimous decision over four, two minute rounds to book her ticket into Tuesday’s 75kg semi-final versus France’s Maily Nicar.
Irish champion delivered victory in robust style, her simple but effective combinations consistently rocking the Russian to seal a victory.
Sportingly, Desmond held the rope down for her vanquished opponent to exit the ring before punching the air in delight.
“Absolutely thrilled, it was tough but I got the win,” she said afterwards.
“Christina boxed very well,” said Ireland head coach Zuar Antia.
“I thought she did very well against a strong opponent. I spoke with her before the fight, she was a little bit nervous but she performed.”
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