In 2021, three days after Claressa Shields became the first boxer ever to be undisputed champion in two divisions in the four-belt era, the world celebrated International Women’s Day.
The power of Shields’ historic achievement was only magnified by the event itself – dubbed ‘Superwomen’ having being organised in tribute to the worldwide day of celebration.
Not only was the victory a giant step for females in the sport of boxing, the night on which it came saw the first all-female pay-per-view card.
Shields’ 10-round win over previous IBF Champion Marie-Eve Dicaire was the cherry on top of a quality night of female fights.
Taking place in Shields’ hometown of Flint, Michigan, the fight result meant the 25-year-old retained her WBC and WBO light-middleweight crowns, took Canadian Dicaire's IBF title, and won the vacant WBA belt. She had already won all four belts at middleweight.
Announcing that the pay-per-view event had surpassed all projected sales expectations, the organisers said they hoped it would serve as a catalyst to encourage other promoters to focus on female fights.
Shields’ manager Mark Taffett paid an emotional tribute to the ‘real-life Superwoman’ and ‘women’s rights trailblazer’:
“Claressa continually uses her platform and broad shoulders to stand tall for all women and demand equality across the board. I am thankful that she is championing the cause and continuing to make measurable and demonstrable progress in her advocacy of women’s boxing.
“Today and every day, men and women everywhere should stand beside Claressa as she transcends boxing and makes true societal change.”
Having landed an incredible 128 punches to Dicaire’s 31, self-proclaimed GWOAT (Greatest Woman of All Time) Shields said after the fight that she had really wanted to get the knockout victory. However, her elation was clear to see when she described being undisputed champion, twice, as being: “like some epic shit”.
She added: "Pacquiao who? Canelo who? It's Claressa Shields, yes!"
"Two-time undisputed. When someone else do it, let me know! It ain't been done. It's just me."
Eleven months later and Shields retained her titles against Ema Kozin on Saturday 5 February. She defeated Kozin at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff via unanimous decision (100-90, 100-90, 100-90).
Fighting as a pro for the first time on British soil - and with rival and WBO champion Savannah Marshall watching on - Shields outboxed Kozin from start to finish as she retained her WBA, WBC, IBF and The Ring middleweight titles.
Shields' next opponent will be Marshall herself, who will first need to defend her title against Femke Hermans on Saturday 12 March.
It will be interesting to watch and see the impact that Shields, Marshall and their counterparts have on female boxing at a grassroots level.
After the London 2012 Summer Olympics, when Nicola Adams became the first female boxer to be an Olympic champion, UK female participation in the sport increased much more than when compared to males. There is a chance that the publicity surrounding Shields’ accomplishment and the all-female PPV could trigger a similar surge in females boxing.
Either way, data shows that the popularity of boxing with females is on the rise. Sport England’s Active Lives survey, released in 2020 and covering the period from November 2018 to November 2019, showed that 420,400 females were regularly involved in the sport, up from 386,000 the previous year.
England Boxing has run various initiatives to help drive female participation, including the England Boxing Women’s Winter Box Cup, the all-female England Boxing Level One ‘Punch Like A Girl’ coaching courses and the Female Aspire programme for regional boxers.
If you or someone you know has been inspired, visit the England Boxing website to find advice on getting started.