Claressa Shields (10-0, 2 KOs) returns to the ring tonight after struggling to get a spot in Showtime’s broadcasting schedule in 2020. The event is an all-female PPV which will see Shields attempt to unify a third weight class. Standing in her way will be Marie-Eve Dicaire (17-0), the IBF super welterweight champion.
Shields had a great amateur career, winning two world titles and two Olympic gold medals before she turned pro after the Rio Games. She tore through the (barren) super middleweight and middleweight divisions, picking up a notable win over longtime champion Cristina Hammer. She moved down to super welterweight in early 2020 and picked up two vacant belts against Ivana Habazin.
Dicaire turned to boxing after a karate career. She won the IBF belt against Chris Namus in 2018 and has made three defenses of her title since. Dicaire’s style is very reminiscent of Holly Holm’s boxing style. She is a southpaw who uses mostly a pawing jab to set up a left hand and her footwork to stay at range. If her opponent closes the distance, she is quick to clinch. She is not nearly as athletic and quick as Holm was, but her style might cause some problems for Shields.
Shields is at her best when she uses her head movement and counters an opponent going forward. She is competent fighting on the front foot but has shown a tendency to smother her offense at times by not doubling up attacks on the same side or targeting the body enough. However, the gap in athleticism and technique between her and her contemporaries has prevented anyone from capitalizing on this stereotypical offense and Dicaire will probably be no different.
Facing her style might prove a frustrating experience for Shields, but she should be more than able to keep up with Dicaire’s foot speed and has the head movement to get past her 1-2. Once she gets in close, she should be able to capitalize on Dicaire’s lack of head movement and be effective enough on the inside to bank in most of the rounds.
The question isn’t so much whether or not Shields will win - Dicaire doesn’t have the power to really trouble Shields and she is a massive favorite for a reason. It is whether an all-female boxing PPV can be a commercial success.
Shields has made a point of calling the boxing world “sexist” for having to put on her own PPV to give women boxers a spotlight. If it is not a draw, Shields might not stick to boxing much longer. She started training at JacksonWink in 2020 and will make her MMA debut in the PFL in June. She still fights ten pounds north of MMA featherweight at the moment, but one imagines that a clash of Olympic champions between Shields and Kayla Harrison is something PFL would be keen on promoting, and would potentially generate more interest than most boxing fights available to Shields.
Shields vs Dicaire airs on PPV on Fite.TV on Friday March 5th at 9:00pm ET / 6:00pm PT. It will cost $29.95 USD.