In the Internet age, patience doesn’t get as much shine as instant gratification. For 21-year-old boxer Claressa Shields, wrangling an Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics at 17 years old (she is one of three women to ever do so for boxing) took time.
For the latest installment of ESPN’s E:60 series, the cameras follow the Flint native as she conquered bullying, family dysfunction (her father, also a boxer, was in prison at one point while Shields rarely ate growing up after giving whatever food the family had to her siblings) and personal defeat. “Over the years after being bullied and saying nothing about it, it just built up the anger that I had and by the time I got in the fifth grade, I was fighting everybody. I was fighting seventh graders, eighth graders, I was fighting boys all the time,” says Shields, who was the only girl when she began training in a boxing club.
In 2009, the international Olympic committee made the historic announcement that women’s boxing would be part of the 2012 games in London. After experiencing her first career loss in Qinhuangdao, China at the Women’s Worlds Championship, the fire in her grew hotter.
“I just grew vicious and I wanted to destroy anything that got in my way of my gold medal,” she said. “I was just gonna take what was mine. I wasn’t gonna let it be taken away by the judges. I wasn’t gonna get it by a split decision or lose by one point. I’m gonna dominate every match.” She then went on to win the Olympic middleweight gold medal at her 2012 debut and now sets her sights on the 2016 Olympic games.
Lastly, she hopes to be one of the greatest fighters of all time not just in the world but for her native Flint, who continues to persevere despite the water criss. “The city needs something to uplift them, to inspire,” she says. “I think I give everybody who believes that you are stuck here, that you can’t make it out, I think I give all these people hope.”
Watch the full E:60 episode below.