Claressa Shields's next big bout is first for women boxers in Saudi Arabia

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Web Desk
Claressa Shields during the medal presentation ceremony following the women’s middleweight final bout at the Riocentro Pavilion 6 in Rio de Janeiro. — AFP/File
Claressa Shields during the medal presentation ceremony following the women’s middleweight final bout at the Riocentro Pavilion 6 in Rio de Janeiro. — AFP/File

Without question, Claressa Shields is the world's greatest female boxer. In an age where there were four belts to win, the two-time Olympic gold medallist was the first unchallenged winner in two different divisions: light middleweight and middleweight. 

She is on all pound-for-pound rankings and has a perfect record as a professional. If she keeps up her current form, she will easily enter the Boxing Hall of Fame.

But Shields just isn't that kind of person. Since her childhood in Flint, Michigan, she has always yearned for more. She needed a second medal podium because the first wasn't good enough. She needed additional belts; one pro division wasn't good enough. 

One sport was insufficient for her, so she decided to compete in mixed martial arts through the Professional Fighters League with the hopes of becoming the best female combat fighter of all time and earning more money in a field where disparities between men and women are frequently glaring.

According to the PFL, she will create even more history in combat sports on Saturday when she squares up against Kelsey DeSantis. Together, they will be the first female fighters on a professional mixed martial arts card in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s going to inspire the women there. It’s going to inspire their culture and their country,” said Shields, who will fight on the “PFL Champions vs. Bellator Champions” preliminary card, which will be televised in the United States on ESPNews and ESPN+.

“If you go and look at my story to see everything that I went through and how sports changed my life, they will feel that every woman and every man deserves sports. Sports change lives and it saves lives,” she told The Athletic, calling the bout a step “in the right direction” for the kingdom.