5 Reasons to Follow Women's Boxing in Rio

#1) MAKING HISTORY

Women’s Boxing first premiered as an Olympic sport at the London 2012 Games. At 17 years old, Claressa Shields (middleweight from Flint, MI) made history by becoming the sport’s first Gold medalist. Four years later, she’s going for her 2nd Gold in Rio, and could make history again by becoming the first American boxer (male or female) to win a consecutive Gold medals. Claressa names Serena Williams as her greatest source of inspiration:

“I really didn't know what to do after I won the 2012 Olympics when I was 17. A lot of people screamed at me to go to college and to turn professional. Serena Williams has a picture of her with 2 Olympics gold medals, one on both sides of her face. That picture, let alone with her dominance in her sport, made me wanna be as dominant in my sport as she is in hers."

Claressa's USA teammate, Mikaela Mayer (lightweight from Los Angeles, CA) fell just short of making the 2012 London Olympics. But her dreams of making it in 2016 came true this past March, when she won gold at the Americas Qualifying Tournament in Buenos Aires. 

#2) BRINGING WOMEN'S BOXING TO THE SPOTLIGHT

Despite having virtually no sponsorship interest after London, the two women have together been quickly earning more attention for the sport, which has already been an Olympic men’s sport since 1904. Claressa received one of the highest media honors as an athlete –  being featured in the 2016 ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue, released this July.

Mikaela, a sponsored Under Armour athlete, has been featured in multiple publications recently including The EverygirlThe AtlanticCosmopolitan. And you may have first recognized her from this inspiring Dr. Pepper “1/ One of a Kind” commercial back in 2013.

#3) THEY'RE STRONG, TOUGH & BEAUTIFUL

In the ring, these two women are wild & fierce competitors, not afraid to take a punch in the face. They train daily, working on footwork, speed, cardio, strength, focusing on their nutrition and eating enough of the right foods to keep their bodies strong and fit. 

“Fighting is something God wants me to do. I'm built the way that I am -- with my shape and my figure, with my muscles - because God blessed me with that, and I'm grateful for it. He wants me to be a boxer and to be a fighter.”


#4) BOXING SAVED THEM

Claressa found boxing at only 11 years old, when her father (a boxer in the underground leagues) told her a story about Laila Ali and how she took up the sport after her father. Claressa's the first in her family to graduate high school, and had lived in almost a dozen homes by the time she turned 11 years old. She has an incredible story of overcoming adversity in one of America’s most impoverished cities.

“I consider myself a hero and a role model for Flint. I thought my winning the Olympics gave people a lot more hope and a lot more faith than the city has had in a long time. I think it gave them a sense that even though you're from Flint, you can do anything you want to do.”

Mikaela grew up outside of Los Angeles, and in high school had lost her sense of direction – almost quitting school and getting in trouble for fighting and bad grads. At age 17 she drove past a boxing gym by her house, stopped in, and signed up with her last $100. The first thing she asked the trainer was: "Do you think I'm too old to start competing?"

"I was hungry for success in something at that time, because I wasn't doing well at anything. I was like, 'I want to be good at something.' It's always been inside me. I've always had that fire. I didn't have anywhere to direct it."

#5) "T-REX" DOCUMENTARY & UNIVERSAL MOVIE DEAL

When the 17 year-old from Flint, Michigan qualified for the London Olympics, her story gained the attention of documentary filmmakers Drea Cooper & Zackary Canepari. They raised over $64,000 on Kickstarter to film the documentary "T-Rex" about Claressa's Fight for Gold, it's won numberous film festival awards & will be premiering on PBS August 2nd, and will be available on Netflix later this summer. You can also rent it on Vimeo. Earlier this year, Claressa also won a movie deal with Universal Pictures, acquiring life rights to film a Rocky-esque type movie about her inspiring true story. 

To follow Claressa & Mikaela in Rio, visit the NBC Olympics boxing page or download the Rio Spectator's Guide.