Editor's note: Statements from Claressa Shields were taken by Flintside contributor Rayford Gray.
FLINT, Michigan — Flint native Claressa Shields recently hosted a class for youth boxing lessons inside AT Fitness in Mount Morris, MI. Almost 90 kids and young adults attended the class on Monday, Jan. 9 to get a hands-on learning experience from the undisputed women's world middleweight champion.
As Shields interacted with each class participant, she observed their skills while making helpful critiques during the boxing demonstration which was one of her favorite moments of the class.
"My favorite part about hosting an event like this today was the boxing demonstration," said Shields. "To see how the parents and the kids are so excited to be in a boxing environment."
She also explained how the origin of the camp was inspired by the youth that continuously support her.
"I noticed that every time I did an event or a speaking engagement, and I invited the youth to come out, they showed up in numbers, and they listened to what I said, said Shields. "They follow me on social media and they’re always writing me, having questions, so I wanted to form my own organization so I could run it how I want to run it and touch the community — not just Flint but all over Genesee County, all genders."
Claressa Shields spars with a participant during her free boxing class held on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. (Rayford Gray | Flintside)
The class was made possible by the Shields Community Outreach Corporation which is currently accepting monetary and equipment donations.
Shields said that one of the goals this year for the corporation is to raise money to help young aspiring boxers travel and build their boxing records.
"We're going to be going to places like Canada, Detroit, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina for the kids to have their fights and build their records up," said Shields.
"Something else that we want to do is make sure that all the kids have hand wraps, all the kids have boxing gloves so that's kind of what we need the funds for. And we want to just spice this gym up to where it can fit as many kids in here as possible and we can just help the youth year-round.”
Claressa Shields. (Rayford Gray | Flintside)
Shields also shared her passion for wanting to provide an outlet for the youth.
"I'm just really happy to help build the youth, help build them with stronger minds, get their anger under control right now, get some discipline in them, some structure, and also find the next Claressa Shields or the next Muhammad Ali," she said. "But really, I want to save our youth. I don't want all these kids to have to go through all this anger and depression and trauma, but nobody gives them an outlet. So I can be their outlet and will also be their guide so they'll know how to face adversity and have a mental mindset, taking on every task that comes to them."
Almost 90 kids and young adults attended the free boxing class held on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. (Rayford Gray | Flintside)
Along with the free boxing lessons provided, Shields also gave some reassuring words to the parents of participants in attendance.
"People think about boxing, they feel like it's kind of scary, or their child could get hurt, but I'm always happy that the parents trust that I'm going to protect their kids like they're my kids," said Shields. "I'm going to teach their kids, I'm going to help mold their kids so [they] are not just showing up to learn how to fight, [they] are coming here to learn a lot about life, and I believe that I can teach them that."
Claressa Shields greets a parent during the free boxing class held on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. (Rayford Gray | Flintside)
As far as what's ahead for Claressa Shields herself, she gave Flintside a quick glance at her plans for 2023.
"I'll have one boxing match and I'll have a few MMA fights with the PFL," said Shields. "My prize fights are meant to be in March or April, and then I have MMA fights in August, September, or November.”
Stay up to date with Claressa Shields by visiting: claressagwoatshields.com
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