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Claressa Shields Wants To Fight Keith Thurman… Rather Than Any Viable Female Fighter

Claressa Shields Wants To Fight Keith Thurman featured image
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JUNE 03: Claressa Shields enters the ring to fight Maricela Cornejo for the Middleweight Championship at Little Caesars Arena on June 03, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Claressa Shields is conceivably the greatest female fighter in this era, if not all time, but her current status as the G.W.O.A.T (Greatest Woman of All Time) seems to have convinced the two-time undisputed champion to chase former welterweight champion Keith Thurman for a fight, who at one point was known as the best male welterweight in the division.

The prospect of Claressa Shields (14-0, 2 KO’s) facing Keith Thurman (30-1, 22 KO’s) started on July 29th when she put out a Tweet where she stated her intention to face Keith Thurman in the ring at 154 lbs.

Though it was unclear on how serious she was, Keith Thurman eventually responded with several conditions of his own:

I can fight for any charity event. We can raise money and we can let you try to let you showcase your skills and talent.” Keith Thurman said in an interview with Sporting News.

I’ll probably use my jab only. I don’t know why you want to gun after me. I heard you mention my name so many times in the past.

That’s not what boxing is to me. If we can do something for charity, if I can put money in the pockets of some foundations, if we can do something to get some money together, and if the fans are actually interested in something like this, for the people and for charity, I would make something happen.

Thurman further stated he would only use his jab before setting a number of conditions including him wearing bigger gloves (as that would be deemed safer for Shields) while Shields would have to wear headgear.

A couple days later, Claressa Shields suggested she was already getting ready for a potential Keith Thurman fight:

Y’all the reason I’m trending. I’m in the gym already getting ready for One Time (Keith Thurman).” Shields said on her Twitter account on August 1st.

Lol it’s the crying for me ‘We love you G.W.O.A.T but you ain’t knocking out women, how you gonna KO Keith Thurman’. I never said I’d KO him, I said ‘I think I can outbox him’. But hey, even that got y’all upset. Training camp has started.” Claressa Shields reiterated a few days later.

It is highly likely there is no truth to Shields’ claim that she is in training camp given the fight hasn’t even been signed. In many ways, her attempt to fight Keith Thurman might just be a way to draw attention to herself; boxers heavily rely on promotion to garner as many ticket sales and TV/PPV views as possible, and Claressa Shields may just be looking to market herself rather than truly fight Keith Thurman.

If she is, however, truly genuine in her belief of defeating Keith Thurman, it is important to highlight an important part of history in combat sports.

There is only one prime example needed as to why women should not be pitted against men in combat sports; Lucia Rijker.

Rijker, a Dutch female fighter who has made unprecedented history by remaining undefeated in both professional kickboxing and boxing contests all while winning several world titles in both sports, once dared to do the same as Claressa Shields in fighting a male fighter. This was before she had entered the sport of professional boxing and had already reached untold heights in kickboxing.

20 Nov 1997: Lucia Rijker looks on during her fight with Jeannette Witte at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. Rijker won the bout with a TKO in the third round. Mandatory Credit: Markus Boesch /Allsport

Her opponent was Somchai Jaidee, a New Zealander-Thai fighter who had a record of 13-1 and 9 KO’s in his sport of Muay Thai. At that point in time, Rijker was already known as a four-time kickboxing world champion. Jaidee, in comparison, did not have any notable world title victories in his own sport, and his record is still disputed till this day.

It is important to note that the match between the match was an exhibition and styled as a cross-gender match. It did not count on the professional record of either fighter, and was set under kickboxing rules. Lucia Rijker further stood at 5’6 foot, a couple inches taller than Somchai Jaidee.

As may be well known by now, Rijker ended up getting knocked out cold in the 2nd round of their exhibition match. Prior to her KO loss, the two had looked evenly matched with Rijker’s skills as a world kickboxing champion on full display, allowing her to land several good shots. She even managed to knockdown Jaidee through several leg kicks.

The 2nd round showed a different picture entirely, with Jaidee realizing eventually that none of her shots seemed to really hurt while his did. While driven in a corner, Somchai Jaidee planted some blows of his own during an exchange and Lucia Rijker was knocked out cold as a result. In a nutshell, it confirmed the disparity between female and male competitors with Lucia Rijker, as mentioned earlier, being bigger than Somchai Taidee.

The story of Lucia Rijker is a warning signal for Claressa Shields to perhaps focus on challenging against the females in her sport. Rijker, at the time, did not face a former world champion in Keith Thurman but a rather obscurely-known fighter with no recognizable achievements other than a record that cannot be confirmed.

Keith Thurman, a former world champion, currently boasts a KO ratio of 73%, which is above the norm for any professional boxer. Claressa Shields, in comparison, has a knockout rate of 14%, the fifth lowest out of all the current female boxing champions. Only Stephanie Silva (8-0, 0 KO’s), Montserrat Alarcon (18-4-2, 0 KO’s), Marlen Esparza (14-1, 1 KO’s), and Jessica Nery Plata (29-2, 3 KO’s) boast lower KO percentages than Claressa Shields, with the former two having yet to stop or knock out anyone.

Former unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman (L) has garnered an impressive KO rate of 73% in professional boxing. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Golden Boy/Golden Boy via Getty Images)

Though knockouts/stoppages do not fully describe the comprehensiveness in what constitutes a champion, it is an indicator of what we can expect to see if Keith Thurman faces Claressa Shields. It is her pregorative to fight who she wants. In fact, Shields has already delved into the sport of MMA to challenge herself in other ways.

However, fighting another male boxer, specifically one with a high KO ratio, can be severely damaging to Claressa Shields’ health. There are also still challenges left for her to face. She can always continue dabbling in MMA like she has done twice before, and there are other opponents yet to face particularly Savannah Marshall (13-1, 10 KO’s) who is currently the women’s undisputed super middleweight champion.

Marshall, who is set to await the winner between 168 lbs contenders Shadashia Green (12-0, 11 KO’s) and Olivia Curry (7-1, 2 KO’s), was already defeated by Claressa Shields in October of 2022 but has still achieved a monumental win over Franchon Crews-Dezurn (8-2, 2 KO’s) to become undisputed at 168 lbs this year.

Fighting her is a suitable option for Shields who is arguably the best female fighter today. Though currently a middleweight, Shields has fought in multiple weight divisions and doesn’t just need to rely on fights at 160 lbs and 168 lbs to face challenges. At 154 lbs, for example, there are further opportunities for her in WBA world champion Terri Harper (14-1-1, 6 KO’s), and unified champion Natasha Jonas (14-2-1, 9 KO’s); though Jonas’ last fight was at welterweight which might suggest she will not remain at 154 lbs for long.

In any case, there are genuine realistic challenges for Shields to face, and a fight with Keith Thurman would not be a suitable arrangement for an active undisputed world champion in Claressa Shields. In this current era where active world champions like Tyson Fury have stooped to fighting 0-0 MMA fighters like Francis Ngannou, a Shields vs. Thurman fight would not contribute any better to the sport, exhibition or not.