Undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor praised Claressa Shields on her MMA journey, but believes the unified middleweight defending champion should now focus solely on her boxing career.
Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the only boxer in history to simultaneously hold all four major world titles in two weight classes, tested the waters of mixed martial arts as part of the PFL’s growing promotion in 2021. Having built a spotless 11. -0 record in the square circle, “T-Rex” sought to create similar success in the cage.
This past June, Shields got off to a winning start in his new sport, recovering from two lost innings to TKO Brittney Elkin in his third debut. But while she was able to overcome her shortcomings on the floor in her first appearance, the 26-year-old was unable to do the same on her second outing.
In the PFL final in October, Shields suffered his first professional loss in combat sports. She fell on the wrong side of a split decision against Abigail Montes after failing to prevent her opponent’s strikeouts and keep the fight on its feet.
Taylor gives his opinion on Shields’ two-sports business
Despite his first setback, most agreed that the transition from boxing to MMA was always going to be difficult, and figures like UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya praised Shields for trying his hand at a new sport. It also appears the journey is far from over for “T-Rex,” who hopes to return to the cage for his third appearance in 2022.
But one of her fellow pound-for-pound boxing stars, Katie Taylor, thinks a return to MMA wouldn’t be wise. Speaking during an appearance on MMA time, the Irish champion credited Shields with facing the cross-challenger. However, “KT” believes she should now rationalize all of her efforts for her career in the ring.
“I certainly didn’t expect (Shields to fight in MMA). But I thought it was a fantastic challenge for her because boxing and MMA are two completely different sports. It’s very, very difficult for anyone in boxing to cross because obviously we don’t have a floor game.
“If someone knocked me down, for example, that would be a huge problem for me. I think obviously you might still have a shot at hitting, but that’s a priority – it’s very, very hard to stand. So I think it was an admirable challenge for her to take on. But I would like her to focus on boxing now.
Taylor’s plea for Shields to quit his MMA career in the past, for now at least, precedes what appears to be a busy year in boxing for “GWOAT”.
Shields was originally scheduled to return to the sport to defend his middleweight belts against Slovenian Ema Kozin later this month. However, with the British Boxing Board of Control announcing the suspension of sport in the UK due to COVID-19, the status of this clash, scheduled for Cardiff, Wales, is uncertain.
Beyond that, Shields looks set for an undisputed middleweight showdown with England’s Savannah Marshall later this year. With exciting boxing challenges ahead of her, Taylor believes her immediate future lies better in the square circle and nowhere else.
“There are a lot of big fights going on for her,” Taylor said. “The likes of Savannah Marshall, who is a fantastic world champion fighter, and I think Savannah actually beat her as an amateur fighter, so it’s a huge, huge, huge fight for them. It’s probably one of the biggest fights in women’s boxing. (h / t boxing scene)
Do you agree with Katie Taylor? Should Claressa Shields focus on her in-ring career?