Seventeen-year-old Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) claimed her first piece of history this summer, winning the first middleweight gold medal in women’s boxing, and she is hoping to add another item to the record books by becoming the first boxer ever to win the AAU’s James E. Sullivan award. Shields was recently named a semifinalist for the prestigious award, which honors the nation’s top amateur athlete. The award selection includes a public voting component and boxing fans can support Shields by voting for her via this link.
“It feels great to be a semifinalist for the Sullivan award. I worked really hard leading up to my Olympic gold medal so being a semifinalist for this award is an honor, and to be the first boxer to win it would be amazing, you can only be the first once,” Shields said.
A senior at Flint’s Northwestern High School, Shields is one of 15 semifinalists for the award. Public voting will run through Sunday, March 17, which is also Shields’ 18th birthday. The first female boxer from the United States to win Olympic gold, Shields opened 2012 with a run through the inaugural U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Women’s Boxing. At only 16, Shields defeated her four opponents by a 108-64 margin to claim the middleweight spot. The teenager took her run to the international level over the next six months, winning the Continental Championships and qualifying internationally for London at the 2012 Women’s World Championships.
Evander Holyfield, Shields and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Mark Breland
With three victories over much older and experienced opponents in London, Shields became the first female middleweight Olympic champion in history, winning the first boxing gold medal for the United States since Andre Ward in 2004. Shields run from the Olympic Trials in February through the Olympics in August included victories over four reigning or former World Champions.
Shields returned to Northwestern High School following her eventful summer, and remains focused on graduating high school and continuing her studies along with her training commitments. She is the first Olympic gold medalist ever to return to amateur boxing and has plans to defend her Olympic crown at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
A proud Flint native, Shields has provided a much need positive role model to the youth in her own community as well as inspiration to those across the nation chasing their own dreams. Having overcome great personal obstacles in her own life, Shields proved that no challenge is impossible and dreams are attainable with hard work and belief in yourself.
The 17-year-old Shields was ringside for Bernard Hopkins’ historic performance on Saturday at the Barclays Center and had the chance to see the last boxer to be named a Sullivan award semifinalist, 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward. Ward was among the top amateur athletes honored in 2005 following his light heavyweight gold medal. While in New York, Shields joined two boxing greats from the 1984 Olympic team, Evander Holyfield (bronze medalist) and Mark Breland (gold medalist) at a private USA Boxing event.
Known as the “Oscar” of the sports world. Older than the Heisman, the AAU James E. Sullivan Award has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930. Based on the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism, the AAU Sullivan Award goes far beyond athletic accomplishments and honors those who have shown strong moral character.
Online voting for the 83rd Sullivan award will continue through March 17 at http://sullivan.rightbrainmedia.com/, and the AAU will announce the finalists on March 25.