Meet Claressa Shields, the Flint, Michigan native who happens to be the greatest boxer in the world

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Every day of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Fusion is highlighting a handful of the games’ thousands of athletes. They won’t always be Americans, but they will always be worthy of your cheers.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Claressa Shields (Blue) of the United States celebrates after defeating Anna Laurell (Red) of Sweden in the Women's Middle (75kg) Boxing Quarterfinals on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 6, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
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Claressa Shields
Team USA, Boxing
When she’s competing: Wednesday, August 17 at 1 p.m.

Shields' story is as pure an example of coming from nothing to end up on top of the world as there is. Growing up in Flint, MI, her father was in and out of jail, and her mother dealt with substance abuse issues. She took up boxing as an adolescent, inspired by the admiration her father, who had been an underground boxer, had of Laila Ali and Muhammed Ali.

Shields has only known gold since making her debut at age 17 at the 2012 Olympics in London. The middleweight has already won back to back world championships, and took home the gold medal at the 2015 Pan-American games. With a lifetime record of 74-1 (with her only loss coming before London — she has won 45-consecutive fights), including 18 knockouts, Shields is expected to win gold again in Rio. The Wall Street Journal described Shields' style as "fast, strong and aggressive," adding that she has an unshakeable confidence in herself.

She also sees herself as a role model.

“I want America to know there isn’t one definition of a woman,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “A woman can be strong. It’s OK to be a boxer. It’s OK to be Serena Williams. It’s OK to be athletic. You are still a woman.”


But she hasn't forgotten where she came from.

"I'm fighting for my family, I'm fighting for my future, I'm fighting for my city—to give them some hope and faith, because it's so bad in Flint," she told ESPN. "I always fight harder than I would if I were fighting for just a medal."

EUGENE, OR - JUNE 26: Ashton Eaton throws a javelin during the decathlon competition during day 2 of the USA Track and Field National Championships on June 26, 2009 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Ashton Eaton
Team USA, Decathlon
When he’s competing: Wednesday, August 17, all day


If the decathlon is the greatest measure of athleticism that humans have invented, then Ashton Eaton is technically the greatest athlete in the world right now. He won gold in London at age 24, and is a two-time defending world decathlon champion. He's also the back-to-back-to-back champ in the heptathlon (that's seven events). And, he holds the world record for decathlon points. His strongest events are the ones involving running, so be sure not to miss those (nor, of course the javelin, the most badass Olympic event there is).


Vinesh Phogat
India, Wrestling
When she's competing: Wednesday, August 17, 9:30 a.m.

Phogat comes from a state in India that is reportedly "notorious" for child marriages, and where only 60% of women can read. Yet she has managed to earn six medals since making her debut at age 18 at the Asian wrestling championships, including a gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She is the cousin of Geeta Phogat, the first-ever Indian woman wrestler to have qualified for the Olympics.


Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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