Caroline Dubois talks about her sporting idols in conversation with Sky Sports News’ Chris Reidy for Black History Month; the 22-year-old named four Black sportswomen as the inspiration behind her rise in boxing: Claressa Shields
‘I needed to have someone like Shields when I was a kid’
Caroline Dubois’ first role model is fellow boxer Claressa Shields. The 28-year-old is the only fighter in the sport’s history – male or female – to hold all four major world titles simultaneously in two weight classes.
She is widely regarded as the world’s top pound-for-pound female boxer and is 14-0 with two knockouts as a pro.
“I didn’t have many female boxers that I looked up to growing up,” Dubois said. “Luckily, I remember watching her at the Olympics.”
Shields won gold medals in the women’s middleweight division at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, making her the first American boxer to win consecutive Olympic medals.
“I became a No 1 fan; everything she has represented to me. I remember going up into squads and being the only Black girl there. I felt very insecure about how I looked and who I was,” Dubois said.
“Shields, she was so big, strong, and good. I saw her shows, and she never lost. I really needed to have someone like Shields when I was a kid.”
‘Shields proved that looking the way I did was normal’
“I remember when I was nine, I started boxing and got mistaken for a boy,” Dubois said.
Repton Amateur Boxing Club was the gym she attended, and as it was a boys-only club, she had to go by the name Colin.
“I’d walk into the gym, and they’d say, ‘Oh, that boy is over there.’ And at the time, it didn’t matter to me.
“But as I got older, I realised all the other female boxers had long hair. They didn’t have such big muscles. They looked more feminine.
“And then I saw clips of Shields. I swear she wore the same shorts I used to wear, and her hair was all crazy, exactly how I looked after training.
“When I saw that, it was exactly what I needed to see. It was normal.”
‘Blown away’ by Shields’ Instagram message
The current lightweight champion will always remember her first interaction with Shields.
“I remember lying in bed the first time I spoke to her,” she said.
“I was scrolling through Instagram as you do, and then a message pings through. I’m like, ‘Who is this person?’ I click on it, and it’s Claressa!
“I screamed. My sister was on the bunk bed below me, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you won’t believe who just messaged me.’ Then she sent me a picture, and I was blown away by it.
“I spoke to her and it was good. The respect is there; now she’s watching my journey, so it’s a privilege.”
Shields will go down as the greatest female boxer
The conversation turned to where Dubois put Shields in her list of greatest of all time. Unsurprisingly, it’s at the top.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that to be able to say how good you are is a statement on its own. And I think she’s like Muhammad Ali,” she explained.
“He used to call himself the greatest. And everyone used to laugh at him and then he proved it. And now, even though he’s gone, we all know his name. I think the same is going to happen.”
Shields already holds the record for becoming a two and three-weight world champion in the fewest professional fights.
“When she retires from boxing, and it’s all said and done, many people will say Claressa Shields was the greatest female boxer ever.”