Claressa Shields' Net Worth Is Only Going To Go Up As She Takes On Rio

In 2012, 17-year-old Claressa Shields became the first American woman to win a gold medal in Olympic boxing. In Rio, she could become the first American woman to win back-to-back gold medals in boxing — and if you ask her, it's already a done deal. Yet a lot has changed since the London Games four years ago, and Shields' net worth after Rio could soon reflect that.

Shields has become known for her Cinderella-story rise to the cream of the boxing crop. When she was a child, her father spent several years in prison. Her mother wasn't always able to support her, either, The Wall Street Journal recently recounted. The paper also reported that Shields later found an ally in a coach, Jason Crutchfield, who worked for a utility company by day and volunteered as a boxing coach in the evenings, and a female role model named Corey Taylor.

When Shields won her first gold medal in 2012, many people had probably never heard of women's boxing as an Olympic sport. The London Games were the first Olympics to feature the category, meaning that Shields was one of the first-ever medalists when she claimed victory in the middleweight class. At the time, many people had also never heard of her hometown — Flint, Michigan.

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Since the London Olympics, Shields has progressed in her training, and she fully expects to take home another gold in Rio. With each step she takes forward in her sport, Shields raises awareness of not just women's role in boxing, but also of her inspirational backstory and troubled hometown.

Even still, Shields doesn't fit the typical elite athlete mold, despite the progress she has made over the years. For one thing, she's not rich. According to the Wall Street Journal, Shields' income consists primarily of a $3,000-per-month stipend from USA Boxing, which she has earned as a gold medalist in training. That's not nothing, but it's certainly not the idyllic star athlete salary that you might expect an Olympian like Michael Phelps or Serena Williams to be raking in.

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Surely, there could be more income-generating opportunities for her based on her performance in the Rio Games. Since London, there's been a documentary made about her life and a buzz generated about her story. That increased name recognition, coupled with back-to-back gold medals, could help her land more sponsorship opportunities, should she want them.

That's the other thing about Shields, though. She doesn't seem fazed by those opportunities. Regardless of the attention she's gotten, she remains passionate about engaging with her fans through social media and leading the life she knows in Michigan. At the time, she also said that she didn't have any sponsorships or endorsements, but she speculated about what might change in 2016.

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Shields' value to women's sports — and likely also to Flint — far exceeds the money she brings in. Regardless of pay, and regardless of her performance in the ring, she'll leave Rio by cementing her legacy as one of the toughest women in the Olympics. Nonetheless, Shields will surely try to leave Rio with a gold, as she fights in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.