Shields' Coach Is An Accomplished Ex-Boxer
Four summers ago, a 17-year-old young woman from Flint, Michigan shocked the world and made history by becoming the first-ever gold medalist in Olympic women's middleweight boxing. She's vying for back-to-back titles in Rio, and this time around, a big part of Claressa Shield's success could be her new coach, Billy Walsh. The 53-year-old former Olympian from Wexford, Ireland is helping Shields through her second Olympic bout, aided by years of his own experience and a record to rival the best.
Walsh, a former boxer who represented Ireland at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, has spent the majority of his career coaching from the sidelines. He worked with the Irish National Team until just last year, winning seven Olympic medals for his home country since 2000. In 2015, he was brought onboard USA Boxing to help the struggling national team regain its legacy of success. Until 2012, the U.S. had earned a men's boxing medal in every Olympics, but London proved to be the end of that tradition. Walsh's work with the team is already turning that legacy around — the team's record in Rio is 10-5.
According to Shields and Walsh, their transition into a partnership was not too easy. Shields grew up in the city of Flint, and was resentful of Walsh trying to make corrections to her fighting style. "Oh, we clashed heads quite a bit in the first few months," Walsh told the Associated Press in an interview. "It came to the stage where she was going or I was going."
But the pair reached an understanding, and formed a partnership around the shared desire to earn another gold medal for Shields and Team USA. "He understands me as a fighter, and I'm pretty different from all the other fighters," Shields told the Associated Press. "I used to tell him, 'You want me to win an Olympic gold medal, just let me do what I do, OK?' But then he taught me a lot of things, and I'm teaching him a little bit."
Shields and Walsh have been training and living in close quarters at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and their time together has gotten them both ready for new challenges during these games. Shields has gone undefeated since London, a streak that's expected to stay intact during these Olympics. At the heart of her preparation for these games is Walsh, who pushed Shields to become a better boxer and pull off a repeat in Rio.