Attention spans are certainly shortening these days. In the same way that lots of people would rather watch a TikTok video than a documentary or scroll through Wikipedia rather than read a book, boxing fans seem to have less time to watch a true craftsman go about his business and more interest in watching highlight reels. 

Despite being one of the most naturally gifted pure boxers on the planet, WBC lightweight champion Shakur Stevenson receives much less adulation and much more criticism than some of the other more unpredictable but inconsistent fighters around his weight class, whilst Andre Ward’s tremendous achievements were enough to earn him respect and a spot in the Hall of Fame – but not enough to secure him a place in boxing fans’ hearts. 

Claressa Shields (14-0, 2 KOs) is determined to avoid becoming a victim of her own success. A 29-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist, Shields hasn’t come close to being beaten whilst becoming a three-weight world champion and earning recognition as the best female fighter on the planet.

Shields could easily lap the field and put together a Bernard Hopkins-esque title reign at middleweight, but despite her undoubted ability, she is all too aware that fans don’t want to watch her retread old ground or take part in glorified exhibition bouts. They want action – or, at the very least – a sense of the unknown when they tune in to watch a fight.

With that in mind, Shields has decided to chase new goals. Earlier this year, she took her professional MMA record to 2-1 by notching another win in the PFL. And on July 27, she will return to the boxing ring and move up to heavyweight to take on Canada’s WBC heavyweight champion Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse.

“I can’t say that there’s not girls to fight at 160 pounds. I just beat them all and I beat them early in my career. There were girls – I’ve just taken them out,” Shields told BoxingScene. “I’ve been undisputed at 154 pounds and undisputed twice at 160 pounds. I’ve been a champion with two belts at 168 pounds. I’ve literally fought the best girls already. That’s why I have to find new challenges for myself and test myself. I don’t want to get in the ring and everybody already know what the outcome of the fight will be. 

“Boxing fans have not changed. They wanna see people get hurt. They wanna see close fights. They wanna see Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots. I think I’m cursed with it and I think Shakur is cursed with it, where you just make everybody look like amateurs. You win, and in some fights you add some power and are hurting your opponent. Some fights you win, but you’re not getting the drops. You’re not hurting your opponents, so people try to find ways to discredit what you’re doing.”

Stevenson will defend his WBC 135-pound title against Artem Harutyunyan on July 6, and fans will tune in expecting to see him take the relatively unknown German apart. Unfairly, another Stevenson clinic or a repeat of his dull but unanimous decision victory over Edwin De Los Santos last December could prove to be kryptonite to his hopes of getting one of the division’s high-profile operators into the ring. 

Shields’ heavyweight excursion has captured the imagination of fans in her home state of Michigan. Organizers at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena are anticipating more than 18,000 fans for her fight with Lepage-Joanisse.

“I think Shakur’s a phenomenal fighter and he’ll have a great showing,” Shields said. “I think that boxing fans have always been hard to please. One minute they’re with you, the next minute they’re not. Just like any other fans. I think a lot of people like to jump on and off the bandwagon, but I have some great fans who’ve been with me through this whole thing.

“I think I’m a very entertaining fighter and that’s why people show up and buy tickets to watch me fight. I’m hurting my opponent constantly throughout the fight, and if I have to trade, I do. I just go out there and dominate, and everybody loves to see a dominant performance and at least they see I’m actually going for the knockout. But with two minutes and 10 rounds, it’s hard to do.”