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Confident Shields trying to move up quickly as a pro

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)


AP Sports Writer

DETROIT (AP) For Claressa Shields, this is an opportunity that arrived sooner than expected.

In just her fourth professional fight, the 22-year-old Shields will take on unbeaten Nikki Adler on Friday night for the women's WBC and IBF super middleweight world titles. Shields, a two-time Olympic champion, made history earlier this year when she became the first woman to headline a fight card on premium cable. Now she'll try to take another big step in a pro career that's less than a year old.

This next fight is a challenge Shields thought would come a little bit later on.

"The way that I pictured it was, you know, two four-rounders, two six-rounders, two eight- - and then maybe a title," she said. "I wanted my seventh fight to be my WBC title. But now it's my fourth."

Shields (3-0) made her pro debut in November, then stopped Szilvia Szabados in the fourth round in March while headlining the card on Showtime. She went eight rounds in June, winning a unanimous decision against Sydney LeBlanc. The fight against Adler (16-0) is scheduled for 10 rounds.

The 30-year-old Adler, a former German amateur champion, will make a third defense of her WBC 168-pound title. The IBF championship is vacant.

Adler has six years of pro experience, but Shields was confident following Thursday's weigh-in.

"I don't think that she thinks she has a chance," Shields said. "But she's going to fight her heart out though, for sure."

Shields, a Flint native, will be fighting in her home state at Detroit's MGM Grand. Her fight against Adler is the main event - another big stage for Shields.

"I fought main event on Showtime once already. (Friday's) my second time," she said. "I think pay-per-view is in the near future."

If she wants to keep her impressive rise going, of course, Shields will need to win this week. She's no stranger to high expectations, though.

"I always knew that I was a great boxer," she said. "I knew that if the right eyes got on me, that I would have a lot of success in boxing."

As a pro, Shields has a chance to occupy the spotlight on a more consistent basis - and if she can beat Adler, she'll have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. The Olympics helped Shields make a name for herself, but those opportunities came only once every four years.

"It's kind of exciting during the time of the Olympics, but once the Olympics go away, everything kind of dies down," Shields said. "Being a professional woman boxer and being on this platform, it doesn't die down. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger."

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Updated August 3, 2017

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