Claressa Shields did not understand why there was no retribution or revenge after she got into schoolyard scraps. She grew up in a neighbourhood where these disputes could go on forever. But not when she scrapped. Why?
She would just hear the same name repeated again and again: ‘Bo Bo’.
The next week, another busted lip. Nobody sought to avenge the young Shields because of ‘Bo Bo’, but she did not know why.
“Bo Bo was my daddy,” she tells Sky Sports now.
“Growing up, I got into street fights. But my daddy’s name carried so much weight. After I would fight, people that I didn’t know said: ‘That is Bo Bo’s daughter’.
“I thought: ‘Who is Bo Bo?’.
“I didn’t know until my daddy got out of prison that he was Bo Bo.”
Clarence Shields was incarcerated for his daughter’s earliest years and was released when she was nine.
He was an accomplished amateur boxer – his record is said to be 27 wins without loss – but his dreams were shattered when he was locked up.
But prison is where the legend of Bo Bo Shields grew.
He became a fearsome streetfighter, first battling away in organised punch-ups in the prison yard then joining the murky world of unsanctioned brawls upon his release.
With wads of cash up for grabs, Bo Bo would meet his rivals in abandoned barnyards or local alleyways. Only one person would emerge standing with the prize pocketed.
“His boxing nickname was ‘Cannonball’,” Shields says about her father.
“My daddy knocked guys out in front of me – I thought: ‘What the heck?’.
“My daddy always says that if he hadn’t gone to prison he would have had a fight with ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard.
“I look at him like: ‘Sure, dad!’.
“My daddy didn’t teach me to box. But, aged 11, he made me do 10 push-ups and 30 crunches before I went to bed. He built my strength.
“While I ran, he would ride his bike next to me.”
Bo Bo passed his boxing dreams on to his daughter who happily obliged. She was at first relieved by the protection that her father’s reputation guaranteed. She later excelled and realised boxing was her escape from a difficult life.
“Growing up, I was sometimes scared of him,” Shields remembers about her father.
She crosses her hands across her chest and closes her eyes, saying: “He would sleep like this.
“He had a weapon under his pillow. He learned that in prison.
“So when it came to waking him up? You had to be gentle.
“Prison gave him these instincts. But my daddy is a natural fighter.”
As a child Shields seemed unlikely to inherit her father’s mentality.
She barely spoke – suffering from a speech impediment – and was often forced to care for her siblings while her mother, an addict, was absent.
At school her silence was seen as weakness as she was picked on. These were the days when Bo Bo was imprisoned. Before word of his release spread and his daughter was no longer pestered.
Shields was taken in by her grandmother. Today, after back-to-back Olympic gold medals, world championships in three divisions and undisputed titles in two weight categories, that same location in Flint, Michigan, has been renamed ‘Claressa Shields Street’.
“The street was family-orientated,” she remembers. “People could whup other people’s kids, discipline each other’s kids, they would cook for other people’s kids.”
But the auto industry, which employed most of the locals, crashed causing mass unemployment and poverty.
“People had to fend for themselves,” she says. “It became separated.
“People only looked out for their own families, they couldn’t be a part of the street family.”
The Flint water crisis in 2014, where the drinking water for the entire city was contaminated, causing one of the worst public health issues in modern American history, was destructive for Shields’ home. It is the reason she dyed her hair blue – the colour of clean water – to raise awareness.
“We have learned to depend on each other again,” she says.
“Some families couldn’t afford cases of clean water. They don’t have cars to pick up cases of water.
“We came together to help those in needs.
“The city is resilient.”
The experience of coming from Flint is why Shields will not be fazed by making her UK debut against Ema Kozin on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, or even by the anticipated showdown with Savannah Marshall later this year.
“If you can make it in Flint, you can make it anywhere,” she says.
“I don’t worry where I go. People tell me: ‘You’re going to Albuquerque or to Detroit? It’s dangerous…’
“I tell them: ‘I am from Flint’.
“The mentality of the people in Flint? We grow up with instincts to watch our backs. We know how somebody looks if they are trying to get you. We are always ready to fight.
“Flint put that inside of me.”
Perhaps even without Bo Bo, the influence of her home city would have instilled toughness in Shields.
The combination of Flint and her father have turned her into one of boxing’s most decorated and successful athletes. Bo Bo is never far from his daughter’s side.
“My dad is meaner than me,” she says. “He has a kind side but if you mess with him?
“He still has that boxer’s mentality now. You never lose it.”
Saturday February 5 in Cardiff
Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Williams
Claressa Shields vs Ema Kozin – IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight titles
Saturday February 19 in Manchester
Amir Khan vs Kell Brook
Natasha Jonas vs Ewa Piatkowska – WBO super-welterweight title
Frazer Clarke’s pro debut
Saturday February 26 in Glasgow
Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall – undisputed super-lightweight titles
Nick Campbell vs Jay McFarlane – Scottish heavyweight title
Saturday March 5 in Fresno
Jose Ramirez vs Jose Pedraza
Saturday March 12 in Newcastle
Savannah Marshall vs Femke Hermans – WBO middleweight title
Sunday March 20 in New York
Edgar Berlanga vs Steve Rolls