Don’t let the nickname fool you, Claressa “T-Rex” Shields has never lived on an island filled with prehistoric creatures held behind electrified fences. Then again, you’d be forgiven for assuming as much after seeing her step into a boxing ring and serving a seven course meal of nothing but knuckle sandwiches. Ms. Shields’ fight to the top of the boxing world is one laden with obstacles both in and out of the ring, but like a certain well known Stallion of Italian heritage, she shakes off all the punishment this quest throws at her and gives as good as she gets.
Naturally, the subject of the film, Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, serves as its focal point, while her trainer, Jason Crutchfield is also a significant player in the story, both in her training and certain life decisions she finds herself making as the progresses.
Her divorced mother Michelle and her boyfriend Clarence appear in the background of the film, largely to highlight the difficult life she’s escaping by living under Jason’s roof, while her sister, Briana, is also interviewed. Boxing fans and followers of the Olympics alike will also want to watch out for her two biggest opponents in the film, Nadezda Torlopova and Savannah Marshall!
In this documentary film, we learn that Claressa “T-Rex” Shields hails from the poverty-stricken, water-deprived city of Flint, Michigan. When her school day ends, she heads to the local boxing gym where her reputation precedes her, but she’s so good that now, she’s being given a shot to fight in the upcoming 2012 Olympics.
For most athletes, that’s a lifetime opportunity all by itself, but in Ms. Shields’ case, she has the chance to be a part of history with Women’s Boxing being an Olympic event for the first time ever. She finds a mentor and surrogate father in her coach, Jason, although her burgeoning romance with another of his boxing students puts her at odds with his policy against dating in the gym. As she climbs the Olympic ladder, her journey takes her from China to the UK whilst the rules of the game put her in the hands of official team trainers leaving Jason a mere observer on the sidelines.
The film is as much focused on Ms. Shields’ day-to-day life as it is on her fighting career and there’s plenty of good boxing action to see.
With such a stellar record to her name, the film holds the rather unique distinction of being the only place where you can see Ms. Shields only loss to date, during the Olympic trials in China, but of course, her story doesn’t end here. After bouncing back from this crushing defeat that very clearly takes a toll on her, she finally reaches the top after winning her bout in London, making her the only student in her school to win an Olympic gold medal.
What’s interesting about the film is that where most documentaries would have ended here, we get to see her life after becoming a gold medalist. It’s equally exciting and frustrating for her – both being approached for endorsement deals which don’t happen and making appearances on late night talk shows like The Colbert Report. Then there’s the misconception of those around her thinking that she’s now made of money!
With the new world that is now opening for her, the film concludes with Ms. Shields being forced to make one more crucial decision that will ultimately affect the course of her life and her boxing career.
As the world reels from the untimely death of Muhammed Ali, “T-Rex” is an engaging story of how another history-making boxer fought her way to the Promised Land. With the wise decision to split its focus evenly on Ms. Shield’s life in the gym and her life overall, you’ll come away from the film feeling like you’ve really seen how a champion is forged. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for the sequel, where we get to see T-Rex battle massive expectations in the upcoming Rio Olympics!
- The film’s co-director, Drea Cooper, has done everything from directing, producing, editing, and sound design on several other short films and documentaries such as “Reborn: New Orleans Schools”, “Uppercut”, “Aquadettes”, and “Digital media: New Learners of the 21st Century”.
- Co-director Zackary Canepari has collaborated with Drea Cooper on numerous films, including several of the aforementioned ones.