In conversation with: Terrell Groggins

“Upon doing research I found discrimination in women’s boxing as a whole”

Shields Strikes Back, by Terrell Groggins, won the 3rd prize in the Sports category of the 2019 World Press Photo Contest. We spoke with the photographer, who has been working with Shields for over three years, about documenting her professional boxing career and winning the award with this photograph.

Claressa Shields is the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing, and the first (male or female) to win a gold back-to-back in successive Olympic Games. She has had only one loss in her career, against British World Champion Savannah Marshall, in 2012.

Terell Groggins met Claressa Shields in 2016 at a media workout at the legendary Kronk boxing gym in Detroit, United States. She was still living in Flint, Michigan at the time. “I decided to document her story because it wasn’t being told. She’s an Olympian who had just started her professional boxing career. It was interesting for me that there wasn’t mass coverage of her. Upon doing research I found discrimination in women’s boxing as a whole,” he explains.

The photo awarded in the Sports category of the 2019 World Press Photo Contest captures a moment when Claressa Shields meets Hanna Gabriels in a boxing match at the Masonic Temple in Detroit on 22 June 2018. Shields suffered a first-round knock-down by Gabriels—the first in her career—but went on to win the match by unanimous decision.

Part of a larger project, this image also speaks about the reality of being a female boxer in a world predominantly masculine. “Claressa and many others are facing a multitude of unique obstacles. The discrepancy in pay for women, black people and black women outside the world of sports is well documented. While women make 77 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts, black women can expect to make 63 cents to one dollar. However, this disparity is even more extreme in the sports world,” he adds.

He continues to document her career and her experience as a female boxer born and raised in Flint, a city that has known some struggles.

The most surprising thing about working with [Claressa Shields] is her self-belief and determination. She’s so in tune with what she wants her legacy to be. She’s gained all these accolades and is consistently making history in the sport of boxing. Claressa has done all of this in a handful of fights. The most challenging thing for me at first was her accepting me as a friend She’s very protective of her inner circle, whether it’s a working relationship or personal relationship. Everything happened organically so I don’t have the challenges that I had in the beginning.”

The 2020 World Press Photo Contests are open for entries. The contests recognize the best visual journalism and digital storytelling of the past year.

Groggins explains what it meant for him to win the award: “I’m on a short list of African and African Americans to win a World Press Photo award, so for me, it’s carving out a part of history for myself. There are difficulties that come with the profession of photography and I’ve experienced them all, from being marginalized as a minority, to experiencing racism. We, photographers, put time, effort, and creativity into our craft so to be recognized on this level for our hard work is priceless.

He encourages other photographers who haven’t done it yet to enter the 2020 Contests: “I’ll speak to the minorities on this, your work is great enough to be acknowledged, your work is great enough to be seen by the world, your work is great enough to be analyzed by the selection of judges, your work is great enough to be seen by the millions and millions of people that come to the World Press Photo exhibitions, but it starts with you having the confidence to enter the contest.”

Enter now and find out more about contest categories, prizes, and dates