TOLEDO, Ohio -- The first female U.S. boxer to win a gold medal at the Olympics, 17-year-old Claressa Shields, was picky after her first bout since her London victory.
"I breathed through my mouth too much," Shields said immediately after her National Police Athletic League semifinal victory over Dara Shen on Friday night in the 165-pound open division.
The contest between the Flint, Mich., fighter and Shen was stopped 46 seconds into the third round. Shields had a 30-7 advantage in the third round, but the officials called the match because Shen was overmatched.
In the first round, Shen was able to get Shields to move around the ring to attack, but after a few solid punches, Shields took a commanding 10-2 points lead. The second round proved easier for her, as she maneuvered Shen into corners, and forced officials to call a couple of standing-eight counts to protect Shen from injury.
But Shields kept on the offensive and led 19-5 after two rounds before winning her 27th career bout in the third round.
Shields faced Shen in the same venue last year with the same outcome, but saw some new tactics from the familiar opponent.
"This time she ran," Shields said. "She knew how I fought her last year. I stopped her (in the) first round -- she stood there right in front of me. This time, she moved a little bit and tried to stay out of reach, but she did better."
Despite the easy victory, both Shields and her coach and trainer, Jason Crutchfield, were quick to point out areas to improve on heading into the final Saturday night against Franchon Crews.
"I mean, there's a few things we need to work on, a couple things," Crutchfield said. "Technically, she looked pretty good, (but) just a couple of things she made a mistake on."
Shields elaborated: "Today, my timing wasn't all the way there. I just have to get it there tomorrow."
Friday's semifinal was the first bout for Shields in about three months, and the first time in seven months she's had Crutchfield in the corner to coach her. Crutchfield noticed Shield's excitement to get back in the ring.
"I had to calm her down; she got too excited," Crutchfield said. "(It was) nerves, she's just ready to fight. That's just her."
Shields insisted the nerves are normal and her routine is the same.
"(I'm) always anxious when I have to fight," she said. "It's an adrenaline thing. I yell in the bathroom and stuff like that -- (I'm) excited, (and I need) to calm myself down.
"(But) it was the same as always -- I listened to him, and I stopped her."
Shields emphatically said there wasn't anything to worry about in the final.
"(Crews) was No. 1 before me," Shields said. "After seeing her, I'm not even worried about any female. My coach wants me to stop everybody, so she has to get stopped."