AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. -- Unheralded teenage middleweight Claressa Shields upset top-ranked Olympic hopeful Franchon Crews on Monday night in the first U.S. team trials for women's boxing.
Top-ranked lightweight Queen Underwood overcame serious jitters in front of her home-state crowd, winning her first bout in a small ballroom at a resort-casino just outside Spokane.
Shields, a 16-year-old with Betty Boop on her tall socks, thoroughly overwhelmed five-time national champion Crews with a relentless work rate and aggression in a 31-19 victory. Shields has roared up the rankings since she became old enough to compete at the top level in the past year -- and growing 4 inches didn't hurt either.
Shields, who took up boxing five years ago in her native Flint, Mich., was not intimidated Sunday when she drew an opening bout against Crews, the flamboyant champion who took up boxing to get in shape for a singing career.
"I wanted to fight her as soon as she got qualified," Shields said. "She was saying she's the best, so if she's the best, I want to fight her. I hurt her a lot."
The double-elimination trials feature eight fighters in each of the three weight classes of the first Olympic women's boxing tournament. The three trials winners also must finish in the top eight at the world championships in China in May to qualify for the London Olympics.
While Shields exuded confidence, Underwood didn't mind acknowledging she freaked out when she heard the crowd chanting her name in a standing ovation as the Seattle native walked to the ring to face Bertha Aracil. Underwood, a five-time national champion and the best-known fighter in the field, finally got her head straight in time to overcome Aracil's size advantages in a 22-12 win.
"I went in there kind of blindsided," Underwood said. "I pulled it out, but I'm looking forward to fighting when I get the rust off. ... Tomorrow, I'll know what to expect. I'll zone (the crowd) out more. I can be more relaxed."
Underwood's next fight is against Mikaela Mayer, who beat fellow Los Angeles-area native Lisa Porter 27-10. Mayer scored a mild upset over the third-seeded Porter after spending 21 hours in transit to eastern Washington from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where she trains.
Lightweight N'yteeyah Sherman, a 19-year-old straight-A student at Kent State, was impressive in a 42-17 win over Asia Stevenson. Sherman, who towers over many 132-pounders at 6 feet tall, mercilessly used her superior reach and forced multiple standing-eight counts.
The weeklong competition began with a lengthy multilingual prayer from a member of the Kalispel Tribe, the Native Americans who own the Northern Quest resort. The ring cards were displayed by another Kalispel member in full tribal apparel, including a modest calf-length dress.
Marlen Esparza, the six-time flyweight national champion, won the evening's first bout in a walkover after Cynthia Moreno reported an injury in training. Washington native Alex Love won the first actual bout in U.S. team trials history, brawling to a 24-15 victory over Taversha Norwood.
Flyweight Tyrieshia Douglas landed the card's first knockdown, flooring Latonya King in the first round of her 34-11 victory. Douglas will face Manhattan native Christina Cruz on Tuesday in the winners' bracket.