Claressa Shields rolls on at boxing trials
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. -- Queen Underwood rolled into the winner's bracket finals with a 27-20 victory over lightweight Mikaela Mayer on Tuesday night in the second session of the first U.S. Olympic women's boxing team trials.
Claressa Shields kept up her surprising charge through the middleweight bracket with a 31-12 victory over Andrecia Wasson. The impressive 16-year-old built on her upset of Franchon Crews, the top American 165-pounder, a day earlier.
Top-ranked flyweight Marlen Esparza also survived a furious challenge from home-state favorite Alex Love for a 22-12 victory in her first bout of the team trials. Esparza next will face Christina Cruz, who pulled out a tactical 20-15 win over aggressive Tyrieshia Douglas at the Northern Quest resort just outside Spokane.
While Underwood and Esparza were the favorites in their weight divisions coming into the trials, Shields has seized the amateur boxing world's attention over the past two days. The high-school junior from Flint, Mich., is the new middleweight favorite to advance to the world championships in China in May, when the Americans must finish in the top eight to qualify for the first Olympic women's boxing tournament in London.
Even after another one-sided win, Shields' face only brightened when her coach, Jason Crutchfield, gave her a "B-plus" grade for her thrashing of Wasson, a fellow Michigan native. Shields is the youngest fighter in the field, and she only began fighting at the amateur sport's top level over the past year.
"I came here to win, not to lose once in a double-elimination tournament and then make up for it," Shields said. "I want to win every day, and that's what I've been doing. I still haven't been able to stop my opponents yet, and that's really aggravating me. She's a bum. That's why I wanted to stop her."
Shields' next fight is against Pittsburgh's Tika Hemingway, who edged Tiffanie Hearn 19-13. Shields plans to hit the mall on her day off, but insists she's having fun simply rooming with N'yteeyah Sherman, who advanced to face Underwood in the lightweight winner's bracket finals with a 32-24 win over Tiara Brown.
Those finals are Thursday, giving a day of rest to the top six fighters. Underwood also vowed to enjoy her break, but said it while bouncing back and forth on the balls of her feet, still coursing with energy after another emotional fight.
"I was more prepared, and I didn't come out all hyped the way I did last night," Underwood said. "After the first round, my coach was saying I've got to pick it up. I got hit in the head, and I was like, `All right, I'm up."
Underwood won the fight in the second round, when she repeatedly slipped inside on the taller Mayer to deliver a long series of body blows and combinations. Her 11-5 points advantage in that round stood up through three otherwise tight rounds.
Esparza won in a walkover Monday, but made up for that inactivity in a frenetic fight with Love, an aggressive opponent from Monroe, north of Seattle. Love constantly moved forward and challenged Esparza, who used a busy jab and counterpunching to win comfortably.
Cruz and Douglas are Esparza's top rivals, and they showed disparate styles in their bout. Cruz took over the fight in the fourth round, repeatedly snapping Douglas' head backward with a stiff right hand to the forehead.
"I thought I was going to be sharper," Esparza said. "She's one of the most aggressive people in the bracket, so it was more intense for me ... but I know these girls. I've been doing this a lot longer than any of them. I gave up everything to be here. I've been doing it the longest, and I feel like I have more on the line than anybody else."
Love still got a standing ovation from the crowd, including a section of T-shirt-wearing hometown fans from Monroe.
Lisa Porter was the first lightweight out after a debatable 16-13 loss to Bertha Aracil in the consolation bracket, but the San Fernando Valley fighter isn't leaving Spokane angry.
"It was just great to be a part of this history," Porter said.
Flyweight Latonya King and middleweight Tiffanie Ward also were eliminated Tuesday, and three fighters advanced by walkover in the challengers brackets. Crews, the five-time national champion, advanced when Dara Shen dropped out with an apparent injury, and lightweight Asia Stevenson moved into Wednesday's bouts when Patricia Manuel pulled out.
Flyweight Taversha Norwood was unopposed after a withdrawal before the tournament.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press