SAN DIEGO, August 9, 2012 – Americans have a new gold medalist in boxing and the Olympics has a hit on its hands with the successful debut of women’s boxing in London.
Middleweight Claressa Shields of Flint, Michigan made history along with Great Britain’s Natasha Adams and Ireland’s Katie Taylor, becoming the first gold medallists in the first ever women’s boxing competition in the Summer Olympic Games.
Shields also became the second youngest gold medal winner in Olympic Games boxing history among both men and women at age 17. American boxer John Fields won at age 16 in 1924 at the Paris Games.
Anyone who still doesn’t think women’s boxing belongs in the Games should go a few rounds with these accomplished, powerful ladies of the sweet science.
The self-assured 17-year-old Shields mowed down her opponent Russian Nadezda Torlopova in the gold medal round with little trouble. The final score was 19-12. Shields was simply too powerful, too quick, and too smart for Torlopova. She caused Torlopova to miss her frequently, had command of the ring and even stuck her tongue out at Torlopova in the final round. It seemed more like Shields was just enjoying herself so much rather than taunting the Russian boxer.
The boisterous crowd embraced Shields along with the victorious Britain and Irish champions before her, chanting “USA, USA” and making the ExCel Arena in London sound more like a soccer stadium. Among the many fans cheering her on: The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who appeared to be enjoying the action immensely.
Also on hand for the gold medal bouts was former two-time professional world boxing champion and Athens 2004 Olympic silver medal winner Amir Khan. The USA Boxing Team worked out at Khan’s gym in England two weeks before the Olympics and Khan had a chance to observe Shields. He liked what he saw.
After her victory, Khan said, “She puts punches together quite well. She’s quite clever, strong as well. She’s got a bloody great future ahead of her if she works hard, trains hard. I think she’ll go all the way.”
Shields, who has only been boxing two years, turned to the sport like many others to get away from a rough life outside the gym. “This was something I wanted for a long time, even when boxing wasn’t going all right, even when my life wasn’t going all right,” said Shields, “All I wanted was a gold medal, and I kept working towards it, even when people were saying I couldn’t do it. I’m too young. I couldn’t do it. There were girls who were going to beat me because of better experience, more experience. I proved them all wrong.”
Shields was giddy during the medal ceremony, dancing and laughing as if she still couldn’t quite believe she was there.
Shields is among the breakout performers in what has been one of the Olympic Games’ biggest hits in London. Fans have been fighting nearly as hard as the competitors just to get tickets. She follows in the footsteps of some of the greatest names in the sport including Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Oscar de la Hoya in winning a gold medal. She is the first to win boxing gold since Andre Ward in 2004.
Irish boxer Katie Taylor won a defensive fight that was closer than anyone expected by a 10-8 score over Russian Sofya Ochigava. Taylor was actually behind after two rounds, rallyng in the third to take the victory. Taylor sank to her knees when her victory was announced, to the delight of the partisan Irish fans who had kept up a steady roar of chanting and singing throughout her bout. She took a victory lap after her fight with the Irish flag to salute the fans who had supported her during the tournament.
“It’s been the dream of my life,” said Taylor, a four-time world champion and perhaps the pound-for-pound best fighter in women’s boxing. “The support was incredible. I was a bit shaky during the fight.”
Natasha Adams was up against world champion Ren Cancan of China in the flyweight division. Cancan had narrowly beaten American Marlen Esparza on Wednesday and was the heavy favorite. But Adams apparently hadn’t paid any attention to the predictions, taking charge and even scoring a rare amateur boxing knockdown in the second round. She won 16-7.
“I am so happy and overwhelmed with joy right now,” Adams said. “I have wanted this all my life, and I have done it.”
But there is no doubt Shields was the strongest fighter in any division of the women’s tournament with three dominating wins. Shields and Esparza are the only medal winners for USA Boxing in London. The men ended up empty handed for the first time in Olympic history.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She writes on professional cycling and covers the Sweet Science for Communities, along with other news in the sports world. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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