Women’s boxing is new to the Summer Olympics in 2012 and 17-year-old U.S. boxer Claressa Shields carved her name in the record books as the first middleweight gold medalist by winning a 19-12 decision over Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova Thursday (Aug. 9). The victory made Shields the only American boxer at the London Games— and the first U.S. woman — to win boxing gold.
Considered by many the future of the sport, Shields says of her gold medal, “I will probably wear the medal everyday for the first year.”
The ebullient 17-year-old from Flint, Mich., easily dispatched the world’s best fighters in her weight class, and in the final match Shields danced, brawled and even stuck out her tongue at her opponent, who is nearly twice her age.
“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, who found sanctuary in a boxing gym during a rough childhood.
“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.”
Still in highschool, the 165 pounder packed with personality and power has a lot of life experience behind her. She found her purpose with coach Jason Crutchfield at Berston Field House in Flint after her father — a former fighter who spent seven years of Claressa’s childhood in prison — infused her with a passion for boxing. Shields has turned into a polished athlete with a nasty streak in the ring — and she still has room to grow.
In the women’s Olympic boxing debut, Ireland’s Katie Taylor was named the Olympics’ best women’s heavyweight in a bout where decibel levels were reported to be higher than many marquee events. British flyweight Nicola Adams also thrilled the home crowd with a gold-medal victory in which she upset world champion Ren Cancan of China.
The five-day event with 36 fighters was one of London’s biggest hits, adored by fans and praised for creating gender equality in the summer Olympic program. At minimum, AIBA President Wu Ching-Kuo wants to double the number of women’s boxers in Rio in 2016.
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