American Claressa Shields fighting for gold in boxing
LONDON — The newest American boxing sensation is a cocky teenager with heavy hands, fleet feet and a serious mean streak.
And just like Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier and Oscar De La Hoya before her, Claressa Shields is about to fight for a gold medal.
The 17-year-old middleweight dominated Kazakhstan's Marina Volnova in the semifinals of the first Olympic women's boxing tournament Wednesday, earning a spot in the title bout against Russia's Nadezda Torlopova.
After pounding away at the slower Volnova for most of the 29-15 fight, Shields pounded her taped right fist against her own left shoulder and screamed with joy.
''I'm still kind of shocked,'' Shields said. ''I'm thinking in my head, 'Is it really true? Am I fighting for a gold medal tomorrow?' ''
Shields is the last American boxer left in London after flyweight Marlen Esparza lost, 10-8, to Chinese world champion Ren Cancan. Ren will fight Britain's Nicola Adams for the flyweight title, while Irish world champion lightweight Katie Taylor also advanced with another strong performance, moving into the championship bout Thursday against Russia's Sofya Ochigava.
Esparza will get a bronze medal, but Shields is the 12-member American team's only shot at gold. All nine men were eliminated in stunning fashion, leaving the winningest team in Olympic history without a medal for the first time.
Shields, from Flint, Mich., is one of the sport's fastest-rising stars. She won her second bout in three days with punishing right hands and relentless aggression, forcing Volnova to take a standing-eight count in the last two rounds because of Shields's vicious combinations.
While Shields punched holes in Volnova's defense, Esparza found Ren impenetrable.
Ren's cautious defensive style in her win over the livelier Esparza got the US off to an inauspicious start. The crowd finally got into it when Adams beat Mary Kom of India, 11-6, and the ExCel arena turned raucous for Taylor, the Irish world titleholder.
Taylor didn't disappoint, dominating Tajikistan's impressive teenager, Mavzuna Chorieva.
Esparza, 23, gamely tried to force Ren into a fight, but the Chinese champion sat back dispassionately and threw counterpunches that scored just enough points to win.
Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg of Mongolia pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the Olympic boxing tournament, stunning second-seeded light welterweight Tom Stalker of Britain and his home crowd with a 23-22 victory.
Yamaguchi Falcao of Brazil upset top-seeded Cuban light heavyweight Julio La Cruz, 18-15, in an eventful final day of quarterfinal bouts.
Chinese light flyweight Zou Shiming barely avoided an upset as well, holding off Kazakhstan's Birzhan Zhakypov ,13-10, to clinch his third Olympic medal.
Zou's next bout is against Ireland's Paddy Barnes, a tantalizing rematch of Zou's 15-0 victory in Beijing.
Cuban light welterweight Roniel Iglesias also clinched his second Olympic medal.