Olympic history was re-written at the ExCeL with the first ever Women’s boxing gold medals presented to Nicolas Adams of Great Britain, Ireland’s Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields of the United States.
American teenage sensation Claressa Shields battled 33-year-old two-time European Champion and 2010 World Champion from Russia, second seed Nadezda Torlpova in the Middleweight (75kg) final. The 17-year-old US star had been in scintillating form coming into this contest and started in a confident mood, looking to connect with the jab and that big one-two combination. The experienced Russian’s height however allowed her to thwart Shields’ attacks to land a few good shots of her own as the first round was tied 3:3. The fledgling young talent initially struggled to get on the inside of her opponent but as she slowly wore her down she connected with a series of hard combinations to open a gap of three points after taking the second 7:4. The speed of Shields and her sheer determination saw her land some huge hits with a couple of good overheads landing flush on her rival’s chin as she powered into a five point lead going into the fourth round. The American starlet seemed simply unstoppable as she claimed the gold medal with an impressive 19:12 victory.
Bronze medals in this category went to Maria Volnova of Kazakhstan, who defeated the top seeded favourite Savannah Marshall of Great Britain in the quarter-finals, and China’s 22-year-old Jinzi Li, who had come through two gruelling fights of her own to claim that medal.
The first of the Women’s Finals, the Flyweights (51kg), saw Great Britain’s Nicola Adams faced her nemesis in the last two AIBA World Boxing Championships, the boxer who defeated her both times in the final and the dominant force in this weight category, China’s 26-year-old Cancan Ren.
It began at a frantic pace with Adams seemingly landing the cleaner shots with a couple of big right hands finding their target. It was fast and furious with the Brit taking the first round 4:2. Unrelenting in the second, Adams continued to unload on Ren, and midway through the round, she threw a huge right that floored the Chinese southpaw, with Ren having to take a standing eight count. The partisan crowd were singing in unison, “Nicola, Nicola”, as she stormed into a five point lead after claiming the second 5:2. Ren sprung into action in the third but the British orthodox fighter, clearly buoyed by the support, was counter-punching expertly and scored heavily to win that round by a clear four points. At ease and moving well, the 29-year-old Adams used her jab well to close out the fight and win in style 16:7, becoming in the process the first woman in the history of the Olympic Games to claim a boxing gold medal.
There was a bronze medal for Marlen Esparza from the United States, who had fought valiantly against Ren in the semi-finals but was ultimately defeated by the three-time AIBA World Champion. There was huge cheer for Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte, also known as Mery Kom, the diminutive Indian who moved up two weight classes in order to qualify and compete at these Olympic Games, as she also collected her bronze. The 29-year-old from India had shown true grit and determination to defeat bigger and stronger opponents to make it onto the podium.
It was a sea of green at the ExCeL arena, with Irish fans out in force to see Katie Taylor take to the ring against the tough Russian southpaw Sofya Ochigava in the Lightweight (60kg) final. The quadruple AIBA World Champion from Ireland began the contest as the overwhelming favourite and with vociferous support; the pressure on the 26-year-old was huge. It was tentative by both boxers in the early exchanges of the opening round and with the two evenly matched, the points were shared, 2:2. Ochigava was boxing exceptionally well, throwing some good punches on the counter as she edged the second round 2:1. A couple of good right hooks by Taylor saw her regain the initiative and in the third she landed two sublime straight right hands to go two points clear going into the final round. It was a tense finale but Katie Taylor confirmed her legendary status with a hard-fought 10:8 victory as the ExCeL exploded into delirium.
Joining the finalists on the podium to collect their bronze medals, were Tajikistan’s 19-year-old Mavzuna Chorieva, one of the success stories of these Olympic Games and at print the only medallist from her country, and the experienced Brazilian orthodox Adriana Araujo, who had come through two tough contests to make it to the semi-final stages.
* * *
Friday is semi-finals day for all ten Men’s weight categories, it promises to be a day to remember.