USA female flyweight Marlen Esparza ans USA female middleweight Claressa Shields won in their debuts at the 2012 Olympic Games on Monday and by virtue of first round byes both are already guaranteed at least a bronze medals. Meanwhile, reinstated USA welterweight Errol Spence (Desoto, Texas) will compete in his quarterfinal contest on Tuesday at 10 p.m. London time (5 p.m. ET), in a bout with Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy. Spence received a second life following a successful U.S. protest of his bout with India’s Krishan Vikas.
The 23-year-old Esparza gave Team USA a much needed win a guaranteed herself at least a bronze medal with a 24-16 victory over Venezuela’s Karla Magliocco. Teenage sensation Shields followed two hours later with a comeback win over Sweden’s Anna Laurell.
Esparza got off to a quick start in her bout, out-boxing Magliocco from the opening bell. Her early momentum gave Esparza an 8-4 lead after the first round. She continued to connect with her signature overhand right in the second round, evading the Venezuelan’s ongoing shots and extending her advantage to a 14-8 margin. Despite the referee stopping the bout numerous times to have the coach fix her hair, which was coming out of her headgear and the crowd booing her growing lead, Esparza stayed focused on the task at hand. She took a 19-12 lead into the final round and managed to avoid the charging Magliocco to win the 24-16 final decision. The victory guarantees Esparza at least a bronze medal and advances her to a semifinal match-up with reigning world champion Ren Cancan of China on Wednesday.
“It feels good, I feel really good about winning a medal. In the U.S., if it’s not gold, it’s not good enough so I’m trying to get a gold. That’s really what I want. I’ll be happy with whatever I get from this point because no matter what it is, it’s a blessing to get this far. But in my mind, I really am dying for a gold medal,” Esparza said.
She has been preparing for her rematch with Cancan, and hopes to keep her record of never losing twice to the same opponent in tact when she faces the reigning world champion on Wednesday.
“I’m ready for the next match. That’s the one I’ve been playing in my head a million times, over and over. That’s the definitely the one that I’m here for,” Esparza said. “It feels good to win a medal and I know that the USA needed it badly right now so I’m excited about that, but now it’s time to get what I came here for and that’s the next match.”
Shields continued the winning ways in her bout with two-time World Champion Laurell. The American teenager faced a large height deficit in her bout with Laurell, but that didn’t discourage Shields from throwing shots at her towering opponent. Yet it was Laurell who held a 4-2 lead after the first round. Shields began to cut the distance between the two of them in the second round, finding a home for her double jab, right hand combination and she cut her deficit to one at the halfway mark. She continued to find the mark in the third round, landing strong hooks and the bout went into the final round locked at 12-12. Shields simply wouldn’t be deterred in the final round, coming out firing strong shots. She rocked Laurell with a body shot, hook combination, giving the Swedish boxer a standing eight count.
Shields won by the round by a four-point margin, taking the bout by an 18-14 final score. As in Esparza’s case, the quarterfinal victory ensures Shields will win at least a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. She moves on to a semifinal bout with Kazakhstan’s Marina Volnova following Volnova’s win over reigning World Champion Savannah Marshall in the bout prior to Shields’.
“In the first round, I didn’t want to rush her because that’s how I lost a fight previously. She was taller, I knew she wanted to outrun me and stay on the outside so I took it slow and I was down two going into the second round. In the second round, I was down by one and that’s when I sharpened up and started picking my shots,” Shields said. “In the third round, we were tied up 12-12, the only thing I was thinking was bite down. I was thinking, this is what you’ve been working on in training camp, staying calm and picking your shots. This is it, do it. I just told myself that I wasn’t going to let her get it from me the last round.”