By Jackie Kallen
As Meatloaf sang, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” Two of the three American women fighting in London are still in the running and are guaranteed at least bronze medals. On the men’s side, there is only one hope left: Errol Spence of Texas. Considering that there were ten men and only three women competing from here–the girls are doing pretty damn good. I can hear Helen Reddy in the background belting out “I am woman. Hear me roar.”
I could not be happier. It would have been awesome if all three women medaled. But for the first time in history the women are competing in boxing and they have made us proud.
Queen Underwood was the first and only woman to lose so far, but it’s not as though she didn’t try. She was the first of the American women to step into the ring and she had to face tough Natasha Jonas from the UK. Underwood’s journey has been a long and troubled one. She turned to boxing after years of sexual and physical abuse by her father. She managed to go from victim to victor by accumulating five national titles and a bronze medal in the 2010 world championships.
But being the first American woman to fight in the Olympics was no consolation for losing. “History doesn’t mean anything to me,” she said tearfully after her defeat. “The gold medal meant more.”
On paper, Underwood was the better boxer. In the past, Jonas had never finished better than third in major competitions. But in the Olympics, Jonas dug deep and took an early lead and held onto it. I doubt Underwood will ever get over her disappointment after dedicating half of her life and all her emotion to the sport of boxing. She should be satisfied, though, that she accomplished as much as she has and her role in the sport will never be forgotten.
As for Marlen Esparza and Clarissa Shields they fared much better. Both got byes for the first round, and both won their first fights. Having met Esparza and liking her from our first encounter, I was cheering loudly as she stepped into the ring against Karlha Magliocco of Venezuela. She boxed brilliantly, fending off the urge to brawl and soundly beat her opponent 24-16. The bout was far more exciting than the men’s action has been and the SRO crowd at the Excel Arena was on their feet screaming.
Esparza has her work cut out for her because now she faces the reigning champ, Ren Cancan of China. A win will put her in the run for the gold. A loss still guarantees the bronze.
As for 17 year old Clarissa Shields from Flint, MI, she has to square off against Marina Volnoza of Kazahkstan who soundly stomped on world champion Savannah Marshall of the UK. It took a win over Anna Laurell of Sweden to get this far and she fought her heart put to get it. After starting slowly, she rallied to take over the lead and got her win. Showing heart and desire, she will need both to advance to the gold round.
I can smell a gold medal for the USA in the women’s division, but no matter what happens–the women have a lot to be proud of. For the first time ever, they showed the world why females belong in this sport. Not only did they fare better than the American men, they have thus far displayed skill, grace, class, and pride. I, for one, could not be prouder.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen