Claressa Shields came into the Olympic Games with the attitude that she wasn’t going to settle for second best.
And as it turned out, she didn’t have to.
One by one, the Americans went by the wayside in what has been the most dismal and disappointing year ever for this country at the Olympics. As Thursday’s action started, and boxers like Errol Spence and Marlen Esparza had been eliminated the day before, the only hope left was Shields, the 17-year-old from Flint, MI who was giving that depressed city, and a depressed nation (in terms of its boxing fortunes) something to cheer about.
The middleweight, who had ripped through her two previous matches, against Anna Laurell of Sweden and Maria Volnova of Kazakhstan, had all the advantages in the last three rounds over Nadezda Torlopova of Russia, winning a 19-12 decision to salvage what has been a real downer for the U.S. in London.
With that, the junior at Flint Northwestern High School became the second youngest boxer to win an Olympic gold.
Torlopova was able to use her jab to actually draw even in the first round, as the judges scored it 3-3. Then Shields’ jab started to take over, and she worked her combinations off that. She won the second round by a three-point margin (7-4), then took the third by a 5-3 score, and coasted home with a 4-2 score in the fourth (women fight four rounds at two minutes apiece), which made the final verdict easy.
What was a shame was that Shields’ family was not able to be there, as were the families of many of the other Olympians. Funds are generally a problem, and in this case there weren’t any, but as an emerging star, some cash in the pro ranks can’t be far away.
That is, after high school graduation.