(COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO) – The United States national anthem was a familiar melody on Saturday night at the NAV Centre in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada following Team USA’s six gold medal performances at the 2012 Women’s Continental Championships. The United States squad won six of their seven championship bouts and 17-year-old middleweight Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) announced herself to the world with a convincing win over Canada’s own golden girl.
Just 24 hours after defeating reigning light heavyweight world champion in her senior international debut, Shields recorded an even bigger upset in her highly anticipated match-up with Canada’s own three-time World Champion Mary Spencer. Shields had been looking forward to the showdown since learning about the Continental Championships, and she delivered with a 27-14 victory over Spencer. Shields led from the beginning of the bout, taking an 11-4 advantage after two rounds. To the surprise of her hometown crowd, Spencer had no answers for Shields over the final two rounds and the teenage sensation continued to build on her edge. Shields maintained her intensity through the final bell to claim the upset victory and her first international gold medal.
Light flyweight Alex Love (Monroe, Wash.) kicked off the U.S. winning streak in the first bout of the night with Claribel Cruz of Argentina. Following a close first round, Love took control of the bout in the second round, moving out to an 11-5 advantage at the halfway mark. She dominated over the final two rounds, winning a convincing 25-7 decision to claim light flyweight gold.
In flyweight action, Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas) rode a strong first round to a championship night victory over Brazil’s Erica Matos. Esparza took a 5-1 lead after the opening two minutes of boxing and never relinquished the lead in the flyweight finale. The American boxer took an 11-8 advantage into the last round and doubled her edge to win a 16-10 decision and the second gold medal of the night for Team USA.
Featherweight Tiara Brown (Lehigh Acres, Fla.) faced off in a close featherweight championship bout with Leonela Sanchez of Argentina. Brown held a slim lead through the first two rounds, taking an 8-6 advantage into the second half of the bout. She added a point to her lead in each of the final two rounds to win a 19-15 decision. The win earned Brown a gold medal in her first major international competition.
Light welterweight Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles, Calif.) returned to the ring after a two day layoff following her Wednesday semifinal win, and she quickly returned to form, recording a double digit win in her championship bout with Roselaine Silva of Brazil. Mayer kept her offensive output high throughout the contest and held a 15-7 lead at halftime. Her onslaught continued in the second half of the bout and Mayer won a 25-11 final decision to claim gold in her new light welterweight class.
Light heavyweight Franchon Crews (Baltimore, Md.) won the sixth and final gold medal of the night for Team USA and the international veteran did so in dominating fashion in the championship bout with Canada’s Maude Bergeron. Once again, the home nation crowd was silenced as Crews moved out to a 24-3 after three rounds. Despite her big lead, Crews didn’t take her foot off the gas in the final round, winning a 32-3 decision and another gold medal for the United States.
Heavyweight Victoria Perez (Ventura, Calif.) suffered the only loss of the night for the United States, dropping a 14-3 decision to Brazil’s Erika Cabrera. Perez takes home a silver medal.
In addition to the six gold medals and one silver, bantamweight Christina Cruz (New York, N.Y.) and welterweight Raquel Miller (San Francisco, Calif.) both win bronze medals.
The U.S. squad will return to training camp later this month to prepare for the 2012 Women’s World Championships in China, which will serve as the lone international qualifier for the three Olympic weight divisions.
Team USA was led by coaches Israel Acosta (Milwaukee, Wis.), Gloria Peek (Norfolk, Va.), Bruce Kawano (Pearl City, Hawaii) and Team Manager Joe Smith (Chattanooga, Tenn.). Dr. Ted Mills (Glen Cove, N.Y.) worked as the Team Physician with Patricia Pliner (Janesville, Wis.) joining the squad as the AIBA official.
Thursday U.S. Results
108 lbs: Alex Love, Monroe, Wash./USA dec. Claribel Cruz, ARG, 25-7
112 lbs: Marlen Esparza, Houston, Texas/USA dec. Erica Matos, MEX, 16-10
125 lbs: Tiara Brown, Lehigh Acres, Fla./USA dec. Leonela Sanchez, ARG, 19-16
141 lbs: Mikaela Mayer, Los Angeles, Calif./USA dec. Roselaine Silva, BRZ, 25-11
165 lbs: Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich./USA dec. Mary Spencer, CAN, 27-14
178 lbs: Franchon Crews, Balitmore, Md./USA dec. Maude Bergeron, CAN, 32-3
178+ lbs: Erika Cabrera, BRA, dec. Victoria Perez, Ventura, Calif./USA, 14-3
USA Boxing, as the national governing body for Olympic-style boxing, is the United States’ member organization of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) and a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).