(SPOKANE, WASH.) – Just over six months after the Olympic debut of women’s boxing, the elite women’s division claimed the spotlight on the fourth day of competition at the 2013 USA Boxing National Championships in Spokane, Wash. With only three weight divisions being contested in Olympic action in London, several of the United States’ top female athletes were forced to move to different weight divisions following the Olympic Team Trials and many of them enjoyed success in their new weight divisions. While 2012 Olympian Queen Underwood (Seattle, Wash.) competed for a finals berth against a former national team staple, reigning World Champion Tiara Brown (Hyattsville, Md.) and the top light welterweight in the world Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles, Calif.) faced off on the opposite side of the bracket.
The boxing fans in attendance at the HUB Sports Center waited until the final two bouts in the third ring to watch the biggest names of the session compete for the two berths in the lightweight finale. It was Underwood and former national champion and U.S. Marine Melissa Parker (Spring, Texas) who took the ring first. Parker, a mother of two, who had taken an extended hiatus from the sweet science, kept the bout close as both she and Underwood looked to feel one another out. Underwood began to find her rhythm in the second round, finding openings in Parker’s defense but both enjoyed momentum swings through the middle two rounds. Parker came out aggressive in the final round, looking to take control of the bout, but Underwood wouldn’t be denied and the 2012 Olympian advanced on to the finals with a 3-0 unanimous decision.
Brown and Mayer’s contest was a closely contested showdown between two of the world’s best female boxers, but only one could advance on to the tournament finals to meet Underwood. Mayer looked to use her strong height and reach advantage against the smaller Brown. The two talented ladies traded shots throughout the four rounds, but there could only be one winner after the final bell. It was Brown who was named the victor, taking a close, split decision win. She will battle Underwood in the lightweight championship bout on Saturday, creating a rematch of the 2011 USA Boxing National Championships, which Underwood won by a slim 23-21 margin.
2012 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas) competed in her first bout of the 2013 USA Boxing National Championships on Thursday, taking the first step toward her seventh gold medal in the event. Esparza left no doubt, completely dominating her opponent with her strong, aggressive styles and clean, powerful punches. Maureecea Lambert (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) knew she was overmatched in her bout with the history-making athlete and she failed to come out of the corner for the third round, granting Esparza the TKO victory. Esparza’s next test will be fellow Olympic Trials participant and Houston-area resident Virginia Fuchs in the flyweight final on Saturday night.
Several top elite males stepped through the ropes for their quarterfinal round bouts with 35 contests taking place at the HUB on Thursday. Two Chicago-based top seeds competed in their first bouts of the tournament on Thursday afternoon and both enjoyed victorious debuts. Olympic Trials flyweight silver medalist Shawn Simpson (Chicago, Ill.) took a unanimous 3-0 decision over Marshall Sanchez (Houston, Texas) in the first bout of the day. His fellow windy city native and 2012 National PAL Lightweight Champion Kenneth Sims, Jr. (Chicago, Ill.) opened action with a unanimous decision victory as well, beating Ramiro Hernandez (Cleveland, Ohio) in the quarterfinal bout.
Two Olympic Trials champions earned quarterfinal wins on Thursday afternoon, beginning with light flyweight titlist Eros Correa (San Jose, Calif.). Correa, who moved up to the flyweight division for the 2013 USA Boxing National Championships, took a 3-0 decision over Ernesto Delgadillo (Dallas, Texas). Super heavyweight Cam F. Awesome (Lenexa, Kansas) debuted his new moniker in winning fashion, claiming a third round TKO over Ryan Watson (Duluth, Minn.) at the 2:20 mark of the last round.
The youth women kicked off tournament competition on Thursday afternoon with a light flyweight showdown between 2012 Junior Olympic National Champions Marisol Lopez (Stratford, Calif.) and Monica Van Pelt (Toledo, Ohio). Lopez pulled out the win on a 2-1 split decision to move on to tomorrow night’s finals where she will battle Monica Suazo (Tucson, Ariz.).
The 2013 USA Boxing National Championships will move locales on Friday to the Pend Oreille Pavilion at the Northern Quest Resort & Casino. All of the youth men’s and women’s finals will take place in evening action tomorrow at 5 p.m. with the men’s elite semifinals opening the day’s competition at 11 a.m. The senior men’s finals and half of the women’s elite finals will be contested at 1 p.m. on Saturday with the men’s elite and other four women’s championship bouts closing the event in the evening session at 6 p.m.
Photo Credit: Bill Mackey