(COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.) – USA Boxing’s string of international competition has moved south to Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela for the 2013 Women’s Continental Championships, May 16-19, and United States boxers continue to rack up international victories. Team USA put on a show on the first day of competition in Venezuela, winning all six of the squad’s bouts. Light flyweight Elisha Halstead (Philadelphia, Pa.), flyweight Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas), lightweight Queen Underwood (Seattle, Wash.), light welterweight Bertha Aracil (Yonkers, N.Y.), middleweight Franchon Crews (Baltimore, Md.) and heavyweight Denise Rico (Los Angeles, Calif.) all won their bouts on Thursday night in Venezuela.
Halstead made her international debut on Thursday and she didn’t miss a beat in her bout with Brazil’s Margareth Diaz. The light flyweight won a 15-5 decision over Diaz to move on to a semifinal bout with Tayonis Cedeno of Venezuela on Saturday.
Esparza, an Olympic bronze medalist, competed in her first international bout of the year in Venezuela, taking on Colombia’s Valencia Ingrid. Esparza won a 19-12 decision to advance to a semifinal round contest with Canada’s Mary Bujold.
Esparza’s Olympic teammate Queen Underwood (Seattle, Wash.) was the second U.S. boxer of the night to battle a Brazilian opponent. Underwood enjoyed success as well, winning a 24-16 decision over Aline Santana in first round action. As she is competing in the largest weight class in the tournament, Underwood will now face Stephanie Walker of Canada in quarterfinal action today.
Aracil doesn’t boast the same international experience as Esparza and Underwood, but that didn’t stop the towering light welterweight from putting on an impressive performance in her first bout in Venezuela. She defeated Ingle Charles of Trinidad by a 26-4 margin to earn a berth in the semifinal round where she will face Maria Ortega of Bolivia.
In middleweight action, Crews, a previous Women’s Continentals champion, defeated Brazil’s Bastieri Danieli, 18-10, in their quarterfinal bout. Crews will return to the ring on Saturday for semifinal action to face Francelis Carmona of Venezuela.
Heavyweight Denise Rico (Los Angeles, Calif.) was the final U.S. boxer to compete in first day action in Venezuela and she continued the winning streak in dominating fashion. Rico stopped Kemara Stuart of Barbados in the third round of their four round contest to advance to Sunday’s finals. She will battle Diosmary Matutes of Venezuela for the gold medal.
Welterweight Danyelle Wolf (San Diego, Calif.) and light heavyweight Tiffanie Hearn (Oxnard, Calif.) will compete for the first time today, facing Venezuela’s Carolina Quevado and Trinidad’s Chimere Taylor respectively. Bantamweight Christina Cruz (New York, N.Y.) received a first round bye and will take on Brazil’s Marcia Silva on Saturday. Featherweight Jennifer Hamann (Seattle, Wash.) will make her tournament debut on Saturday as well, facing Caroline Veyre of Canada.
2000 U.S. Olympic Coach Israel Acosta (Milwaukee, Wis.), Benny Roman (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Eugene Hart (Philadelphia, Pa.) are serving as the U.S. coaches for the 2013 Women’s Continental Championships.
More than 60 athletes from 15 countries are competing in the event in all 10 women’s weight divisions. The women’s continental championships is the third international event in the last three weeks for USA Boxing with U.S. junior athletes winning a combined 16 medals, including eight gold, in the Prikka and Victory Day Tournaments earlier in the month. The elite men will be the final group to compete with 10 male athletes heading to Puerto Rico on Sunday.Thursday's U.S. Results