(COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.) – Reigning Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich,) is returning to major international action in a first-time event for USA Boxing. The new college student will lead a team of junior and youth female boxers in to competition at the Women’s Junior/Youth World Championships, September 20-29, at the Albena Resort in Albena, Bulgaria. Team USA is competing in the event for the first time as Shields’ aims to add her first World Championship title to her historic resume.
The 18-year-old gold medalist recently began studies at Olivet College in her home state of Michigan, but continues to juggle her goals in the classroom with her intense training and competition schedule. Ten junior and youth boxers will join Shields at the event, with all of the United States competitors traveling to Bulgaria today for a pre-camp prior to the start of competition.
With the recent changes made to the age divisions by AIBA, the international governing body for Olympic-style boxing, Shields and her fellow 17 and 18-year-old boxers now compete in the youth division. Four youth boxers will compete alongside Shields in Bulgaria. All of the youth competitors earned their spots on the World Championships squad at the USA Boxing National Championships in April . Light flyweight Marisol Lopez (Stratford, Calif.), flyweight Karina Sarabia (El Monte, Calif.), featherweight Dida Gonzalez (Houston, Texas) and welterweight Samantha Kinchen (Lexington, Ky.) will all compete for youth world titles with Shields. The youth boxers will compete for four, two-minute rounds in Bulgaria.
It has been a big year for the junior women, who held their first-ever training camp at the Olympic Training Center earlier this year prior to winning six medals at the Pirrka Tournament in Finland. They will return to international action in the first World Championship event for all six participants. The young women vying for gold in the junior division in Bulgaria will be: pinweight Caitlin Orosco (Anaheim, Calif.), flyweight Nysja Barrientes (Las Vegas, Nev.), light bantamweight Ashley Perez (Sparks, Nev.), bantamweight Jessica Galvez (Sparks, Nev.), featherweight Jajaira Gonzalez (Glendora, Calif.), and lightweight Iesha Kenney (Alexandria, Va.). As in the United States, the junior boxers will box for three, two-minute rounds at the World Championships.
Women’s Junior/Youth World Championships competition will begin on Sunday, September 22 following the official event draw in both age divisions. Preliminary action will run through Wednesday, September 25 with junior competition taking place in the afternoon and the youth women boxing in the evening. All of the tournament participants will enjoy a rest day on Thursday, September 26 prior to semifinals on Friday, September 27 and the event finals in both the junior and youth divisions on Saturday, September 28.
Coaches Jason Crutchfield (Flint, Mich.), Michael Newson (Las Vegas, Nev.), and William Farris (Lexington, Ky.) will guide the U.S. boxers in Bulgaria with Dr. Larry Lovelace (Oklahoma City, Okla.) serving as the Team Physician.
The first-ever Women’s Junior/Youth World Boxing Championships were held in 2011 but the United States did not field a team. In 2011, Shields won her second Junior Olympic title as well as spot in the first-ever U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Women’s Boxing at the National PAL Championships. She made history at the 2012 Olympic Games, claiming the first gold medal in the women’s middleweight division during the Olympic debut of the sport in London. Since that time, she has been a trailblazer at home as well, becoming the first member of her family to graduate from high school prior to enrolling at Olivet College. Due to the change to the age divisions, she has been forced to compete in the youth division, but will enter the elite age ranks in 2014.