I’m still reeling from the sheer pleasure of watching 17-year-old Claressa Shields (USA, pictured above) light up London’s Olympic boxing ring in her semifinal bout against Sweden’s Anna Laurell. The two were 12-12 after three rounds, and I’d love to know what happened in Claressa’s brain and body that caused her to launch into high gear and take down the very worthy Laurell with a blur of blistering punches in the fourth.
To see that fight was to absolutely fall in love all over again with women’s boxing.
My hope for the women’s Olympic boxing this year was that we would raise awareness (“Hey, women can box!”) and respect (“Hey, women can box really well!”), and finally get some long-deserved media coverage and attention.
I believe we’ve already achieved those goals, and more besides. And the games aren’t even over!
My own journey into boxing
I never even knew there were women who boxed until five years ago, when I stumbled into a local LA Boxing on a friend’s recommendation. Even then, I was boxing for fitness, and only ventured into the ring when I realized it was an avenue open — and in my case, positively welcoming — to me. For that I repeatedly thank my very first trainer, pro fighter and world champion Bonnie Mann. Not everybody has someone of that caliber to welcome them into the ring.
As I began to find my feet in boxing, I searched online for boxing friends, news, and reports about women’s fights, and was shocked at the lack of coverage and overall low media interest. Although I found WBAN right away, it seemed crazy to me that my little blog was one of the few places publishing regularly about the journey into women’s boxing.
It took years, but the small blogroll you see on my site is the full list of people and places I’ve come across that are writing primarily about women’s boxing. Short list, but great people.
And there are even more people supporting women’s boxing via Facebook. I only opened a Facebook page for The Glowing Edge eight months ago (please click over and gimme a “Like!”), and I’m just now starting to discover those boxers, trainers, fans, filmmakers, writers, and others who simply love women’s boxing and are helping keep the conversation and cheers going.
And now the Olympics
All these years women have waited to be allowed into the Olympic ring, and now look at us! I wanted so much for us — and by us I mean ALL the women boxers, from every nation that sent them, as well as those who tried but didn’t get their fighters in — to win some attention for the very real sacrifices we’ve made, the long hours we put in, and the beautiful, powerful way we pursue our sport.
And it is our sport, too. The inclusion of women’s boxing in this year’s Olympics offers the first real world-wide validation of this reality, and while we still have plenty of battles to fight (the big one in my mind right now is to be granted more than 3 Olympic weight categories) before there’s real acceptance, it’s a tremendous step in the right direction.
What thankfully didn’t happen, and what did
My fear was that the women’s fights would be riddled with scoring controversies (see here for more about the atrocious computer scoring system, which is thankfully on it’s way out), or widely ignored by the media. But that simply hasn’t happened.
While we’re not finished with the final rounds, the press coverage has been great — a flood of attention and big, fat, emails from my Google alerts every day, as opposed to the anemic once-a-month-at-best mentions that were often in an article about a male boxer as sort of a “if I have to” attempt at gender equality.
And here comes Team USA storming out of the gates, swooping up two medals already, out of the three women we sent.
This stands in stark comparison to the nine men on the US boxing team, none of whom are still in the running for a medal, a sad “first” of it’s own. This series of crushing defeats in the men’s squad originally sparked lots of media trash talk about how the US amateur boxing program is riddled with problems — then here come the women, who perform like the boxing powerhouses they are. I haven’t heard any yet, but I hope to hear stories of how the guys were there supporting their female teammates all the way. That would be a real gift, wouldn’t it?
And still to come
All of this is happening, and we still have more to go.
Interestingly, the Associated Press noted that the volume in the ExCel has been it’s loudest so far for today’s women’s fights, in particular when world favorite (and number one in my picks of the top 5 women to watch) Katie Taylor systematically took out home crowd champion Natasha Jonas for a 26-15 win.
Just imagine what it will sound like during the Finals!
SO. If you missed today’s fights, definitely check out Alex McClintock’s fantastic recap. And my picks for the rest of the Olympic boxing matches are as follows:
1. Marlen Esparza (USA) will beat Ren CanCan (China)
After seeing Marlen’s sizzling speed and style today, in comparison with Ren’s slower, less technical fight, I’m thinking Marlen will take it, despite having lost to Ren before the Olympics.
2. Mery Kom (India) will beat Nicola Adams (GB)
This one is tough, but I absolutely have to cheer for Mery (I’ve been spelling it Mary, but the London Olympics site spells it Mery, so I’m switching).
1. Katie Taylor (Ireland) will win over Mavzuna Chorieva (TJK)
This one is too easy. Wish we’d had a different draw, but there you have it.
2. Sofya Ochigava (Russia) will beat out Adriana Araujo (Brazil)
Hard to call, as I’m not very familiar with either fighter, but I’m expecting Sofya to simply have a higher punch count. Sofya is also a former kickboxing champion, with a long history of competing.
1. Clarissa Shields (USA) GOTTA win over Marina Volnova (KAZ)
I’m pinning everything on this stick of US dynamite, especially after today’s incredible fireworks. C’mon young lady, you can do it!
2. Jinzi Li (China) will defeat Nadezda Torlopova (Russia)
I didn’t see Nadezda’s fight, but she is fresher by virtue of her first round bye. Jinzi is still my favorite, and did a great job against Mary Spencer (Canada) today.
- London 2012 Women’s Olympic Boxing Matchups
- Afghan Women to Train for Olympic Boxing
- Top 5 Women Olympic Boxers to Watch in 2012