LONDON -- Teenager Claressa Shields, who wasn’t old enough to fight in the Olympics until March, will be going for a gold medal in boxing after outpointing Kazakhstan’s Marina Volnova, 29-15, in a bruising middleweight semifinal Wednesday.
But flyweight Marlen Esparza wasn’t so lucky, losing her semifinal to Ren Cancan of China, 10-8. Esparza, who said Wednesday’s fight would be her last, will come home with a bronze medal -- the first boxing medal won by a U.S. woman.
That leaves Shields, a 17-year-old high school student from Flint, Mich., and the youngest fighting in London, as the only American still boxing. She’ll face Russia’s Nadesda Torlopova in Thursday’s final.
“I’m not dreaming. It’s real,” Shields said of her chances at a gold medal. “It’s right here. All I have to do is grab it.”
Shields used a savage right to batter Volnova, a silver medalist in the 2010 world championships, with the referee stopping the fight for a standing eight count after Shields landed three devastating punches to Volnova’s head in quick succession in the third round.
The American got stronger as the fight wore on, winning the third round, 8-,3 to take a commanding 11-point bulge into the final two minutes, in which Volnova was again given a standing eight count.
“That’s the performance I wanted everybody to see,” Shields said.
Esparza, 23, a six-time national champion from suburban Houston, had a tough draw against the top-seeded Ren, a three-time world champion from China.
Her game plan, she said, called for her to feel out her opponent for the first two rounds then go after Ren in the final two. But that backfired when Ren built a 7-4 advantage by round three. So even though Esparza won the final two rounds handily, it wasn’t good enough to close the gap.
“I thought I got away with it and won because I was only down by two going into the final round and I was finding my range,” said Esparza, who broke down in tears several times after the fight. “I should have put my brakes on but she was frustrating.
“I can’t be angry about getting any medal at all but [bronze] wasn’t my goal.”