Olympic Women Boxers Claressa Shields, Marlen Esparza Advance to Medal Round

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Two of the three members of Team USA will advance to the medal round in the first-ever Olympic women’s boxing competition.

On Monday, Claressa Shields, 17, a middleweight from Flint, Mich., struggled to reach her long-armed opponent from Sweden, but eventually found her way and won 18 – 14 after four rounds.

Meanwhile, flyweight Marlen Esparza, 23, of Houston left no room for doubt, beating her Venezuelan opponent, 24 - 16.

This year was the first time women’s boxing has been included in the Summer Olympic Games.

Lightweight Queen Underwood lost Sunday, the first day of the competition. With the five Olympic rings newly tattooed under her impressive right bicep, Underwood couldn’t land more punches than her unrelenting British opponent, Natasha Jonas.

Among the American fans who watched her defeat was Angel Bovee, who boxed more than a decade ago in the first World Amateur Championship to allow women.

Bovee turns 40 this week and is too old to take advantage of the inclusion of women in Olympic boxing.

She said she cried when she saw Indian boxer Mery Kom step into the ring.

“We both boxed at the same world championship,” she said, “and to see her come all the way here knowing that could have been me had I not been too old made me feel sad but also made me incredibly proud to be a part of this whole struggle.”

The International Olympic Committee voted to include women in the boxing competition – the last men-only sport in the Games – in 2009.

Though there are 10 weight classes for men, there are only three for women. A total of 36 women from around the world are in London to compete. The semi-finals and finals are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

Bovee is among many women boxers who have fought for inclusion in the Olympics. She said, to her, one of the most striking things about the competition in London so far is that it seems normal.

“Nobody here is thinking this is a bizarre thing,” she said, “and to me making this a normal part of sports says we’ve come a long way.”

To learn more about the women boxers making history this week in London, take a listen to our special, Go For It: Life Lessons From Girl Boxers. You can also track Team USA’s progress and learn about women’s boxing from Assistant Olympic Coach Christy Halbert.