BOXING: Women’s Champions Crowned at 2008 U.S. Future Stars National Championships

(COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.) – Thirteen national champions were crowned Thursday night as the women took center stage at the 2008 U.S. Future Stars National Championships, held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. USA Boxing started the evening by introducing all the evening's competitors and honoring Iraq War veteran and U.S. Paralympic Team hopeful Melissa Stockwell, who received a standing ovation from the crowd. Stockwell, who lost her leg in Iraq after being hit by a roadside bomb, is hoping to represent the U.S. in swimming at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing..

The crowd was quickly back on its feet as Sylvia Villapando (Houston, Texas) and Samantha Guzman (Oak Park, Ill.) kicked off the night's bouts with a high-scoring, down-to-the wire contest in the pinweight (101 lbs) division. Villapando jumped ahead early, scoring 10 points in the first round and taking a five-point lead. Holding on to a 22-16 lead entering the fourth and final round, Villapando faced barrage of shots from Guzman, who came back to tie the contest late, but the Texan had enough offense left to earn the win, 29-27.

"All the extra training we did helped out tonight," Villapando said. "It was literally blood, sweat and tears."

In the light flyweight (106 lbs) championship, Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas) earned her third national title with a strong performance against Melissa McMorrow (San Francisco, Calif.). Esparza used a nine-point second round to open up a nine-point lead, and continued to land shots until the final bell on her way to a 26-7 decision.

Esparza credited her training and coaching for the win.

"I busted my butt and kept my focus," Esparza said. "My coach did a great job of keeping me motivated, and now I'm looking forward to competing internationally."

Cheryl Houlihan (Santee, Calif.) earned her sixth consecutive national championship, winning the flyweight (110 lbs) title over Amaris Quintana (San Diego, Calif.). Houlihan was able to establish a 6-2 lead after two rounds, then used a 6-2 fourth round to pull away to a 17-9 decision.

"I knew she was going to come forward and be the aggressor," Houlihan said. "I just needed to be patient and pick my shots."

Another familiar name came away with the title in the light bantamweight (114 lbs) class. Sacred Downing (Trenton, N.J.) won her fifth national title in a row, earning a close victory over Keisher McLeod (Brooklyn N.Y.). Downing built an 8-3 lead after two rounds, and retained the five-point advantage heading into the fourth. McLeod attempted to rally, but was unable to make up the entire deficit, and Downing walked away with a 14-11 win.

In the bantamweight (119 lbs) championship, Cynthia Moreno (Phoenix, Ariz.) won a hard-earned decision over Christina Cruz (New York, N.Y.), 13-10. Moreno took a 6-5 lead after two rounds, but Cruz tied the contest at 8-8 heading into the final round. In the fourth, Moreno was able to take the upper hand early in the round and held on to claim the title.

"Last year, this girl beat me, so to come back and beat her this year means a lot to me," Moreno said.

In the featherweight (125 lbs) title match, Alexandria Cardenas (San Angelo, Texas) started strong and finished strong to earn the victory over Jody-Ann Weller (Pomona, N.Y.). Cardenas jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead after the first round and, after Weller knocked it down to a two-point lead (15-13) going into the fourth round, went back on the offensive. A 13-8 final round gave Cardenas the 28-21 decision.

Cardenas, who was fighting illness all week, expressed relief to have come away with the title.

"I had to dig really deep," Cardenas said. "I was exhausted, but I did it."

Caroline Barry (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Katonya Fisher (Bakersfield, Calif.) were next to enter the ring in the lightweight championship bout. Barry took the lead after one round, 6-3, and extended it to five points (14-9) heading into the final round. Fisher was active in the fourth, but her comeback attempt fell short, and Barry earned her fourth national championship – her third in a row – by a 16-14 decision.

"I'm so proud and it means so much to the team and the coaches and everybody," Barry said. "I listened to my coaching. It always comes back to that. When you listen, you're going to win."

Queen Underwood (Seattle, Wash.) was also able to defend her championship, using a strong start to earn the decision over Wendy Casey (Binghampton, N.Y.) in the light welterweight (138 lbs) class. Underwood took a 5-1 lead after one round, and held an 8-4 advantage entering the fourth round. Casey was only able to make up one of the four points, and Underwood earned a 12-9 victory.

"It's hard coming back and defending your title," Underwood said. "There's a huge amount of time, effort and training involved, but I've received a lot of support."

In welterweight (145 lbs) competition, Vanessa Jackson (Columbus, Ohio) faced off with 2007 National Finalist Brittany Inkrote (Red Lion, Pa.). After building a 7-3 lead after two rounds, Jackson pulled away in the third, outscoring Inkrote 9-3 on her way to earning a 21-8 decision.

Jackson received the Most Outstanding Boxer Award at the end of the evening.

"This is the first time a woman from Ohio has won at Nationals," Jackson said. "I'm going to take this back to my family. I'm dedicating this to James Wilson Douglas. He introduced me to the sport, and I've been watching him for a long time."

The most defensive match-up of the evening came in the light middleweight (154 lbs) title, where three-time defending middleweight champion Franchon Crews (Capitol Heights, Md.) looked to earn her first light middleweight title against Grace Parks (Bellingham, Wash.). After battling to a 3-3 tie through two rounds, Crews was able to shut out Parks the rest of the way, earning an 8-3 decision.

"I believe I've had a defining moment tonight," Crews said. "Truth be told, I've always gotten in trouble for my weight. But I moved down a weight class and triumphed."

The first stoppage of the evening came in the middleweight (165 lbs) title match, where Meredith Della Guistina (Lexington, Ky.) faced off with Lindsey Taylor (Monroe, La.). After jumping out to an 8-3 lead after the first round, Guistina kept up the offensive intensity and stopped Taylor at 1:42 of the second.

"This was amazing," Guistina said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better."

The light heavyweight (178 lbs) title was awarded to Mioshia Wagoner (Lawrence, Kan.), who went unopposed.

In the heavyweight (189 lbs) title match, Tiffanie Hearn (Louisville, Ky.) jumped ahead of Denise Rico (Los Angeles, Calif.) early and never looked back, taking a 7-2 lead after the first and using a 9-3 final round to pull away for a 22-10 decision.

"This is my first national championship, so it hasn't really hit me yet," Hearn said after the match. "It took a lot to get here. It's surreal."

In the final bout of the night, Victoria Perez (Ventura, Calif.) earned the super heavyweight (189+ lbs) national title over Angela Sperry (Helena, Mont.). Perez did the majority of her damage early, taking an 11-3 lead after two rounds. The two boxers each earned five points over the final two rounds, and Perez earned a 16-8 decision.

"I'm so excited, I'm not even tired," Perez said. "I feel like I could get back in there and do it all again."

The 2008 U.S. Future Stars National Championships will conclude Friday with the men's finals, which will start at 7:00 p.m. MST.


101 lbs/female: Sylvia Villapondo, Houston, Texas dec. Samantha Guzman, Oak Park, Ill., 29-27
106 lbs/female: Marlen Esparza, Houston, Texas dec. Melissa McMorow, San Francisco, Calif., 26-7
110 lbs/female: Cheryl Houlihan, Santee, Calif. dec. Amaris Quintana, San Diego, Calif., 17-9
114 lbs/female: Sacred Downing, Trenton, N.J. dec. Keisher McLeod, Brooklyn, N.Y., 14-11
119 lbs/female: Cynthia Moreno, Phoenix, Ariz. dec. Christina Cruz, New York, N.Y., 13-10
125 lbs/female: Alexandria Cardenas, San Angelo, Texas dec. Jody-Ann Weller, Pomona, N.Y., 28-21
132 lbs/female: Caroline Barry, Colorado Springs, Colo. dec. Katonya Fisher, Bakersfield, Calif., 16-14
138 lbs/female: Queen Underwood, Seattle, Wash. dec. Wendy Casey, Binghampton N.Y., 12-9
145 lbs/female: Vanessa Jackson, Columbus, Ohio dec. Brittany Inkrote, Red Lion, Pa., 21-8
154 lbs/female: Franchon Crews, Capitol Heights, Md. dec. Grace Parks, Bellingham, Wash., 8-3
165 lbs/female: Meredith Della Giustina, Lexington, Ky. stopped Lindsey Taylor, Monroe, La., RSC-2, 1:42
176 lbs/female: Unopposed Champion - Mioshia Wagoner, Lawarence, Kan.

189 lbs/female: Tiffanie Hearn, Louisville, Ky. dec. Denise Rico, Los Angeles, Calif., 22-10

189+ lbs/female: Victoria Perez, Ventura, Calif. dec. Angela Sperry, Helena, Mont., 16-8

Additional quotes from the women's champions:

Sylvia Villalpando, U.S. National Champion: Pinweight Division

"Man, I can't even explain it. I want cry and laugh and do everything. I've got a lot of goals to accomplish but I accomplished this one."

"I had to suck it up and keep going. That's when your heart comes out. That's when the training comes in handy; but it's your heart that gets you there."

"I was going to win no matter what."

Marlen Esparza, U.S. Champion: Light Flyweight Division

"I busted my butt."

"This win means I'm on my way. If there's an Olympics in the future, I know I'm doing what I need to do to get there."

Cheryl Houlihan, U.S. Champion: Flyweight Division

"I'm a little overwhelmed, mostly. It's exciting to be here and make the most of my training."

I knew she was going to come forward and be the aggressor. I needed to be patient and pick my shots

"She was one of my sparring partners back home, and we've sparred a lot. She's a hell of a fighter. She doesn't have as much as experience as me, but she started where I was so she'll go far."

"To me, personally, it's just another step up towards my Olympic dreams. It's just overwhelming."

Sacred Downing, U.S. Champion: Light Bantamweight Division

"I'm just thinking about the World Championships and the Pan American Games and getting ready. I'm thinking about the things I need to work on and the bigger picture."

"I'm focused and I keep god first. I go from the heart and make goals."

"Being a six-time National Champion is a blessing because I started at 15 and I never thought I'd be on the national level for half of my career."

Cynthia Moreno, U.S. Champion: Bantamweight Division

"I feel good and I'm happy all my hard work paid off."

"I've trained hard and stayed focused in the gym."

"Last year, this girl beat me, so to come back and beat her this year means a lot to me,"

Alexandria Cardenas, U.S. Champion: Featherweight

"That fight was hard! Oh, I'm happy but I'm tired! I had to dig really deep. I was exhausted but I did it."

"It turned around with the anger when the judges took that point away from me. It kind of gave me a second wind and fueled me for the rest of the fight."

"It's a great victory and another step ahead of me in my career."

Caroline Barry, U.S. Champion: Lightweight Division

"I'm feeling so much. I'm so proud and it means so much to the team and the coaches and everybody."

"I listened to my coaching. It always comes back to that. When you listen, you're going to win."

"It's my heart and my love for the people and the sport. The commitment that everyone has to each other means so much."

Queen Underwood, U.S. Champion: Light Welterweight Division

"It's hard coming back and defending your title. It's hard to take off work, and there's a huge amount of time effort and training involved."

It takes a lot of dedication just to maintain weight, but there's a lot of support for me from my work and gym."

"I don't feel happy with how I performed, so it's motivating me to train harder to get better."

Vanessa Jackson, U.S. Champion: Welterweight Division

"Oh my god, I'm so happy. I'm excited, I'm overwhelmed and tired. I'm everything!"

"She's an awesome fighter. Brittany lets me know where I'm at - not just as a fighter - but as an opponent. She has a lot more experience and I learn something from her every time we box."

"This is the first time a woman from Ohio has won at Nationals. I take this back to my family and I dedicate my win to James Wilson Douglas. He introduced me to boxing and I've been watching him box as long as he's been doing it."

Franchon Crews, U.S. Champion: Light Middleweight Division

"I feel so good and accomplished because I set out to make this weight class and to win. I did that and I feel so good right now."

"I believe I've had a defining moment tonight. Truth be told, I've always gotten in trouble for my weight but I moved down a weight class and triumphed."

"Even though my coach isn't here, I represented him and that I've been taught well."

Meredith Dell Giustina, U.S. Champion: Middleweight Division

"That match was amazing. I couldn't have asked for anything better."

"It was the game plan. I didn't want to go four rounds. It was either me or her going down in two rounds."

"This is only my sixth fight. I train at the University of Connecticut Boxing club. I was uncontested at Regionals and here I am."

Tiffanie Hearn, U.S. Champion: Heavyweight Division

"This is my first national championship. It really hasn't hit me yet. It took a lot to get here. It's surreal."

"I trust my coach. Everything he says I try to do to the best of my ability."

"I've only been boxing eight months. This win means that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to."

Victoria Perez, U.S. Champion: Super Heavyweight Division

"I'm so excited, I'm not even tired. I could get back in there and do it all again."

"I had to play it smart. I've been fighting for three years and I was mostly instinctual, but after three years I'm finally starting to think."

"Two years ago, I lost by 16 punches. Last year, I won because no one showed up. Finally, I have something to show for it. Three years of training finally paid off."

Article posted on 13.03.2008

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