London, Great Britain, 06 August 2012 – It was the Women’s quarter-finals across the Fly (51kg), Light (60kg) and Middleweight (75kg) categories during the afternoon session of the tenth day of competition at London 2012 Olympic Games. There was not a spare seat and the atmosphere at the ExCeL arena was just phenomenal.
Katie Taylor vs Natasha Jonas (Photo AIBA/Caroline Quinn)
Starting the action in the Flyweight (51kg) category was top seed and reigning three-time AIBA World Champion Cancan Ren from China in action against Russian 28-year-old Elena Savelyeva. The first round began tentatively with both boxers showing restraint, but a good straight gave the Chinese 24-year-old southpaw the edge. A good three punch combination demonstrated Ren’s speed in the second as she took the round over the European Champion. The 24-year-old policewoman from China continued to dominate and took the final two rounds to record a 12:7 victory.
Venezuela’s Karlha Magliocco, who had been so impressive in her first bout, then faced 23-year-old Marlen Esparza, recently profiled in Vogue magazine. A good left hook to the chin, good footwork and are positive approach saw the American 23-year-old land several big shots as she opened up a four point gap going into the second. The two orthodox fighters were really feisty, trading a lot of punches, but Esparza’s more measured approach saw her score with much cleaner shots on the counter. The scenario was repeated in the third and fourth as the impressive boxer from the USA moved into the semi-finals with a 24:16 win. Esparza now faces Ren.
The crowd went wild once again as legend Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte, or Mary Kom for short, made her way into the ring to do battle with 24-year-old Maroua Rahali from Tunisia. The Indian southpaw was giving so much height away to her rival that she had to wait, be patient and calculating, in order to score on the counter, doing so perfectly in the first as she just edged it. A good right hook, and another, allowed her to dictate proceedings to take the second. The 29-year-old mother-of-two was now getting into her stride in the third and boxed brilliantly with several combinations hitting their target as she went into the final round with a seven point advantage. A big overhead right assured her of her place in the semi-finals and a guaranteed medal, after a classy and confident 15:6 victory.
Kom declared afterwards, “I am extremely happy, my dreams have come true. For the past year I have been dreaming of an Olympic medal and now it has happened. My focus now is on trying to achieve silver, then after that let’s see. For the last three or four years, I have been training with men that are taller and heavier than me. It has helped a lot”.
In the last of the Flyweight (51kg) quarter-finals, Great Britain’s AIBA World Championships silver medallist Nicola Adams went head to head with Stoyka Petrova of Bulgaria and a big right hand followed by a huge left in the first saw the second seed take the early initiative. A good left uppercut and some quick one-twos through the guard of the Bulgarian southpaw had Adams dominating the second to the raucous applauds of the spectators. Stepping up a grear, the Brit overpowered Petrova in the final two rounds, finding time to do an ‘Ali’ style shuffle on her way to inflicting an impressive 16:7 defeat on her opponent.
There was an atmosphere like never before at the ExCeL Arena, with the Irish supporters present far outnumbering those of the home nation. Thousands of flags were being held aloft as Irish quadruple World Champion Katie Taylor made her entrance into a cauldron of noise that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. She faced tough competitor Natasha Jonas from Great Britain in what promised to be an absolute thriller. The fight lived up to its billing. 26-year-old Taylor was just class in the first, throwing a four punch combination then some vicious hard straights to take the round in resounding fashion. Jonas battled hard in the second with a straight left putting the Irish legend on the back foot as the points were shared. It was fast and furious in the third with Taylor catching the 28-year-old Brit with a fantastic right and Jonas was forced to take a standing eight count in an electric round. Round four brought the house down, Taylor soaking up the punches from her rival in a defensive master class before pouncing with some thunderous straights to take the bout 26:15. It was by far the best contest of the tournament so far, an absolute epic and a fantastic advert for women’s boxing. The noise levels for that bout were measured at 113.7 decibels, the equivalent of having a jackhammer by your ear, top class.
Taylor told the packed media centre, “Natasha is a super boxer and a fantastic person. I had to work so hard. She was not hurt at all. I am just delighted with the win”. On reaching the semis, she declared, “I am here to win gold, nothing else. Anything other than a gold medal will be a failure for me. At the end of the week I will be an Olympic champion”. On the support of the crowd, she said, “With support like that it is just amazing, but for me, except for the atmosphere, this was just another fight”.
Size did not matter for Tajikistan’s Mavzuna Chorieva against the tall Cheng Dong from China, as she expertly moved inside to work the body and throw some deft uppercuts and overheads throughout four quality rounds. The first round was drawn but after that teenage Chorieva, who came third at the AIBA World Boxing Championships, exerted her authority to outbox her opponent on her way to a solid 13:8 victory.
Brazilian 31-year-old orthodox Adriana Araujo’s good counter-punching style got the better of Morocco’s Mahjouba Oubtil in the opening two rounds as she landed some good stiff jabs as well as some hard hooks. In the third, the 29-year-old mounted a good come back to win the round. The Panamerican Champion from Brazil did well in the closing stages to ensure she progressed 16:12.
In the last of the Lightweight (69kg) contests, rangy New Zealander Alexis Pritchard struggled to cope with the speed of the second seeded southpaw Sofya Ochigava, the silver medallist at the recent AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships. The Russian was just too quick and precise, and was too difficult to read in the first two rounds as she moved in quickly to land some solid shots. Ochigava threw a thunderous left hook and Pritchard had to take a standing eight count in the third. In the final round, the 25-year-old Russian was landing at will with that vicious right hand of hers doing the damage as she went on to record a resounding 22:4 victory.
The first of the Middleweight (75kg) bouts saw reigning AIBA World Champion and top seed Savannah Marshall from Great Britain take on tough Kazak Marina Volnova. The ‘Silent Assassin’ just could not get into gear in the opening exchanges as Volnova stood up to her, equalling her in every department. It continued to be the same in the second as Marshall could not get to grips with her rival. In the third, Volnova was the one applying the pressure and, to the dismay of the crowd, she claimed the points in that one. It was a major upset as the Marina Volnova took the last round to win 16:12 and knock-out the favourite.
Two-time former AIBA World Champion Anna Laurell battled teenage sensation Claressa Shields from the USA in the second Middleweight (75kg) contest of the session and the Swede took the early initiative with the good use of her jab. In the second, the American orthodox fighter’s big overheads were getting through and she won the round. The third was an exact replica as Shields continued to hit her target. The superior technique of the 17-year-old American was causing the tall Laurell all sorts of problems and she went in to the final round equal on points. A huge left hook by the American had Laurell taking a standing eight count and from then on it was one way traffic as Shields completely overawed her opponent to move into the semi-finals with a 18:14 victory. She will now battle it out with Volnova for a place in the final.
On her victory, Shields declared, “It was super awesome. My trainer taught me everything I know. I train 24/7 so it means a lot to me. I really sharpened up and I was not going to let her get me in the last round. She was real tall and I was thinking ‘be sharp, don’t be hit’. I had to control my emotions. After that I just tried to stay focused”.
Experienced Canadian Mary Spencer began well against Jinzi Li of China, taking the first round with the clever use of the jab. In the second however, the Chinese came back strong, cornering Spencer before unloading some penetrating straights to score heavily. The two orthodox boxers were evenly matched in the third as they both exchanged some solid punches to draw the round. A real battle ensued in the final round as the two went toe-to-toe, trading blows throughout but Li was the one who came out on top to win 17:14.
Nadezda Torlopova was straight out of the blocks in the final bout of the session with straight and right hooks doing serious damage in the first and second rounds. Two huge right hands sent her opponent Edith Ogoke of Nigeria to the canvas in the third as the Russian completely dominated the exchanges. In the end, it was a frightening display of power by Torlopova who looked in fine form as she cruised to a thunderous 18:8 victory.
That session was one the best of the tournament so far and really had the crowd up on its feet cheering on some truly world class athletes. They will be looking forward to more of the same as the evening session sees the Men’s Light (60kg), Middle (75kg) and Super Heavyweight (91+kg) quarter-finals take place.