Marlen Esparza, Jajaira Gonzalez and Tika Hemingway Advance to the Final Round at the Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing

MEMPHIS, TENN. (October 30, 2015) – The 2016 Olympic Team Trials for Women’s Boxing championship round bout sheet is now set after the final three challengers bracket matches on Friday at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. Flyweight Marlen Esparza, lightweight Jajaira Gonzalez (Glendora, Calif.), and middleweight Tika Hemingway (Brackenridge, Pa.) each earned unanimous decision victories to advance to championship night on Saturday. All three of Friday’s victors must defeat the winners bracket champions twice to win the Olympic Trials.

Flyweights Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas) and Chrstina Cruz (New York, N.Y.) have met several times throughout the years so it was no surprise that their roads met again in the challengers bracket finale on Friday. Only one of the multi-time national champions could make it through to the flyweight championship bout with Virginia Fuchs (Kemah, Texas) and the intensity of the bout revealed its importance. After four hard-fought rounds, Esparza was named the winner by 3-0 decision. With her spot in the finals confirmed, Esparza now turns her sights to her sixth meeting with Fuchs.

“I made it back to where I’m supposed to be. I feel better. This morning, I was thinking ‘I’m not supposed to be here.’ I think last time I was so worried about Christina that I forgot to focus on Virginia. I knew Virginia was my hardest opponent but I thought I would just get through it like I always do and it showed in the bout.,” Esparza said. “I didn’t have new ideas and I wasn’t adjusting so next time when I fight her I’m going to concentrate all day on what to do and it won’t be like it was again. She had a really good day and I had a really bad one and I just think I need to go in there and change it. That’s what boxing’s for.”

Cruz is a five-time USA Boxing National Champion and won a bronze medal in the 2012 Women’s World Championships. A legend in New York boxing circles, she holds the all-time record for most New York Golden Gloves titles with nine.

The lightweight bout was a match-up between 2012 Elite Women’s World Champion and 2014 World Championships bronze medalist Tiara Brown (Fort Myers, Fla.) and Junior and Youth World Champion Jajaira Gonzalez (Glendora, Calif.). Both boxers laid it all on the line in the lightweight contest with Brown showcasing her patented accuracy and clean punching and Gonzalez utilizing her relentless pressure and tremendous punch output. Only one boxer could emerge victorious and it was Gonzalez winning the bout by unanimous decision.

“She’s good. She’s a good fighter. I was throwing a lot of hooks while she was hooking so my corner caught that right away. They said go at her. Don’t stop. Throw straight punches and it worked. I’m trying to get my rematch. I know when I had to do to make it happen,” said Gonzalez. “I’m going to throw more punches in my rematch (with Mikaela Mayer). I let her breathe a little bit in the last two rounds maybe and the first round definitely. I just know I need to go out and kill it from the first round.”

Brown is a three-time USA Boxing National Champion and one of only five American women to win world titles. She will graduate from the Washington DC Police Academy on December 11.

The last bout of the challengers bracket took place in the middleweight division with former national champions Tika Hemingway (Brackenridge, Pa.) and Raquel Miller (San Diego, Calif.) competing for the final spot in the tournament finals. Hemingway showcased her athletic skill in the contest but Miller didn’t make it easy on her opponent over the four rounds. At the end of eight minutes, Hemingway was announced the winner by a 3-0 margin.

“I knew it was going to be a tough fight coming in because I fought her in the Trials twice, but I wanted it more tonight. I had a little uniform malfunction so I couldn’t move as much as I wanted to. My boots fell apart so I had to stand still. I didn’t want to get hit with a stupid shot and fall because of my shoes so I had to be smart,” Hemingway said. “Tomorrow night against Claressa, it’s going to be a good fight as always. She’s a very good opponent. She’s a very good fighter and it’s going to be a good fight. It was written for me to go the hard road so I’m not disappointed because it was meant to happen like this. May the best woman win. She’s a very good opponent, I take nothing from her. It’s going to be a good fight.”

Miller was the 2012 USA Boxing National Champion and the silver medalist in the welterweight division at the 2012 World Championships. She won her second consecutive Olympic Trials bronze medal in Memphis.

Olympic Trials final round action will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the beautiful Cannon Center with three championship bouts. The flyweight bout will kick off the competition followed by the lightweight match and the middleweight contest will close the evening’s action. Should Esparza, Gonzalez or Hemingway win in tomorrow’s action, the weight class will be pushed a Sunday winner takes all contest at 4 p.m. at the Cook Convention Center.

Following the three Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing bouts, the finals of the Men’s Trials Qualifier will take place. Click here for Saturday’s bout sheet.

The final qualifying event for the Olympic Trials for Men’s Boxing moved in to the all important semifinal round on Friday at the Cook Convention Center. All 20 winners on the night advanced to the Olympic Trials with their victories.

The athletes winning the final 20 spots in the Olympic Trials for Men’s Boxing are:

Light flyweights: Rondarrius Hunter, Atlanta, Ga., and Nicholas Scaturicho, Hartsdale, N.Y
Flyweights: Eros Correa, San Jose, Calif. (2012 Olympic Trials Champion) and Khalid Twaiti, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Bantamweights: Efren Lopez, Fresno, Calif., and Duke Ragan, Cincinnati, Ohio
Lightweights: Maliek Montgomery, Macon, Ga., and Bruce Carrington, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Light welterweights: Richardson Hitchins, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Abraham Nova, Albany, N.Y.
Welterweights: Rashid Stevens, Gahanna, Ohio, and Ferdinand Kerobyan, N. Hollywood, Calif.,
Middleweights: Carlos Monroe, Snellville, Ga., and Charles Conwell, Cleveland Heights, Ohio,
Light heavyweights: Joseph George, Houston, Texas and Eric Moon, Marietta, Ga.,
Heavyweights: Sardius Simmons, Flint, Mich., and Brandon Glanton, Atlanta, Ga.,
Super heavyweights: Nkosi Solomon, Brooklyn, N.Y. and Brandon Lynch, Albany, N.Y.

Earlier today, the three winners bracket champions opened their final workouts to the media and shared their thoughts on the tournament and preparation.

Mikaela Mayer, Lightweight, Los Angeles

“I feel great. I’m on top of the world right now. I’m still focused, I know that I still have a tough fight ahead of me.”

On what she’s been doing since her bout on Wednesday
“I’ve been getting a lot of rest. We did a good hard workout yesterday because I don’t want to go in to Saturday feeling sluggish. Today, we are working on the strategy for both opponents since we don’t know who’s going to take it, Tiara or Jajaira.”

On how boxing in the 2012 Olympic Trials championship bout helped her
“In the end, this event is like every other tournament. You have someone different to fight everyday and you can’t underestimate anyone, you just have to get through it. You just have to treat it one fight at a time and treat every tournament the same. I think coming so close to winning and not making it by that much in 2012 made me hungrier. My dream is still fully alive and well in 2016.”

On what she needs to do on Saturday night to be successful
“Keep my movement going because my movement worked really well against all my opponents and keep the punch count high. Just let my hands go.”

Virginia Fuchs, Flyweight, Kemah, Texas

On what she’s been doing since her bout on Wednesday
“I’m ready. I’ve been getting a lot of rest. I’ve been replenishing my body with a lot of greens and fluids but not too many fluids because I still have to weigh in again. I’ve been staying loose and going over my game plan at the gym and just keeping focused.”

On what she needs to do on Saturday night to be successful
“No matter who’s in front of me, I just have to stick to the game plan and what we’ve been working on throughout training camp. Relive it over and over in my head and get out there and don’t let anything distract me. It’s not over yet. I had a big win on Wednesday but it’s not over yet. I just really have to stay focused and not let any distractions get to me.”

On how she felt the morning after her big win over Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza
“I’ve been working so hard for this and I know I deserve it so it finally happened. It took me awhile to go sleep on Wednesday night because of the adrenaline. I was just overwhelmed with happiness.”

Claressa Shields, Middleweight, Flint, Mich.

“I feel like a brand new woman today. I wish I was fighting today but instead I have just have to sit and watch and see who the winner is for tomorrow. I’m going to pull all the tricks out the bag for tomorrow. When I get out of the ring, I probably won’t be able to stand up because I’m throwing everything tomorrow.

On what she’s been doing since her bout on Wednesday
Yesterday morning I got to walk out ducks, I was honorary duckmaster at the Peabody Hotel “and that was pretty interesting. It was definitely fun. I’ve gotten a lot of sleep and I went to Spaghetti Warehouse with my friend Maureeca (2015 light flyweight national champion) who came all the way from Chicago to see me fight tomorrow. I went to the fights and watched the girls in my weight class and the other weight classes fight.”

On what she needs to do on Saturday night to be successful
“Tomorrow night, I just need to use my boxing skills. I need to fight like I have everything to lose because I do. I’m not going to underestimate anyone. I’m fighting like it’s a world championship fight but I guarantee that tomorrow will be my finals. I will not be fighting on Sunday.”

Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing Results
112 lbs/challengers bracket: Marlen Esparza, Houston, Texas, dec Christina Cruz, New York, N.Y., 3-0
132 lbs/challengers bracket: Jajaira Gonzalez, Glendora, Calif., dec Tiara Brown, Fort Myers, Fla., 3-0
165 lbs/challengers bracket: Tika Hemingway, Brackenridge, Pa., dec Raquel Miller, San Diego, Calif., 3-0

Men’s Trials Qualifier III Results
108 lbs: Rondarrius Hunter, Atlanta, GA., dec. Geovany Santiago, Los Angeles, Calif., 2-1
108 lbs: Nicholas Scaturicho, Hartsdale, N.Y., dec. Shagon Massenburg, Raleigh, N.C., 3-0
114 lbs: Eros Correa, San Jose, Calif., dec Abraham Flores, Silvis, Ill., 3-0
114 lbs: Khalid Twaiti, Brooklyn, N.Y., dec. Timothy Jarman, St. Louis, Mo., 3-0
123 lbs: Efren Lopez, Fresno, Calif., dec. Juan Gonzales, San Antonio, Texas, 3-0
123 lbs: Duke Ragan, Cincinnati, Ohio dec. Sandy Rivas, Odessa, Fla., 2-1
132 lbs: Maliek Montgomery, Macon, Ga., dec Arnold Alejandro, Grand Prairie, Texas, 3-0
132 lbs: Bruce Carrington, Brooklyn, N.Y., dec. Jousce Gonzalez, Glendora, Calif., 2-1
141 lbs: Richardson Hitchins, Brooklyn, N.Y., dec. Marcell Davidson, Kansas City, Kansas, 3-0
141 lbs: Abraham Nova, Albany, N.Y., dec. Frank Martin, Indianapolis, Ind., 3-0
152 lbs: Rashid Stevens, Gahanna, Ohio, dec. Javaune James, Miramar, Fla., 3-0
152 lbs: Ferdinand Kerobyan, N. Hollywood, Calif., dec. Quinton Randall, Katy, Texas, 3-0
165 lbs: Carlos Monroe, Snellville, Ga., dec. Donald Wallace, Cantonsville, Md., 2-1
165 lbs: Charles Conwell, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, dec. Frederick Wilson, Cleveland, Ohio, 3-0
178 lbs: Joseph George, Houston, Texas dec. Martez McGregor, Maywood, Ill., 3-0
178 lbs: Eric Moon, Marietta, Ga., dec. Chyrye Anderson, N. Las Vegas, Nev., 2-1
201 lbs: Sardius Simmons, Flint, Mich., dec. Marquise Williams, Newburgh, N.Y., 2-1
201 lbs: Brandon Glanton, Atlanta, Ga., dec. Cedric Washington, Pearland, Texas, 3-0
201+ lbs: Nkosi Solomon, Brooklyn, N.Y. dec Elvis Garcia, Tacoma, Wash., 2-1
201+ lbs: Brandon Lynch, Albany, N.Y., won on KO over Colby Madison, Owings Mils, Md.., KO-2 (2:11)

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