Claressa Shields beat distractions, nerves and a top-flight opponent to become the first American boxer to capture back-to-back gold medals
Claressa Shields beat distractions, nerves and a top-flight opponent to become the first American boxer to capture back-to-back gold medals and cap the US boxing teams most prolific Olympics in nearly a generation.
The American middleweight lived up to her world No1 ranking in the 75kg division with a unanimous-decision win over second-seeded Nouchka Fontijn of the Netherlands before a lively crowd at Riocentro. Ringside judges Fathi Madfoua of France and Natalya Tsoy of Kazakhstan handed in cards of 39-37, while Chinas Meng Wang scored it a 40-36 shutout.
After the result was announced Shields dropped to one knee in joy then turned a cartwheel before climbing out of the ring and lapping it full sprint with an American flag in tow, the latest peak in a four-year run at the summit of womens boxing.
Ive worked so hard to be here, an elated Shields said in the immediate aftermath. You know not everybody can be an Olympic gold medalist, period. Im a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Oh my God, I cant believe I just said that!
I dont remember getting hit throughout the fight. Did I get hit? This is crazy.
The victory, in a rematch of the middleweight final at Mays world championships in Astana, lifted Shields amateur record to 77-1 and sealed a fourth consecutive global title for the 21-year-old from Flint, Michigan.
Shields, who wore socks branded with the Superman shield, charged out of the red corner toward her longer, taller opponent from the opening bell. Fontijn flicked the left jab from the outside and used lateral movement to stay away from Shields devastating power as fans chanted Nouch-ka! Nouch-ka!
She got going shortly after the first round, said USA boxing head coach Billy Walsh, who lamented that visits from friends had cut into her warm-up time. There was a bit of nerves starting off because there was a lot of pressure on her. Shes red-hot favorite to win and to perform under those circumstances sometimes is difficult.
The American started to find her range in the second round, connecting with a stinging left hook to the jaw early followed by a one-two combination upstairs. When Fontijn found herself inside, she went to the clinch. Better head movement from Shields made her a more elusive target during the middle rounds. Near the end of the third, a heat-seeking overhand right near clearly wobbled Fontijn.
Coach Billy yelled out, Fake with the right, hit her with the right! As soon as he said it, not even a second later, I threw it and I knocked her across the ring, Shields recalled.
I caught a big shot and that can cost you a round, but the first round went well and the last went well and it was close, said the 28-year-old Fontijn, whose silver is the first boxing medal for the Netherlands since Orhan Delibas won silver and Arnold Vanderlijde took bronze in 1992. I havent seen the scores but I knew she was the world and Olympic champion so I knew I had to actually deliver twice as many punches to get the decision and I didnt do it enough.
She has a style that no one else has, but I think its a style thats beatable and I think I was close today.
In the final round as Fontijns work rate waned, Shields goaded her opponent into throwing more punches, drawing jeers from the majority Dutch contingent in the stands. That was the lone round any of the three judges could find to give Fontijn.
Shes tall but she couldnt hit Claressa, Walsh said. Claressas head movement, her timing and her management of the distance meant that she wasnt able to touch her so that was the key.
Later on Sunday, Shields was awarded the Val Barker trophy as the best overall boxer in the womens tournament, becoming the sixth ever American winner and first since Roy Jones Jr at Seoul 1988. Uzbekistans Hasanboy Dusmatov, who captured gold in the light flyweight division last week, was named the mens winner.
I had decided this morning: She cant out-box me, she cant out-fight me, she cant out-think me, so hows she going to win? Shields said. She got to knock me out but I knew she couldnt do that because Ive got a great chin. So I thought, this fight is in the bag, just got to go out there and do it.
Shields lone career defeat came at 2012 worlds against Great Britains Savannah Marshall, who went on to win the title. Since then, the American captured gold as a 17-year-old at London 2012 the first Games to include womens boxing followed by back-to-back world championships and, now, a second Olympic gold.
The victory lifted the United States total medal count to three after Nico Hernandezs bronze at light flyweight and Shakur Stevensons silver at bantamweight, representing the Americans best overall haul since winning four at the Sydney Games a testament to the programs steady revival under Walsh.
Shields, who remains the lone American of either gender to win gold in boxing since Andre Ward in 2004, pulled her London gold from her pocket and gleefully wore them both on the podium. Afterward she remained non-committal about the future and whether she will turn pro or make a run at Tokyo 2020. I didnt let myself think past this day, she said. I just want to go home and see my mom.