(ATLANTA, GA.) – Nine elite American female boxers faced off with a top squad from China on Saturday at the Women’s International Clash of Champions in Atlanta, Ga. The duel competition featured several rematches between the two top squads at the Buckhead Fight Club, but the flyweight division bout held unique importance for 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas).
Esparza faced off with 2012 Olympic silver medalist Cancan Ren of China for the first time since their semifinal meeting in London in the duel competition. Ren won their Olympic bout by a 10-8 margin in London but their meeting on Saturday told a much different story. The American boxer took immediate control of the match, refusing to allow Ren to get comfortable and remaining aggressive throughout the contest. Unlike their previous two meetings at the 2012 World Championships and Olympic Games, both of which Ren won, Esparza dictated the pace and executed her game plan. The reigning world champion took a unanimous decision win over Ren in their third outing to finally avenge her devastating Olympic loss.
Unlike Esparza, Claressa Shields defeated her Chinese opponent in their previous two outings but she was looking to record a defining unanimous decision win over 2014 World Championships silver medalist Qian Li of China on Saturday. With the strong support of the fans at Buckhead Fight Club pushing her along, Shields landed heavy shots on her Chinese opponent and showed off her defensive prowess on her way to a 3-0 decision over Li.
In the lightweight division, reigning national champion Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles, Calif.) won her second straight bout of the week over Junhua Yin of China in their Saturday bout. After falling to Yin in an international event in Bulgaria earlier this year, Mayer outboxed her Chinese foe to take a 2-1 victory and give her United States team the lead in the overall duel.
New national team member Maureeca Lambert (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) kicked off the duel and she left no doubt in her international debut. Lambert was aggressive throughout the four round bout with China’s Lan Xiao, giving her opponent the lone standing eight count of the event. She recorded the first victory of the duel for Team USA, winning a unanimous decision in the light flyweight contest.
The duel went in to the final bout of the event up for grabs and light heavyweight Franchon Crews (Baltimore, Md.) ensured that the home team won the day. Crews took on the towering Xiao Li Wang of China in the defining bout and the eight-time national champion didn’t allow her opponent’s height to stop her. Crews took the bout and the duel with a split decision win over Wang in their light heavyweight bout.
Bantamweight Christina Cruz (New York, N.Y.) dropped a close, split decision bout to China’s Piao Piao Liu in their second match-up of 2015. In addition to the experienced Cruz, three elite international newcomers also fell in the day’s competition. Featherweight Ashleigh Moore (Buzzards Bay, Mass.) lost a 3-0 decision to China’s Qiong Li in her first bout against elite international competition. Light welterweight Nakarri Jones (Tampa, Fla.) battled a brutal illness throughout the week before stepping in to the ring for her first international bout against Wen Lu Yeng of China. Jones wasn’t able to overcome both her sickness and a rough Chinese opponent and lost a 3-0 decision. 2013 Youth World Championships bronze medalist Samantha Kinchen (Lexington, Ky.) engaged in one of the most exciting bouts of the day’s action with fellow welterweight Liu Yang of China. Despite the fan’s objections, Yang was named the winner by a tiebreaker decision.
Coaches Kevin Greene (Enterprise, Ala.), Israel Acosta (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Everette Elliston (Denver, Colo.) led the U.S. team in Saturday’s duel action at the Buckhead Fight Club. The event was the first women’s international tournament to showcase more than the three Olympic weight divisions since the inaugural Women’s World Championships in 2001.
Clash of the Champions Results
106 lbs/48 kg: Maureeca Lambert, Glen Ellyn, Ill./USA, dec. Lan Xiao, China, 3-0
112 lbs/51 kg: Marlen Esparza, Houston, Texas/USA dec. Cancan Ren, China, 3-0
119 lbs/54 kg: Piao Piao Liu, China dec. Christina Cruz, New York, N.Y./USA, 2-1
125 lbs/57 kg: Qiong Li, China dec., Ashleigh Moore, Buzzards Bay, Mass./USA, 3-0
132 lbs/60 kg: Mikaela Mayer, Los Angeles, Calif./USA dec. Junhua Yin, China, 2-1
141 lbs/64 kg: Wen Lu Yeng, China dec. Nakarri Jones, Tampa, Fla./USA, 3-0
152 lbs/69 kg: Liu Yang, China dec. Samantha Kinchen, Lexington, Ky./USA, 3-0 (tiebreaker)
165 lbs/75 kg: Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich./USA, dec. Qian Li, China, 3-0
178 lbs/81 kg: Franchon Crews, Baltimore, Md./USA dec. Xiao Li Wang, China, 2-1
Story courtesy of TeamUSA.org
Photos courtesy of Photos by LynneG & Julie Goldsticker