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LADIES FIRST

By: Peter Mann, Head UK & Eire Editor 

The London 2012 Olympics sees the inclusion of women’s boxing for the first time in the history of the great competition. And, of the 36 competitors appearing, 12 in each of the Flyweight, Lightweight and Middleweight divisions, there are four representing the home nations – three for Team GB and one from Team Ireland.

The president of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu stated prior to the London games that “in London, the performance of women boxers is very important.

“If it is positive, as president of AIBA, I certainly have the duty and responsibility to try and increase it more. In 2016 I do hope we can get more women in the Olympic Games.”

The final point is something that will have gone down well with not only those representing their nations at the current Olympics, but those that narrowly missed out in the qualification for the games as well. More so when one takes a look at the Men’s representation at the games and bears witness to that which is developing there. The non-inclusion of some star turns in the women’s division led the Team GB Performance Director, Rob McCracken, to say that “these things happen all the time.” He said regarding some non-attendees.

“You can draw the number one, but time and again at major tournaments, the big names get beat…..you see shocks all the time.”

The four in attendance for the home nations at the games sees one Middleweight (75kg), two in the Lightweight (60kg) and one Flyweight (51kg) as going for gold is very much on the cards. The female athletes enter the fray on Monday 6th August, then the semis on the 8th and finals on the 9th.

The Middleweight division sees the presence of Hartlepool’s ‘Silent Assassin’, Savannah Marshall; going for glory at the first attempt. Heading to Qinhuangdao, China for the World Championships Marshall required either gaining a semi-final spot, or being one of the four Europeans in the quarters. She went out and defeated the pre-tournament favourite and fellow Olympian, the American Claressa Shields, in the opening round.  Then, when in the semis, Marshall despatched the Russian Nadezda Torlopova in a revenge bout.

The final would see Marshall, on what was her 21st birthday; defeat Azerbaijan’s Elena Vystropova, 17-15. The success not only meant the title of world champion, but also saw Olympic qualification earned, in style. The world ranking emanating from this victory, and a top seeding at the games, means that Marshall received a bye and will now face the winner of the Elizabeth Andiego of Kenya, and Marina Volnova of Kazakhstan, in her opening bout.

Successful there and Marshall face a potential showdown with Shields in the semis, should the American be successful in defeating either Anna Laurell of Sweden or Naomi-Le Fischer-Rasmussen of Australia. Alongside Claressa Shields, the other main challenger for gold to Marshall is the presence of Brazil’s Roseli Amaral.

The Lightweight division has two from the home nations included, Team GB’s Natasha Jonas and, Team Ireland’s Katie Taylor. The former would qualify from her weight having claimed bronze at the Worlds. The tournament favourite for the Lightweight’s, Turkey’s Gulsum Tatar, was surprisingly beaten by the Indian representative Laishram Devi, who in turn lost to Jonas. Jonas would then lose to the Russian number two seed, Sofya Ochigava.

Taylor on the other-hand is the supposed start on the show, and out of all the home nation representatives, male and female, to claim Olympic gold. Both Taylor and Jonas have faced each other in the past.

Jonas will face that of the American, Queen Underwood, a year after their last meeting and is to be the first of the home bouts shown, making an appearance on Sunday 5th. The winner of the Jonas-Underwood bout will face Taylor in what promises to be an explosive quarter-final bout the following day.

In the Flyweight division, Nicola Adams, the reigning European Champion, and a definite prospect for gold from Team GB sees herself on a constant collision course with the Chinese great, Ren Cancan, the two often opposing in major finals. Although Adams won their last meeting, Cancan claimed Gold at both the 2010 and 2012 Worlds. Adams though is currently the second seed and will face the victor of the Siona Fernandes of New Zealand and Stoyka Pebova of Bulgaria bout.

Other challengers towards Adams progressing in her weight division includes that of the five-time World Champion Mery Kom (whom has moved through the weight divisions to Flyweight), and Russian Elena Savalyeva (whom has dropped down in weight from 54kg). This means that the Flyweight division will pit three world champions in the one weight division.

 

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