US boxing star Claressa Shields’ stylish defence of her World Middleweight title earned her the Boxer of the Tournament award in Astana. The reigning World, Olympic and Pan-American champion was in typically uncompromising mood all week at the Barys Arena, and overcame Dutch powerhouse Nouchka Fontijn in the final to earn the gold.
It has been a remarkable trajectory for the 2010 US Junior Champion, who adapted quickly to the elite level and earned her Olympic title two years later at London 2012. Winning the AIBA Americas Olympic Qualification tournament in March set her on course to defend that title in Rio de Janeiro this August, buoyed with confidence from her Astana performances.
A second-round TKO win against Germany’s Sarah Scheurich set Shields on her way, followed with a unanimous points win over Uzbekestan’s Nafisakhon Askarova. A comprehensive quarter-final win over young Kazakh Violetta Knyazeva was followed by a strong performance against Chinese Taipei’s Nien-Chin Chen, with Shields’ big body blows paving the way for a rousing final round that set her on the way to the final full of confidence.
The US star gave away a few inches to her Dutch opponent for the gold Nouchka Fontijn, but the reigning champion closed down the distance brilliantly to prevent Fontijn landing too many clean shots. A strong second round from Fontijn closed the gap, but Shields returned stronger than ever and powered through to earn her second World title and the Boxer of the Tournament in the process. The reigning Olympic champion will undoubtedly be the woman to beat in Rio de Janeiro in August.