After a week of highly skilled boxing in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, ten female boxers were crowned champions at the 2012 American Boxing Confederation (AMBC) Women's Elite Continental Championships. Fifty-three boxers from twelve countries competed in ten weight categories during the four day event, to become the new Continental sovereigns of the Americas.
The tournament highlighted outstanding performances from experienced boxers, while giving some their first taste of international competition. This event was a perfect test for every competitor to compare to their fellow continental boxers and see what more is needed to prepare for the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships, which takes place 9-20 May. The event also doubles up as an Olympic qualifier for three weight divisions, Fly, Light and Middleweight.
"These boxers are making history. Only the boxers in the 51, 60 and 75 kilogram weight classes will compete for a place in the Olympic Games, but boxers in all ten weight categories have made Olympic-style boxing a reality for millions of girls and women around the world," said Dr. Christy Halbert, president of the Women's Commission of the AMBC.
The biggest surprise of the tournament was the USA team. With six new boxers and only four with international and world competition experience, the team was the only one of the 12 countries competing to have a complete squad. Each one of them showed their skills, and boxing talent, but also their excellent conditioning. Team USA won six gold, a Continental Championship record, one silver and two bronze medals. They are now well positioned to have a very successful AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships tournament.
All the USA performances were ones of high level. One boxer in particular caught the attention of everyone in the venue. Clareessa Shields, only seventeen years of age, dominated her finals two bouts against two world champions to take the gold medal. In the semi-finals, she defeated Brazilian Roseli Feitosa by 18 points. In the final, Shields outboxed three-time World Champion Mary Spencer by 13 points. Shields statement was clear in the ring.
"I want to just have a good life. I am confident because I train hard and feel as long as I am doing that no one will beat me," said Shields, who has been studying the moves of boxing legends like Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Sugar Ray Leonard among others.
Equally impressive was the team from Brazil with their eight boxers. They won three golds, two silvers and one bronze medal. Adriana Araujo, in the 60 kg division, repeated her feat from 2011 by winning the Championships again. Her teammate, Roseli Feitosa, who was the 81 kg World Champion, went down one weight division to have the chance of competing at the Olympics Games. Unfrotunately for her, she lost in semi-finals to Claressa Shields from the USA and had to settle for a bronze medal.
The new Heavyweight in the Brazilian team, Erika Cabrera, not only took gold but also left Canada with the love of both her teammates and the spectators. With tears in her eyes, the big and powerful woman showed how boxing can change lives and help to empower people all around the world. Her life in the favelas of Brazil was now part of the past for her.
Canada, the host team, with a successful history in the Americas, had a practically new team. They won one gold, two silvers and four bronze medals. Myriam da Silva, the only Canadian to bring home the gold, a debutant for the team, performed with determination and confidence throughout. The two favourites, Pan Am Games Champions, Mandy Bujold in 51 kg, and Mary Spencer in 75 kg, were both unable to defend their Continental Champions crowns. Bujold lost in the semi-finals to 2012 Continental Champion Marlen Esparza from the USA. Spencer lost in her final, taking silver to the most impressive boxer in the tournament, the USA's Claressa Shields.
Another boxer whose life story brings a light to the sport is that of partially deaf Canada's Maude Bergeron. Her silver medal after a battle in the ring against the experienced strong boxer from the USA Franchon Crews, speaks as loud as the punches they exchanged. How this sport does not put barriers on women. Crews knew Bergeron's limitations because they had boxed before, but it was a tremendous fight.
"These women have become people they probably thought they could never become, as a result of their achievements in this discipline of boxing. In many cases just going to the gym for a few hours is an escape. They realise they are better than some people might think they are. Not so much as a boxer, at first, but as a person," said Pat Fiacco, Boxing Canada president.
Gold medallists of competition include:
48 kg, Alexandra Love, USA
51 kg, Marlen Esparza, USA
54 kg, Clelia Costa, Brazil
57 kg, Tiara Brown, USA
60 kg, Adriana Araujo, Brazil
64 kg, Mikaela Mayer, USA
69 kg, Myriam da Silva, Canada
75 kg, Claressa Shields, USA
81 kg, Franchon Crews, USA
81+kg, Erika Cabrera, Brazil
Overall Team Finish:
1st place USA
2nd place Brazil
3rd place Canada
4rd place Argentina
Continental Women Boxer of the Year:
Mary Spencer, Canada
Copyright © 2012 Raquel Ruiz