Boxing: Silky Shields storms to gold and fame
LONDON (Reuters) - American teenager Claressa Shields crowned her rags to riches story in emphatic style on Thursday by outfoxing and outgunning experienced Russian Nadezda Torlopova to win the first women's Olympic boxing middleweight gold.
The 17-year-old from the tough streets of Flint, Michigan, known for one of the worst murder rates in America, overcame a height disadvantage to claim the country's only gold medal in the boxing ring, outdoing her nine male counterparts who all failed to reach the semi-finals.
Shields nodded her head in confidence before the 19-12 result was announced, which brought a huge smile as she hugged her corner before dancing out of the 10,000 capacity arena.
"It feels great and unbelievable, I don't know if this is real right now. I'm surprised I didn't cry," the beaming Shields told reporters.
"This is something I wanted for a long time, even when my life wasn't going alright, I always wanted a gold medal. I just kept working towards it, people were saying I couldn't do it, I'm too young. I proved them all wrong.
"It's always dedicated to Flint."
She follows in the footsteps of great American boxers like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier in winning Olympic gold in a stylish manner that is sure to attract the attention of professional promoters and Hollywood directors keen to tell her tale.
"I don't know what's going to happen, I'll just go wherever the wind blows me. I know I'm about to have a lot of publicity, I'm going in the history books."
Shields said she would wear her gold medal everyday for a year and on the evidence of Thursday's display it would not slow her down one bit if she wore it in the ring.
Following a cagey opening round, Shields broke open a big lead after a strong second round where she utilized her hand speed to land a number of scoring blows in the tight exchanges with her bigger opponent.
The power of her punches sapped the 33-year-old Torlopova, almost twice as old as Shields, as well as scored with the judges and the 10-7 lead at the end of the second round was never going to be overhauled.
"After the second round when they announced that I was three points down I knew that that was it, Torlopova told reporters.
"Something was lacking. Most probably speed."
The pace of Torlopova's footwork was the first to go and she became a sitting duck for the hungry Shields, who talked all week of claiming 'her gold'.
The Russian took more punishment in the third round as Shields landed with a couple of big straight lefts to take a 15-10 lead against the second seed.
The fourth and final two minute round summed up the American's dominance as she ducked and dived from a standing position to elude several big swings from Torlopova, bringing cheers from the crowd.
"When I showed her I had a little bit of power, she just stepped off a bit," Shields said before going on to explain the difficulties she faced in getting to the top and joining Briton Nicola Adams and Ireland's Katie Taylor in becoming the first women's Olympic boxing champions.
"I worked really hard for this medal. I can't explain all that I went through to get this medal, all of the pain, all of the people that I had to deal with and just life period.
"Whenever someone doubts me, that just pushes me harder."
Shields and Torlopova, who announced her retirement after the bout, were joined on the podium by losing semi-finalists Li Jinzi of China and Kazak Marina Volnova who both took bronze.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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