Women's boxing enjoys raucous Olympics debut

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 6, 2012 - 5:30 AM

A sellout crowd raised the roof for the newest Olympic sport.


Quanitta Underwood of the United States, left, ran into a home-country favorite in Natasha Jonas of Great Britain and lost her women’s lightweight bout 21-13.

Photo: Ivan Sekretarev, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

LONDON - The broader picture was lost to Quanitta Underwood on Sunday, obscured by her loss to Great Britain's Natasha Jonas as women's boxing made its Olympic debut.

"History doesn't mean anything to me," said the lightweight, one of three boxers representing the U.S. in London. "The gold medal meant more."

Underwood -- who goes by the nickname "Queen" -- did say she hoped young boxers were watching, so they could see the possibilities that officially opened to them at the London Games. In a country where women's boxing was banned until 1996, 24 women sparred in opening-round bouts for three weight classes. Underwood, the only American in action Sunday, got a tough draw against local favorite Jonas and lost 21-13.

Russia's Elena Savelyeva and North Korea's Kim Hye Song received a rousing welcome at London Excel when they became the first two women to step into an Olympic boxing ring. A sellout crowd of 10,000 waved flags, stomped their feet and chanted the boxers' names, creating an atmosphere that delighted Barbara Buttrick. Known as "The Mighty Atom of the Ring," Buttrick, now 82, is a Englishwoman standing 4-11 who fought in Europe and the U.S. in the 1940s and '50s and later founded the Women's International Boxing Federation.

Buttrick was at ringside Sunday to see her sport take a stage that will bring it much wider exposure and credibility -- and, perhaps, acceptance. U.S. Olympic women's coach Charles Leverette was disappointed to see his first fighter lose, but unlike Underwood, he could immediately appreciate the historic import of the afternoon.

"The sky's the limit for these young ladies," said Leverette, who oversees a team that will send out Marlen Esparza in the flyweight class and Claressa Shields at middleweight. "They're disciplined, they work hard and they're very exciting, and they're finally getting showcased on a world level."

The Olympic tournament includes 36 boxers from 23 countries, including China, Tunisia, India, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. In an opening bout that also was refereed by a woman, Savelyeva defeated Kim 12-9.

Karlha Magliocco of Venezuela brought her own energetic rooting section, a little group that stood and screamed throughout her 15-14 victory over Brazil's Erica Matos. Some of the loudest cheers Sunday came for Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte of India, a five-time world champion who goes by MC Mary Kom and is among the best-known female boxers in the world. Her bout against Poland's Karolina Michalczuk was a slugfest from the bell, as she fought back time after time when the taller Michalczuk backed her into the ropes.

Amid the deafening chants of "Mary Kom! Mary Kom!" and the incessant, thunderous stomping of feet, Hmangte won 19-14 and bowed to the crowd. A stampede of Indian reporters greeted her in the interview area, applauding when she came in. More than 10 minutes after her bout, Indian fans in the crowd still were chanting her name.

"This is a very special day," she said. "Every athlete works to play at the Olympic Games. This is my 12th year of fighting, and I came out of retirement and changed my weight because I had to take part in the Olympic Games."

The place got even louder when Jonas marched in for her matchup against Underwood. Underwood, 28, entered the Games as one of the most compelling athletes on the U.S. team. She and her sister endured a childhood in which they were sexually abused by their father; he served prison time for the abuse, and the sisters have used Queen's fame as a platform to raise awareness about that issue.

Sunday, she faced a tall task against Jonas, a Liverpool native and former college soccer player who is ranked No. 7 in the world. Underwood led 4-3 after the first of four two-minute rounds, drawing boos from the crowd. Jonas caught her with a series of right hooks in the second, keeping the pressure on while absorbing Underwood's best shots.

Jonas let out a primal yell after she won, raising her fists in the air amid the din of the home crowd. She faces four-time world champion Katie Taylor of Ireland, the top seed, in Monday's quarterfinals. All three gold medal bouts are Thursday, and all sessions are sold out.

Sweden's Anna Laurell, who will fight Shields on Monday, admitted she was nervous during her opening bout.

"It's the biggest moment in women's boxing," she said. "It is the last step for us to be truly accepted."

Underwood grasped that, but it was hard for her to relish the big picture when her own medal hopes had been extinguished.

"This is a big moment for up and coming boxers," she said. "But I don't think just getting here was enough for me. Being a part of history wasn't enough for me. I will always say I could have done more."

  • related content

  • Monday's Olympic TV schedule

    Monday August 6, 2012

    NBC (Ch. 11)

  • Getting better is vital goal for U.S.

    Monday August 6, 2012

    The latest rout of China in women's basketball was a byproduct of sharing the ball and tenacious defense, not trying to run up the score.

  • Sunday's Olympic results

    Monday August 6, 2012


  • Spent U.S. marathon teammates give their all

    Monday August 6, 2012

    Kara Goucher's pain spoke for her after a draining 26-plus miles. The former Duluth resident finished 11th, one spot behind friend and training partner Shalane Flanagan.

  • Wrestler Betts, wife sacrifice to dream big

    Monday August 6, 2012

    Chas and Kristi Betts have spent little time together since marrying but know it's crucial for his training.

  • Lindsay Berg injured in volleyball win over Turkey

    Monday August 6, 2012

    Te top-ranked U.S. team was hurt in the third set when captain and former Gophers star Lindsey Berg appeared to injure her left ankle.

  • Men's TENNIS

    Sunday August 5, 2012

    Andy Murray stood with the Union Jack draped over his shoulders, an Olympic gold medal around his neck, and basked in the roar of the Centre Court crowd.

  • An endurance sprint

    Sunday August 5, 2012

    The 100-meter dash offers a more immediate payoff, but the 400 has always seemed like the more difficult race. The men's final is at 3:30 p.m. (CDT). TV: 7-11 p.m.,...

  • Tracking Minnesota's Olympians

    Monday August 6, 2012

    The 14 Minnesota athletes competing for Team USA in the London Olympics: ( = competed Sunday)


  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota - LP: J. Burton 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 3
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 7 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 2
Miami - WP: J. Cosart 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Boston - LP: A. Webster 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 7
Cleveland - WP: J. Tomlin 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: S. Downs 2
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Bassitt 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado - WP: T. Matzek 2 FINAL
Arizona - LP: V. Nuno 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wada 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 13
Los Angeles - LP: J. Wright 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 2
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: J. Peavy 3
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: Y. Herrera 2
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 3 FINAL
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 6:00 PM
SMU 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Portland 3 FINAL
Vancouver FC 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 3:00 PM
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77





question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters