Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fighters Punch Tickets to Semis

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fighters Punch Tickets to Semis

Article excerpt

LONDON -- Irish lightweight Katie Taylor stepped through the ropes and into the madness, beaming at thousands of flag-waving, face-painted Irish fans raucously celebrating her Olympic boxing victory.

The pound-for-pound world champion clenched her fists and roared right back at them.

The debut women's tournament stopped being just historic and started getting passionate Monday in the quarterfinals. Twelve fighters made sure they're heading home with medals, but everybody still wants to upgrade.

"It'll only be a relief if I'm on the top of the podium with the gold medal and nothing else," she said after riding a dazzling swell of fan support to a 26-15 victory against Britain's Natasha Jonas. "I'm just concentrating on my next fight. No one is happy with a bronze medal."

But boxing fans seemed thrilled after the second day in a row of highly entertaining, evenly matched bouts in a sport that was banned in Britain until 1996. The ExCel arena officials measured the decibels and said it was their loudest crowd so far -- and loudest of all while Taylor picked apart Jonas in their rivalry bout.

"I've never experienced an atmosphere like this before," Taylor said. "It's been incredible."

Flyweight Marlen Esparza and middleweight Claressa Shields also clinched the U.S. team's first two boxing medals in London. Esparza patiently outboxed Venezuela's Karlha Magliocco, and Shields, 17, closed furiously in an 18-14 win over Swedish veteran Anna Laurell.

The Americans also emerged in awe of the atmosphere in this Olympic debut.

"I had to keep myself calm out there," said Shields, who could still hear instructions from her personal coach, Jason Crutchfield, shouted from the stands. "I didn't want to be overanxious, but it was kind of like, 'Wow.' "

Women's boxing pioneer Mary Kom of India and Britain's Nicola Adams also secured medals in this brisk tournament, which only began Sunday with the landmark first bouts. …

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