All of the preparations are complete and USA Boxing’s elite women are ready to face the best boxers in the world at the 2016 Women’s World Boxing Championships, May 19-27 in Astana, Kazakhstan. More than 70 countries are slated to be represented by 276 athletes in the ninth edition of the event.
The tournament will be the Olympic final qualifying event for the world’s female athletes with 12 Olympic berths up for grabs in the three women’s Olympic weight divisions. American flyweight Virginia Fuchs (Kemah, Texas) will compete for her Olympic berth in Kazakhstan and can clinch her spot with a top four finish in the World Championships. Team USA’s lightweight Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Olympic champion middleweight Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) are two of 21 female boxers worldwide who secured Olympic spots through the four continental qualifying events this spring.
Due to Fuchs’ third place finish at the Americas Olympic qualifier, she can also earn her Olympic berth if Canada’s Mandy Bujold or Colombia’s Ingrit Valencia, who both qualified at the event in Argentina, finish in the top four at the 2016 Women’s World Championships.
The United States squad arrived in Astana on Monday, May 9 for a final acclimation prior to the start of competition on Thursday. The team made a visit to the American corner at the U.S. Embassy in Astana on Sunday and answered questions about boxing for the group assembled. U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol then invited the squad in to his yurt, giving them a great taste of the culture in Kazakhstan.
The U.S. team moved in to the official event hotel on Sunday and is getting settled before the general weigh-in and official tournament draw on Wednesday. The U.S. squad and all of their competitors will learn their opening round opponents and the additional potential match-ups during the tournament at the tournament draw at noon local time at the Rixos Hotel (2 a.m. ET).
According to the current schedule, the three Olympic weight divisions – flyweight (112 lbs), lightweight (132 lbs) and middleweight (165 lbs) will open competition in preliminary bouts on Thursday, May 19. The bantamweight (119 lbs), featherweight (125 lbs), light welterweight (141 lbs), and welterweight (152 lbs) classes will kick off preliminary action on Friday, May 20 prior to the debut of the light flyweights on Saturday, May 21. The light heavyweight class will take the ring for the first time on Sunday, May 22 and the heavyweight division will be the final weight class to compete when they step through the ropes on Monday, May 23. All of the weight divisions will face off in quarterfinal action on Tuesday, May 24. Following a rest day for all of the athletes, semifinal action will take place on Thursday, May 26 and the gold medal bouts will be contested on Friday, May 27 at the Barys Arena. Preliminary and quarterfinal competition will take place in two sessions daily at 2 p.m. (4 a.m. ET) and 7 p.m. (9 a.m.) local time. Semifinal bouts will be contested at 3 p.m. (5 a.m. ET) and 7 p.m. (9 a.m.) local time and the championship matches will begin at 3 p.m. (5 a.m. ET) local time.
Shields and light flyweight Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas) will both be vying for their second consecutive world title at the 2016 World Championships. Esparza is returning to the light flyweight division which she competed in at her first World Championships in 2006, taking a bronze medal.
Reigning Olympic, Pan American Games and World Champion Shields is the strong favorite in her middleweight division. The 21-year-old was recently named the American Boxing Federation’s 2015 athlete of the year and was featured on ESPN’s E60 and HBO’s the Fight Game in the past month.
Bantamweight Christina Cruz (New York, N.Y.), Mayer, and light heavyweight Franchon Crews (Baltimore, Md.) are all world championships veterans with each of them owning hardware from the event. Mayer will compete for her first medal in the Olympic lightweight division in Kazakhstan after a podium finish at the light welterweight division. Light welterweight Jajaira Gonzalez (Glendora, Calif.) enjoys a perfect international record with junior and youth world titles on her resume and is the first American woman to win a Youth Olympic Games gold medal. She will make her elite division international debut in Kazakhstan.
Fuchs, featherweight Stalacia Leggett (Quartz Hill, Calif.), welterweight Naomi Graham (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and heavyweight Shadasia Green (Newark, N.J.) will compete alongside the veteran athletes in their world championships debuts.
While only three women’s weight divisions are contested in Olympic and Pan American Games competition, the full 10 women’s weight divisions will be on display in the Women’s World Championships. The full rosters by weight class will be made available at the tournament draw on Wednesday.
Coaches Billy Walsh (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Benny Roman (Brooklyn, N.Y.), and Israel Acosta (Milwaukee, Wis.) will lead the American squad in Kazakhstan with Dr. Larry Lovelace (Oklahoma City, Okla.) joining the squad as the team physician.