– The United States squad moved to a perfect 5-0 in 2016 Women’s World Championships competition with three victories on Friday in Astana, Kazakhstan. Reigning Olympic and World Champion Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) closed the undefeated day with a last second TKO following first round victories from featherweight Stalacia Leggett (Quartz Hill, Calif.) and light welterweight Jajaira Gonzalez (Glendora, Calif.) in the early session at the Barys Arena.
Shields faced off with Germany’s Sarah Scheurich in in the lone United States bout of the evening session. The number one middleweight seed put on a show in her opening bout, controlling the contest from the start. She put an exclamation point on the bout and the day, stopping Scheurich in the final seconds of the bout to take a TKO victory in her tournament opener. Shields will be back in the ring for her second bout of the tournament on Sunday evening against Uzbekistan’s Nafisakhon Askarova.
Competing in a world championship event is nothing new for Junior and Youth World Champion Gonzalez, but she competed in her first elite international bout on Friday in a contest with Azerbaijan’s Ayzanat Hajiyeva. It might have been a new age group but Gonzalez enjoyed the same success she’s had in previous international events. She dominated the first two rounds before stopping Hajiyeva at the 1:43 mark of the third round. Gonzalez will return for her second bout of the tournament on Monday afternoon for a match-up with China’s Wenlu Yang.
Leggett made her world championships debut in the first bout of the day for her United States team with Taipei’s Hsaio-Wen Huang. The California attorney set a winning tone, taking a split decision victory over Huang to move on in the tournament. Leggett will step back in to the ring on Sunday evening in a showdown with Italy’s Alessia Mesiano.
Flyweight Virginia Fuchs (Kemah, Texas) and lightweight Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles, Calif.) will both compete in their second bouts of the 2016 World Championships on Saturday at the Barys Arena. Fuchs will face Azerbaijan’s Anna Alimardanova in the 13th bout of the early session at approximately 4:50 p.m. local time (6:50 a.m. ET). Mayer will box in the first match of the evening session in a contest with China’s Junhua Yin at 7 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET).
125 lbs/57 kg: Stalacia Leggett, Quartz Hills, Calif./USA dec. Hsaio-Wen Huang, TPE, 2-1
141 lbs/64 kg: Jajaira Gonzalez, Glendora, Calif./USA won on TKO over Ayzanat Hajiyeva, AZE, TKO-3 (1:43)
165 lbs/75 kg: Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich./USA dec. Sarah Scheurich, GER, TKO-4
Friday’s afternoon session at the 2016 Women’s World Championships offered a feast of different styles across the bantamweight, featherweight and light welterweight classes. There were big wins for China’s Meiling Gao and Kazakhstan’s first competitor of the championships, Zarina Tsoloyeva, while the German team celebrated three wins out of three as Ornella Wahner, Nomin Deutsch and Cindy Rogge all progressed to the second round.
In the evening’s hotly anticipated middleweight bouts, and with Rio 2016 quota places also available for the semi-finalists, defending World Champion Claressa Shields looked every bit the favourite to retain her title, the number-one seed powering past Germany’s Sarah Scheurich in a typically uncompromising display.
In a repeat of the Women’s World Championship final in Qinhuangdao four years ago, Great Britain’s Savannah Marshall faced Azerbaijan’s Elena Vystropova in the rivals’ first taste of Astana action. The taller Brit celebrated her 25th birthday in style, taking the contest by unanimous decision.
“I had a very strong opponent in the first round but this was not our first contest so her style was not a surprise for me today. I am satisfied and it feels good to get the first one out of the way,” said Savannah Marshall after her bout.
A brilliantly tight contest then played out between Panamanian Atheyna Byion and Brazil’s Andreia Bandeira. After all four judges had scored the match equally, Bandeira was eventually awarded the bout, sending the fifth seed out of the competition. Winner of the African Olympic Qualifying Event in Cameroon, Morocco’s Khadija Mardi dominated her bout with Ireland’s Christine Desmond, as countless long-range attacks wore down her opponent from the outset.
Saturday sees British Olympic gold medallist Nicola Adams begin her latest attempt to win a first World title against Dilnozakhon Odiljonova, and five-time World Champion Katie Taylor faces Sweden’s Agnes Alexiusson, knowing that a place in the semi-finals will finally secure her a crucial berth at Rio 2016.