AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — Tyrieshia Douglas eliminated fellow flyweight Christina Cruz from the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing team trials with a 22-14 victory Friday night, avenging an earlier loss and advancing to the final.
Mikaela Mayer edged N’yteeyah Sherman 26-25 to stay alive in the lightweight division, setting up a rematch with Queen Underwood in Saturday’s final. Middleweight Tika Hemingway also avoided elimination, trouncing Raquel Miller 21-6.
Douglas will fight unbeaten Marlen Esparza in Saturday’s final, while Hemingway will meet 16-year-old sensation Claressa Shields for the second time in three days.
Heading into the final fights of a weeklong tournament, Douglas, Mayer and Hemingway must win Saturday to force winner-take-all finales on Sunday in the double-elimination tournament. All three expressed confidence in their ability to overcome earlier missteps during this physically taxing week.
“I feel good, I’m happy, and I’m taking this all the way,” Douglas said. “I’m not tired. That’s not happening.”
Friday’s three winners realize that they must figure out a way to earn two straight victories over unbeaten opponents who are coming off a day of rest. Esparza, Underwood and Shields can earn trips to China for the world championships in May with one more victory.
The Americans also must finish in the top eight at the world championships to earn a spot in the first Olympic women’s boxing tournament in London.
Douglas’ cornermen followed her to the ring holding a banner with her tricky first name misspelled on it, but she scarcely made another misstep. The 23-year-old flyweight who emerged from years of foster care in the Washington, D.C., area to become a world-class fighter markedly improved her game plan from her 20-15 loss to Cruz on Tuesday night.
Douglas’ aggressive game plan in their first bout left her open for too many shots from Cruz’s dangerous right hand. Although Cruz split Douglas’ upper lip with that same right hand in the rematch, Douglas moved with more purpose and broke down Cruz’s defense with a quick jab.
“She can’t handle a person who moves like me,” Douglas said. “I’ve come too far not to come out of this and win it all.”
Mayer got a bloody nose from her bout with Sherman, the 6-foot honor student from Kent State. Both fighters were certain they won the bout when Mayer’s hand was raised, but Sherman took her second straight hard-luck loss after Underwood beat her 25-24 on Thursday night.
“I was actually confident it was going to go my way, but amateur boxing, it can go either way,” said Mayer, the Los Angeles-area native who re-focused her life around boxing.
Although Mayer acknowledges the strain of a long week of competition is dragging on her. She still hasn’t washed her now-bloody singlet, preferring sleep over laundry.
“I’m not surprised, because I knew I have what it takes to be here, but I’m excited because this is everybody’s dream,” Mayer said. “This tournament really taught me to step up toward the end. I’ve never fought more than four times in a tournament. I’m definitely feeling it, but I don’t feel that bad.”
But Mayer keeps rolling: She survived a 23-18 victory over Tiara Brown on Thursday before edging Sherman. Mayer gave a tough fight to Underwood on Tuesday night, evenly battling the top-ranked lightweight except for a difficult second round in her 27-20 loss.
Mayer spent Friday icing and heating her sore muscles, and she’ll have to do it again Saturday.
“Queen has only had three fights, so we’ll see what sharpness versus rest will do,” Mayer said.
Hemingway had the easiest time Friday, controlling Miller’s attack and scoring regular points of her own. The Pittsburgh product entertained the crowd at the Northern Quest resort by throwing bolo punches while high-stepping and shuffling around her opponent in the final round, taunting Miller to come and get it.
“I was confident,” said Hemingway, who’s still steamed about the judges’ scores in her 23-15 loss to Shields on Thursday. “We just fought yesterday, and it was a really close fight.”
Shields also had an opinion about that fight: She thought her score was scandalously low, and she vowed to improve it if given a rematch with Hemingway, who used a physical style to attempt to knock the teenager off her game.
“I’m trying to be a (good sport), so I’ll just say I learned that anything is possible, and anyone is beatable,” Hemingway said. “Anyone who watched that fight can have an opinion, and we’ll see what happens next time.”