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Phelps, Lochte set for another showdown

Posted on 26 June 2012 by WNST Staff

OMAHA, Neb. — (AP) Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps stayed on course for their second showdown at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials on Tuesday.

Lochte qualified fastest in the 200-meter freestyle preliminaries, exploding off the final turn to take the lead and cruise into the wall at 1 minute, 48.14 seconds. He’s the world champion in the event, having beaten Phelps for the title last year in Shanghai.

Charlie Houchin, a 24-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., who was 77th in the 200 free at the 2008 trials, was second-fastest at 1:48.15. Swimming in the heat before Lochte, Phelps qualified third at 1:48.31. He is the Olympic champion and world record holder.

Lochte got the better of Phelps in their first final at trials when he won the 400 individual medley on Monday. Phelps finished second, and they both secured spots for London.

Phelps has set himself up for another eight-event program in London — something he insisted he wouldn’t do again after the Beijing Games.

“It’s not an easy program, but we’re going to try to do some things here,” he said. “The biggest thing is really how I hold up all week. I was definitely happy with getting last night out of the way early. It wasn’t the easiest race. But this morning felt pretty comfortable, so hopefully we can just keep everything rolling for the rest of the meet.”

Can Phelps repeat his historic haul of eight golds?

“Anything can happen,” he said. “You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time.”

Also moving into the 16-man evening semifinals were Conor Dwyer (fifth) and Peter Vanderkaay (sixth). They already earned berths on the U.S. team in the 400 freestyle Monday night.

Davis Tarwater, who narrowly missed making the 2008 Olympics when he was third in the 200 butterfly, was eighth. Ricky Berens, bidding for his second straight Olympic spot, was ninth.

2008 Olympian Garrett Weber-Gale didn’t advance, finishing 24th. Austin Surhoff, the son of former major league baseball player B.J. Surhoff, tied for 66th.

Budding star Missy Franklin and two-time Olympic champion Natalie Coughlin advanced in the 100 backstroke prelims.

Swimming her first event of the eight-day meet, Franklin was the top qualifier in 59.54 seconds, easily moving the 17-year-old from Colorado into the evening semifinals.

“I had some first-race jitters,” she said. “But I’m super, super happy with my time. It felt awesome.”

Franklin saw the sign under the massive scoreboard above the pool as she stroked to the opposite end of the pool.

“It was U.S. Olympic Team. Talk about motivation. That helped me get my tempo up the last 25,” she said. “I was nervous for my first race. But right now, I feel good.”

Franklin led a quartet of teenagers who represent the U.S. future in the event. Rachel Bootsma, an 18-year-old from Minnesota, was second at 59.69, making her and Franklin the only women to go under 1 minute.

Elizabeth Pelton, an 18-year-old from Connecticut, was third at 1:00.55. Olivia Smoliga, a 17-year-old from suburban Chicago, was fourth-quickest at 1:00.66.

Coughlin advanced in fifth at 1:00.71. She was the first woman to break 1 minute in the event and formerly held the world record.

The top 16 in the semifinals move on to Wednesday’s final, where only the top two earn berths for next month’s Olympics.

World champion Rebecca Soni led the way in the 100 breaststroke, coming on strongly over the final 50 meters to win her prelim heat in 1:06.33.

Breeja Larson showed no nerves in her first Olympic trials, turning in the third-fastest time in the world this year to qualify second-quickest at 1:06.52. The sophomore at Texas A&M didn’t start swimming competitively until age 17 in her hometown of Mesa, Ariz.

Jessica Hardy, who won the 100 breast at trials four years ago only to lose her spot on the Olympic team because of a failed doping test, was third at 1:07.25. Hardy served a one-year ban after an arbitration panel agreed with her contention that a tainted nutritional supplement was to blame for her positive test.

Still, she battled anger and depression during the fight to clear her name.

“This is the first time I felt like I can actually have a happy ending,” she said. “I can relax and finally have fun and feel grateful.”

Soni caught Hardy’s time as she was waiting to come on deck.

“She did really well. It gets you kind of pumped up,” she said. “The times are getting faster and faster every year. I definitely have to keep my ’A’ game going.”

Amanda Beard, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 breast, qualified seventh for the evening semifinals. The 30-year-old mother of one is trying to make her fifth Olympic team, but the 100 is not her best event and she will have to pick up the pace to make the eight-woman final.

“I think my chances are great,” she said. “But this isn’t my life. My life doesn’t just revolve around swimming. I won’t be too devastated walking away and saying I competed at my fifth Olympic trials. I’ll look at it as a success and go on a nice vacation with my family.”

Also advancing in 13th was Ariana Kukors, a three-time medalist in the world championships. 2000 Olympic champion Megan Jendrick, who gave birth to her first child eight months ago, finished 22nd.

 

 

 

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I Answer Your Questions About Phelps, NFL Top 100, Orioles trades, more

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I Answer Your Questions About Phelps, NFL Top 100, Orioles trades, more

Posted on 26 June 2012 by Glenn Clark

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Phelps beaten by Lochte in 400IM but qualifies for London

Posted on 25 June 2012 by WNST Staff

OMAHA, Neb. — Ryan Lochte has won his first head-to-head showdown with Michael Phelps at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

The 27-year-old Floridian captured the 400-meter individual medley Monday night, taking command on the breaststroke leg and holding off Phelps in the freestyle for a time of 4 minutes, 7.06 seconds. Phelps claimed the second Olympic spot in 4:07.89.

Tyler Clary, who took second at last year’s world championships, won’t even get a chance to swim the event in London. He faded to third in 4:09.92.

Phelps won the 400 IM at the past two Olympics, but vowed to drop the grueling event after Beijing. In the past year, he brought it back — and now he’ll be swimming it again in London.

 

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Phelps set to begin final Olympic Trials

Posted on 24 June 2012 by WNST Staff

OMAHA, Neb. — (AP) The first Nebraska showdown between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte came at the edge of a curtained-off interview room, not far from the temporary pool where the U.S. Olympic swimming team will be decided.

Phelps rubbed at his thick mustache, which looked like something out of the Village People, and queried Lochte on his smooth face.

“I had one, but I had to shave it,” Lochte said, extending a hand to his rival.

“C’mon, man, you’ve got to keep it as long as you can,” Phelps replied, breaking into a big smile beneath all that hair.

The meeting Saturday between swimming’s two biggest stars was downright cordial. Expect it to be much different when they get in the water at the Olympic trials, which is being held at a temporary pool set up in a 13,200-seat arena along the Missouri River, just as it was in 2008.

Phelps is a 14-time gold medalist trying to put an appropriate finish on his brilliant career at the London Olympics. Lochte is the guy standing in the way, a laid-back Floridian who beat Phelps twice at last year’s world championships and keeps saying over and over again, “This is my time.”

“Michael Phelps definitely set the limit,” Lochte said. “But, I mean, he’s human. He’s not a fish or anything like that.”

Phelps has already hoarded more gold than any other Olympian, and he’s clearly regained the motivation that faded away after the Great Haul of China, where he toppled Mark Spitz’s iconic record by winning eight events.

As he was winding down from six weeks of grueling training in the Colorado mountains, he wondered why he kept getting up so early instead of seizing the chance to sleep in. Then, it hit him: He’s excited about the trials. He’s pumped about what he can do in England. He’s driven to end his career with one more dynamic performance.

“We’ve done everything. We done a lot of amazing things, a lot of cool, exciting things,” Phelps said, sitting next to his omnipresent coach, Bob Bowman. “Now, it’s just time to have fun. I’m a lot more relaxed that I’ve ever been. We’ll see after this week what size cherry I want to put on my sundae.”

Lochte has entered a staggering 11 events at the trials, though he’ll surely drop several of those and perhaps use others just for training purposes in the preliminaries. Phelps has entered seven races, including the 400-meter individual medley on the very first day of the trials.

Phelps and Bowman were coy about their plans, refusing to say if the swimmer will actually compete in the grueling race he won at the last two Olympics but vowed never to swim again after Beijing. He brought back the 400 IM over the past year and entered it at the trials, potentially setting up his first clash with Lochte, the defending world champion in that event.

“We’ve got a couple of hours to decide, don’t we?” Phelps said, chuckling.

Bowman chimed in, saying they actually had another day to make the call.

“OK, we’ve got 24 hours,” Phelps said. “In 24 hours, we’ll let you guys know.”

He even skirted a question about when he would shave his mustache, fearing that would reveal his plans.

“I can’t give that away,” Phelps said. “If I say I’m doing it tomorrow, then you’ll know I’m swimming the 400 IM. If I say I’m doing it Monday, that means I’m not. It will come off when the rest of my body hair comes off.”

Lochte and Phelps will certainly face each other in two of their best events: the 200 IM and the 200 freestyle. Phelps is the defending Olympic champion in both races (a two-time defending champ, in fact, in the medley). But Lochte took them both at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai, beating Phelps by a total of about a half-second and setting a world record in the 200 IM, just to rub it in.

With that triumph still fresh, Lochte is itching to race Phelps as many times as possible in Omaha, starting with the 400 IM.

“He’s the world’s best swimmer ever,” Lochte said. “I love racing against him. It’s fun. He’s one of the hardest racers in the world. He’ll go toe-to-toe with you until the end. That’s excitement for me. I really hope he does swim that.”

Another of the top contenders, Tyler Clary, is also very interested in what Phelps decides. Last year, Clary finished second to Lochte at worlds with Phelps on the sideline, but the dynamic changes if all three are in the event. Only the top two earn spots on the Olympic team.

Asked if he expects Phelps to compete in the 400 IM, Clary replied somewhat nervously, “My expectations are no, but stranger things have happened.”

No matter what happens, the Phelps-Lochte rivalry figures to be the defining storyline of these eight days in Omaha — even at a meet that also features 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, rising star Missy Franklin, and two 40-somethings taking one more shot at glory, Dara Torres and Janet Evans.

“For so long, it was just him beating me,” Lochte said. “Since 2008, I changed some things in my training and my eating habits, and I’ve gotten a lot faster. Now, especially going into this meet and hopefully London, this is probably going to be one of the biggest rivalries ever.”

Lochte stopped eating junk food — except for an occasional order of potato chips — and added a Strongman-like routine to his weight-training program. He’s noticed a big chance in his practice sessions, finding that where he once was thrilled to put together two good days in a row, now he can go weeks at a time with no letup.

He’s respectful of Phelps, but not intimidated to race against him day after day.

“I love a challenge,” Lochte said. “For me to be in the same era as him, in the same events as him, to be able to race him to the finish, it’s awesome. I love it. I get soooo excited when I’m stepping on the blocks and trying to race him.”

Rest assured, that sort of talk is pumping up Phelps. He seems to hear everything that anyone says about him — Bowman has a lot to do with that — and can turn even the slightest of slights into a reason to go faster.

Heck, Phelps still remembers what former Australian national coach Don Talbot said about him before the 2003 world championships, something about “being unproven on international ground.”

“What did that do? It motivated me,” said Phelps, who at that meet set world records in different events on the same day. “Obviously, it frustrates me sometimes, but I just use that as motivation. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in my career. I’ve never once said anything publicly about anyone. I never will. That’s how I am. I let my swimming do whatever needs to be done.”

Ahh, this is getting good.

Even the other swimmers, who are mostly focused on their own Olympic goals, can’t wait to see how Phelps vs. Lochte turns out.

“They push the best out of each other,” Clary said, “every time they get in the pool.”

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 28 May 2012 by WNST Staff

Honorable Mention: Boxing-Antonio Tarver vs. Lateef Kayode (Saturday 9pm from Carson, CA live on Showtime), Gabriel Rosado vs. Joel Julio (Friday 9pm from Bethlehem, PA live on NBC Sports Network); WNBA: Minnesota Lynx @ Washington Mystics (Wednesday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet); Pro Lacrosse: MLL Chesapeake Bayhawks @ Denver Outlaws (Saturday 9pm from Denver live on ESPN3.com)

10. Zac Brown Band (Thursday 5:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Capital Jazz Fest feat. Indie.Arie, Bill Cosby (Friday-Sunday Merriweather Post Pavilion); Radiohead (Sunday 7:30pm Verizon Center); Miranda Lambert/Jerrod Niemann (Sunday 4pm Jiffy Lube Live);  City and Colour (Wednesday 7pm Rams Head Live); Smile Empty Soul (Saturday 5pm Recher Theatre); Crossfade (Monday 7pm Baltimore Soundstage); Dandy Warhols (Tuesday 7pm 9:30 Club); The Used (Wednesday 7:30pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Victor Wooten (Thursday 8pm Howard Theatre); Dr. John (Friday 7:30pm Birchmere); Rhett Miller (Monday 8pm Jammin Java)

I’d watch ZBB do just about anything, but this was as good as anything I’ve seen them do…

My favorite tune from Thom Yorke and the boys?

For more traditional country folk, I sorta dig this Jerrod Niemann tune…

I wish I didn’t have to admit to digging this tune…

9. Great Grapes Wine & Food Festival (Saturday & Sunday 12pm Oregon Ridge); Guy Torry (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Corey Holcomb (Thursday-Sunday DC Improv); “Man on a Ledge” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); Glenn Clark’s first ever “Hogfest” (Saturday)

That’s right. For the first time in my (still?) young life, I will be roasting a pig Saturday. It’s all thanks in part to ABC Rental Store in Rosedale. A talented young man I listen to on the radio is always talking to me about them. I think his show is called “The Reality Check.” I PRAY my results make me as happy as George W. Bush…

Also, I will be hosting a qualifier for the Olympic KanJam team Saturday (more on Twitter @OlympicKanJam). I expect the day to look much like this…

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Olympic Dream Over for Baltimore Boxer Douglas

Posted on 19 February 2012 by WNST Staff

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. (AP) — Claressa Shields screamed, sidestepped and finally hopped around the ring, unable to contain her glee when she was named the outstanding fighter at the first U.S. Olympic team trials for women’s boxing.

Queen Underwood and Marlen Esparza could only chuckle and cheer for their irrepressible 16-year-old teammate. All three fighters made a bit of history Saturday night, and they’re on a path toward even bigger landmarks in London.

Esparza, Underwood and Shields won their respective weight classes with unbeaten runs through the trials, advancing to the world championships for a chance to fight at the Olympics.

“They’re going to have to say Claressa Shields, No. 1,” said Shields, the breakout star of the trials after charging through the middleweight division.

Esparza captured the flyweight title with a 32-17 victory over Tyrieshia Douglas, and Underwood beat Mikaela Mayer 22-19 to win the lightweight division. Shields ended the trials with a 23-18 victory over Tika Hemingway at the Pend Oreille Pavilion in the Northern Quest resort-casino just outside Spokane.

“I’ve been waiting for this day forever,” Esparza said. “This is where all that hard work pays off.”

While Esparza and Underwood posted decisive victories, Shields sweated through a difficult bout after powering past her first three opponents in the first U.S. team trials since women’s boxing was added to the Olympic program nearly three years ago.

The three Americans still must finish in the top eight in their weight classes at the world championships in China in May to earn a spot in the first Olympic women’s boxing tournament. The winners weren’t thinking that far ahead while they posed for the first of innumerable photo sessions and public events over the next three months — along with plenty of training together in Colorado Springs.

“It hurts. I’m happy. All in one,” Underwood said. “I’ve been national champion since 2007 and waiting for this opportunity, and it’s finally here, and it’s over at once, but it feels great.”

The 27-year-old Underwood finished the tournament with her best performance, a fitting cap to a resilient week for the best-known American boxer. Underwood is a five-time national champion who put her life on hold to pursue her sport, working construction to pay bills during periods when she wasn’t immersed in 12-hour training sessions.

The sellout crowd was behind the Seattle native, stomping on the floor and chanting “Queen! Queen! Queen!” while Underwood took apart Mayer with brutally effective shots from all angles. The final margin was smaller than expected, but Underwood had little doubt, raising one finger in anticipation of the verdict.

Even with extensive international experience, Underwood acknowledged a huge case of jitters all week. Dozens of family and friends traveled across the state from Seattle and Underwood worried she had let them down on Thursday before she barely escaped with a 25-24 win over 19-year-old N’yteeyah Sherman.

“I don’t believe in losing,” Underwood said. “I don’t want to lose, ever. I knew I had the opportunity to come back tomorrow if things didn’t go right, but that wasn’t in my rulebook. My rulebook is coming out with a win all days. I came here planning to have four fights, and I fought exactly the way I thought.”

Shields’ final victory was the culmination of a breakthrough week for the high school junior from Flint, Mich., who has skyrocketed through the sport in the past year since becoming old enough to compete at amateur boxing’s highest levels.

Shields beat Hemingway on Thursday night in a bout that left both boxers complaining about the score. Hemingway started furiously in their rematch, stalking Shields into the corners to unload long barrages of punches.

Shields fought back with equal vigor, but Hemingway twice knocked out Shields’ mouthpiece, forcing the referee to take a point from Shields in the second round. Hemingway backed Shields against the ropes for a long stretch of the fourth round, mauling and shoving amid the punches — but Shields patiently waited for openings for her ferocious counterpunches, scoring enough points to win.

“I feel like I did way better the first fight,” Shields said. “I still got tired, letting her wrestle me, but it felt good when it was over.”

Esparza is a 22-year-old from Houston with six national championships in two weight classes. She moved up in weight two years ago to meet the 112-pound Olympic flyweight standard, but the change hasn’t stopped her relentless roll toward London.

Thanks to an opening-round walkover, the top-seeded Esparza had to fight just three times to win the trials, while the title bout was the second-seeded Douglas’ sixth fight in six days.

Esparza stuck to a meticulous game plan, allowing the aggressive Douglas to tire in each round before picking apart her defense with well-timed shots. Esparza, who fights with an American flag do-rag underneath her headgear, raised one glove in victory after the final bell.

“She tries to knock you out or something in the first part of every round,” Esparza said. “She really does scare me, because she’s intimidating and she looks fearless, but I’ve watched her over and over, and the first 30 seconds of every round are like the best 30 seconds of your life, but she gets tired.”

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Baltimore Fighter Douglas Remains Alive in Olympic Boxing Trials

Posted on 18 February 2012 by WNST Staff

Associated Press

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.”

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Crews Eliminated, Douglas Stays Alive at US Olympic Boxing Trials

Posted on 17 February 2012 by WNST Staff

Associated Press

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — Flyweight Marlen Esparza, lightweight Queen Underwood and middleweight Claressa Shields advanced to the finals of the U.S. Olympic women’s boxing team trials with victories in the winners’ bracket Thursday night.

Underwood won the most thrilling bout of the landmark tournament, weathering hundreds of punches from 19-year-old N’yteeyah Sherman before pulling out a 25-24 victory with a strong fourth round.

Esparza, a six-time national champion, meticulously stuck to her game plan in a 13-10 win over longtime rival Christina Cruz, while the 16-year-old Shields survived a physical fight from Tika Hemingway for a 23-15 win.

The three winners must win again Saturday in the double-elimination tournament to advance to the world championships in May. If they finish in the top eight in China, they’ll head to London for the first Olympic women’s boxing tournament.

The level of competition clearly rose on the fourth day of the first U.S. women’s trials, with the nation’s best amateur boxers fighting for prime position or to avoid elimination.

“This tournament does take a toll on your body, but I’m experienced, and getting better and better,” said Underwood, the five-time national champion.

Underwood and Sherman were in a brawl from the opening bell, with the 6-foot Sherman throwing wide-angled punches as Underwood replied with more powerful shots. Underwood knocked out Sherman’s mouthpiece in the first round, but Sherman replied with a vicious combination after the break.

Although Sherman is an impressive volume puncher whose major height advantage invites comparison to Paul Williams fighting at 147 pounds, Underwood was stunned only once by a shot near the end of the first round. Underwood blocked many punches and ducked around others while connecting on the inside.

With neither fighter completely certain who was ahead, the bout culminated with relentless action exchanges in the fourth round. Underwood sighed in dismay when her cornermen told her she trailed by a point, but responded with a tenacious round that kept her on track for China.

When the announcer read the verdict, Sherman yanked her wrist away from the referee and shook her head vigorously.

“There’s things I can review and improve for the Saturday competition,” Underwood said. “I’m sure we’ll fight again.”

Sherman, a Barberton, Ohio, boxer and a straight-A student at Kent State, could earn a rematch with Underwood on Friday by beating Mikaela Mayer, who eliminated Tiara Brown with a 23-18 victory.

Shields earned her third straight victory and moved to the brink of an impressive title, but the teenage slugger was left sullen and sulking after the fight, disappointed in the judging and refereeing — and possibly rattled by Hemingway’s physical game plan.

Although she claimed Hemingway hadn’t been inside her head, Shields repeatedly had to be reminded by her coach, Jason Crutchfield, that she had just moved one step away from a trip to China.

“I don’t know what they’re talking about, 23,” Shields said, referring to her score. “I never scored 23 in my life. She gave me a hard fight, (but) I wanted to stop her. … And she kept head-butting me, and the ref didn’t say nothing.”

Shields came out much more cautiously than in her first two fights, when she aggressively tore through two elite opponents. Hemingway cagily tied up the teenager inside and eventually angered Shields, who returned to her usual ferocious game plan in the third round.

The referee had to separate the fighters after the third-round bell, and he cautioned them against trash talk before the fourth.

Hemingway’s next bout is against San Francisco’s Raquel Miller, who eliminated five-time national champion Franchon Crews 26-15 in the final fight of the night.

While Underwood and Shields won emotional fights, Esparza was clinical in her dissection of a longtime rival. Esparza was more aggressive from the opening round, frequently engaging Cruz and then ducking away before Cruz could counterpunch.

Esparza also largely stuck to her plan to keep her left hand up near her head, negating Cruz’s dangerous straight right.

“She throws the same thing over and over, the right hand and the left hook,” Esparza said. “It’s really basic. I think this was the first time she ever threw an uppercut, right now.”

After three rounds in which few of Cruz’s punches landed, the Manhattan native picked up her attack in the fourth round, but Esparza’s impressive conditioning usually kept her out of trouble.

Cruz is still in the tournament, and will have a rematch Friday night with Tyrieshia Douglas, who eliminated Virginia Fuchs 31-19.

“I love that win, and I could win a million times against her and it would never get old, because she’s my only loss,” Esparza said. “You can’t change your past, but it feels good making a statement over and over. That’s always the best for me when I beat her, because she took a lot out of me when she beat me.”

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Baltimore Boxers Douglas, Crews Advance at Olympic Trials

Posted on 16 February 2012 by WNST Staff

By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — Tyrieshia Douglas emphatically avoided elimination from the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing team trials on Wednesday night, stopping Taversha Norwood in the fourth round of their flyweight bout.

Lightweight Mikaela Mayer also recorded a fourth-round stoppage, dominating Asia Stevenson in the semifinals of the challengers’ bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

Top-ranked middleweight Franchon Crews narrowly avoided elimination with a wild 27-26 victory over Tiffanie Hearn. Crews, the five-time national champion, broke into tears while Hearn collapsed after a vicious bout in which both fighters bounced off the ropes and traded haymakers.

Just 12 fighters remain with a chance to earn three spots on the U.S. team and the chance to qualify for the debut of women’s boxing at the London Olympics.

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Baltimore Native Crews Upset at US Olympic Trials

Posted on 14 February 2012 by WNST Staff

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. (AP) — Unheralded teenage middleweight Claressa Shields upset top-ranked Olympic hopeful Franchon Crews of Baltimore on Monday night in the first U.S. team trials for women’s boxing.

Top-ranked lightweight Queen Underwood overcame serious jitters in front of her home-state crowd, winning her first bout in a small ballroom at a resort-casino just outside Spokane.

Shields, a 16-year-old from Michigan with Betty Boop on her tall socks, thoroughly overwhelmed five-time national champion Crews, 24, with a relentless work rate and athleticism. Shields has shot up the national rankings in the past year while growing 4 inches.

The double-elimination trials feature eight fighters in each of the three weight classes of the first Olympic women’s boxing tournament. The three trials winners still must do well at the world championships in May to qualify for the London Olympics.

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