By Jake Donovan
Claressa Shields is set to return to high school for her senior year once the 2012 London Games are over. Chances are nobody will be able to top her tale when the discussion is 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation.'
The 17-year young middleweight guaranteed the U.S. at least two medals in this year's competition. Her feat came in comeback fashion, overcoming a massive size disadvantage and an early deficit on the cards to advance to the medal round with an 18-14 win over Sweden's Anna Lauren.
Laurel - 15 years older and what seemed like a full head taller - utilized her superior height and reach to maximum effect, sticking and moving her way to a two-point lead early on. Shields looked lost at times, following the Swede around the ring without offering much in the way of return fire.
Where her inexperience affected her opening round performance, experience in the corner proved to rule the day.
"Stop following her around. Get your hands up and hit her with your jab," were the orders barked from trainer Gloria Peek in between rounds. Shields proved to be just as apt in the ring as she is in a classroom, chipping away at Laurel's lead in each passing round.
Shields fought her way to an even score by the end of the third round, at which point she was dialed in with her compact left hook on the inside. Closing the physical gap between the two proved to make all of the difference in the world, as Shields dominated down the stretch.
A standing eight-count issued in the fourth went without protest from Laurel, who nodded as the referee counted while bearing a look suggestive of a big moment long ago lost. Shields finished strong to win the round big and storm into the semifinal.
The pairing featured polar opposites on the scholastic level - Shields is just 17 years old and entering her final year of high school, while the 32-year old Laurel is in pursuit of her Ph.D in chemistry.
As Shields overcame one obstacle to advance to the semifinals, she may have dodged a bullet in terms of what awaits her on Wednesday.
Top seed Savannah Marshall was the division's odds-on favorite to deliver Great Britain its first Gold medal in 2012 Olympic boxing competition. The first step on that journey also became the last, as she suffered a massive upset loss at the capable hands of Marina Volnova of Kazakhstan.
The crowd was displeased with the posted scoring at the end of each round and even more so once the final verdict was announced. But in the end, the 16-12 score in favor of Volnova was the right call, as the Kazakh fighter was more effective throughout the contest.
A chorus of boos was let out once the score was announced, but somehow drowned out by Volnova's belting of approval in instant celebration over the achievement.
Marshall entered the competition as the reigning world amateur champion and appeared to be the closest thing to a sure thing to a medal round performance. Instead, she joins teammate Natasha Jonas on the sidelines, as Great Britain has now suffered two straight losses.
The aforementioned verdict wasn't the only major upset in the division. Jinzi Li overcame the humiliation of a 12-point loss in the 2010 World Amateur Boxing Championships with a shocking 17-14 win over previous conqueror Mary Spencer of Canada.
Spencer was considered a heavy favorite to secure Canada its first medal since 1996, but looked nothing like the fighter who dominated Li in the World games two years ago. Li fell behind early, but turned the tide in round two and never looked back. Not even a two-point penalty for holding in the fourth round was enough to slow her down, as she advances to the medal round.
Li will go on to face Nadezda Torlopova of Russia, who topped Nigeria's Edith Ogoke by a score of 18-8.
Torlopova was the cleaner boxer throughout, but by no means the crowd favorite. Ogoke's tale of battling poverty and starvation in sacrfice of supporting her son has struck a chord with the boxing world. Sadly, the Olympic journey comes to a close, though her aggression throughout the bout was well-received by the London crowd.
The middleweight semifinals takes place Wednesday, August 6. The winners go on to Friday's championships, while the losers share bronze medal honors.
Middleweight Quarterfinals (Monday, August 6):
Marina Volnova (Kazakhstan) def. Savannah Marshall (Great Britain), 16-12
Claressa Shields (USA) def. Anna Laurel (Sweden), 18-14
Jinzi Li (China) def. Mary Spencer (Canada), 17-14
Nadezda Torlopova (Russia) def. Edith Ogoke (Nigeria), 18-8
Middleweight Semifinals (Medal round - Wednesday, August 8):
Marina Volnova (Kazakhstan) vs. Claressa Shields (United States)
Jinzi Li (China) vs. Nadezda Torlopova (Russia)
Round of 16 Results (Sunday, August 5):
Marina Volnova (Kazakhstan) def. Elizabeth Andiego (Kenya), 20-11
Anna Laurel (Sweden) def. Naomi Fischer-Rasmussen (Australia), 24-17
Jinzi Li (China) def. Roseli Feitosa (Brazil), 19-14
Edith Ogoke (Nigeria) def. Elena Vystropova (Azerbaijan), 14-12
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: