By Jake Donovan
If there was a lesson learned by the U.S. Olympic boxing team this year, it was to never send a man to do a woman's job.
In the event of the middleweight finals, the moral of the story was that whatever a woman can do, a girl can do better.
Claressa Shields proved to be far more than your average American teenager. The 17-year old will soon return to high school for her senior year. What a tale she will have to tell for her first day of school, as the American middleweight took home Olympic Gold with a 19-12 win over Russia's Nadevda Torlopova.
The disparity in age - the 33-year old Torlopova 16 years Shields' senior - was the greatest in any fight during the 2012 London Games. The fight itself was hardly woman versus child, though. Torlopova entered as the slight favorite, but couldn't slow the momentum her younger opponent carried into the finals.
Shields has spent the entire week fighting like a boxer carrying the weight of a nation on her shoulders. Team USA saw its last male contestant bow out of competition earlier this week, marking the first time ever that a competing American squad failed to capture a single medal on the men's side.
The inclusion of women's boxing in Olympic competition gave the U.S. three more cracks at bringing home hardware. Shields and flyweight teammate Marlen Esparza helped save face for the beleaguered U.S. amateur boxing program, which has been broken for years but given little more than gum and scotch tape in the way of repairs.
However, the thought of yet another team doing no better than Olympic bronze never sat well with Shields. The Michigan native went out and claimed her spot in the finals with an emphatic beatdown of Kazakhstan's Marina Volnova on Wednesday afternoon.
One day later, Torlopova would gets hers as well.
The beating didn't come right away. Both fighters had their moments in a level opening round, marking the first time since Shield's quarterfinals bout with Anna Laurel in which she didn't enjoy a lead. That changed in round two and Shields never looked back, taking a three point lead at the halfway point before opening the floodgates in the third.
Torlopova walked through hell just to get to the finals, topping house favorite Savannah Mitchell and China's middleweight wunderkind Jinzi Li. Her trip to Thursday's championship was well-earned; it just wasn't enough to cross the finish line.
There's an argument to be made that the fight could have been even more lopsided than the final score suggested. A five-point margin heading into the final two minutes convinced Shields that the Gold medal was her's to lose.
The American eased off the gas just enough to enjoy the moment, playfully showboating but never to the point of disrespect or the threat of blowing a lead. In fact, Shields managed to add to her already sizable advantage on the cards, securing the widest margin of victory among the three Gold medalists on the afternoon.
Shields' win gives the United States its first boxing Gold medal in eight years, when Andre Ward hit paydirt in the 2004 Athens Games. The past 20 years have only seen four American boxers bring home Gold, with Shields obviously the only female, as well as the second youngest Gold medalist in the nation's history.
Middleweight Finals (Gold medal round - Thursday, August 9):
Claressa Shields (USA) def. Nadezda Torlopova (Russia), 19-14
* Shields wins the Gold medal; Torlopova takes the Silver.
Middleweight Semifinals (Medal round - Wednesday, August 8):
Claressa Shields (United States) def. Marina Volnova (Kazakhstan), 29-15
Nadezda Torlopova (Russia) def. Jinzi Li (China), 12-10
* Volnova and Li 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
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: