USA boxer Queen Underwood makes history, but not the Olympic quarterfinals

Quanitta “Queen” Underwood of the United States, left, and Natasha Jonas of Great Britain, fight during the women’s lightweight boxing competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday in London. Jonas won 21-13. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

By JULIE JAG

jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON – By the end, Queen Underwood was swinging wildly, trying to keep her Olympic hopes alive.

But the Team USA veteran would have to settle for a place in history, not a place on the podium.

Underwood, a 28-year-old from Seattle, became the first woman from the United States to box in the Olympics as soon as she stepped through the ropes at the ExCel Centre on Sunday for her first-round lightweight [132-pound] bout against Great Britain’s Natasha Jonas. This is the first year women’s boxing has been included in the Games, and Underwood’s teammates, flyweight Marlen Esparza and middleweight Claressa Shields, drew first-round byes.

When she stepped back out, her Olympic dream and amateur career had ended in a 21-13 loss.

“History doesn’t mean anything to me,” Underwood said. “The gold medal meant everything to me.”

“I don’t think it’s enough,” she added.“I gave away half my life for this. Just to feel the reward of being here isn’t enough.

Underwood, wearing red shorts and jersey emblazoned with USA, looked like she might have a shot at moving on after the first round when the judges gave her the 4-3 edge over crowd-favorite Jonas. In the next round, however, the five judges favored Jonas 4-2 in what otherwise looked to be an even fight.

When asked if he thought Jonas may have curried some favor as the local girl in the scoring, Team USA coach Charles Leverette said he thought the scoring was fair.

“I wasn’t really suprised by the scoring. I was more suprised by us being up in the first round,” he said. “They were two outstanding female boxers.”

The scoring again favored Jonas in the third round, 6-3. As Underwood felt the match slipping away, she ditched the plan Leverette had laid out and started going for bigger swings, especially with her hook.

“I felt I didn’t have any chance being down with the home crowd if I would have sat back,” Underwood said. “I was trying to throw that big haymaker. I wanted to be able to say I fought for it.”

Underwood’s big roundhouse hits rarely landed on the side-stepping Jonas, however. Meanwhile, Jonas kept racking up the points with jabs Underwood said she barely felt. The boxer from Liverpool, who had beaten Underwood before in an Olympic test event, won the final round 8-4.

“She came out very strong. I just had to box. The crowd got behind me and that settled me down,” Jonas said. “The crowd were amazing. It makes a change to fight with 10,000 people behind you rather than your 10 teammates. How can you not want to perform?”

For the record, Elena Savelyeva of Russia became the first women ever to win an Olympic boxing match when she beat flyweight opponent Hye Song Kim of North Korea, 12-9.

Underwood has been in the spotlight since she revealed she and her older sister had been sexually and physically abused by their father, for which he served six years in prison. She said she plans to turn pro, a career she put on hold just so she could compete in the Olympics. When she started the sport at age 19, she had hoped they would become part of the 2008 Games. She said she thought she would have had a better chance at the medal as a younger boxer.

“I guess this is the end of my journey. It’s time for me to start a new chapter in life and start a new goal,” she said. “I think I will take this home with me and probably later on will say, ‘Hey, I did good in the journey and kept going,’ but I will always say I could have done more.”

Today in the flyweight [112] quarterfinals, Esparza, who sparred with Watsonville pro Carina Moreno to prepare for the Olympics, will fight Venezuela’s Kariha Magliocco, a one-point winner over Brazil’s Erica Matos on Sunday. Team USA middleweight [165] Shields will step into the ring against Anna Laurell of Sweden, who pummeled Naomi-Lee Fischer-Rasmussen of Australia in the first round.

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Categories: Athletes, Boxing, Events, Olympics | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “USA boxer Queen Underwood makes history, but not the Olympic quarterfinals

  1. I think Queen is the greatest. I think she will do well at anything she does she is so beautiful.

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