Great Britain’s Natasha Jonas defeated American Queen Underwood in the first round of the first Olympic women’s boxing tournament at the London Games on Sunday, a historic day for female boxing.
Jonas won a 21-13 decision in the opening round lightweight bout.
All three women’s weight classes opened Olympic action on Sunday with four preliminary bouts in each division. Underwood faced Jonas in the first lightweight contest of the day in front of a full house at the ExCel Centre. Jonas entered the ring to a loud and raucous crowd that roared with each punch she threw. Underwood, of Seattle, Wash., opened the bout well, managing to block out the crowd and press the British boxer. Her efforts were successful in the first two minutes, and she took a 4-3 lead after one round.
Yet, Jonas managed to steal the lead in the second round to the delight of her hometown supporters. Underwood fell further behind in the second round as the longer and rangier Jonas built her advantage to a 13-9 margin with two minutes of action remaining. The American boxer came out swinging in the fourth round, trying to make up four-point deficit but she couldn’t overcome it and Jonas won a a commanding final decision.
“I got comfortable in the first round, I was going to her and she was a little bit flat. I was winning on points after the first round but it changed a little in the second round. She kind of sat back and boxed me and I had to come forward,” Underwood said. “I was down one point after the second round and I kind of felt that it wasn’t working going forward the way I was so I just wanted to go for her after that.”
Underwood was disappointed with her performance and frustrated with the Olympic boxing point system that will be scrapped after these Games.
“I filled a spot that somebody could have had but I gave away half my life for this and it just doesn’t feel like the reward of being here is enough,” Underwood said. “I just wish and hope that the fans and people who have been there and my family can believe the journey was enough and I’m a champion regardless of the decision. That’s where it ends with me is being a champion and pushing for it since I didn’t get the gold medal here.
“I really feel that I didn’t have any chance being down and against the home crowd. If I would have sat back and tried to play games and chess match this, it would have looked like I wasn’t aggressive enough and I didn’t want that. It would probably have been a lower scoring fight because it would have been a slower pace but I wanted to show everybody that I’m going to do all I can do in there. I don’t like being down and I guess it kind of bothered me a little bit, being down after being up.
“I didn’t feel like they were clean shots in there. I felt hooks behind the head, like more of a push than a scoring blow. As you could see I was little off balance. I just didn’t let the score to affect my work ethic in the ring so that’s why I just went forward.”
The remaining two U.S. female boxers will open their tournament action on Monday following first round byes. Flyweight Marlen Esparza, of Houston, Texas, will face Venezuela’s Karlha Magliocco while middleweight Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich., battles Anna Laurell of Sweden.
Male welterweight Errol Spence, Desoto, Texas, will return to the ring on Tuesday in quarterfinal action.
Info / Julie Goldsticker-USA Boxing
Photos / Scott Heavey-Getty Images (Jonas-Underwood action, Natasha Jonas), Jack Guez-AFP (Queen Underwood)