SPOKANE, Wash. — The District’s Tyrieshia Douglas turned her head and shot a grimace at her coach when the final score was announced, as her opponent inside the red, white and blue ropes prematurely raised a fist to celebrate. Seconds later, when Douglas officially learned her crushing fate — she had been eliminated from the U.S. Olympic women’s boxing trials in the championship round — she walked quickly to the ropes, ducked under and slid hastily out.
Whatever pain Douglas felt after losing in a 32-17 decision to Marlen Esparza on her sixth straight night of fighting here Saturday night, she kept it tightly inside. The end result seemed plainly excruciating: Esparza claimed the lone Olympic team slot in the 112-pound flyweight class; Douglas got only the satisfaction of knowing she stands as the second-best the United States has to offer.
As Douglas peeled off the athletic tape rolled around her wrists, beads of sweat running down her cheeks moments after the fight, she shrugged off the defeat.
“It was a good experience for me,” she said. “I’m not upset at all.”
She claimed that USA Boxing President Harold Adonis had told her she should have been awarded the victory once she left the ring, so how could she be disappointed?
“The president even said, ‘I don’t know what the score was about,’ ” Douglas said. “He said, ‘That score was unbelievable.’ He thought that I won. . . . Why be upset? . . . The score was unbelievable.”
Esparza, who began boxing with her brothers in Houston after her parents divorced a decade ago, clearly thought otherwise.
The winner of six straight U.S. national titles, she raised her arms as soon as the final bell sounded in the four-round bout. She said later it was “ridiculous” to suggest the result was not correct.
“I feel I deserve it,” said Esparza, 22, who once went nine years without a defeat and has lost just once in the past decade. “I’ve fought her three times, and every time in the final. I expected her to try a little harder this time. For some reason, she always gets tired; I don’t know if she doesn’t prepare herself correctly. . . . The first round’s always close and then she dies out. . . . If she thought she could have won, she would have tried harder [in the final rounds].”
Douglas fought aggressively against Esparza, frequently going on the attack, but she didn’t land everything she threw, especially late. Esparza, meantime, made more of her opportunities. She led 6-5 after the first round; 14-10 after the second; and 26-14 after the third. Douglas won just three points in the last round.
Mack Allison, one of Douglas’s coaches, said he thought the result was correct but the margin too wide.
“I thought the score shouldn’t have been that far apart,” he said. But “fighting all week, it’s draining.”
Indeed, Esparza took a considerably less taxing path to the final. Unlike Douglas, who lost in her second fight Tuesday, Esparza won all three of her bouts, which kept her comfortably in the winner’s bracket, with a day of rest between each of her last three fights.
Douglas, on the other hand, has been boxing every day since the trials opened Monday. Late Friday night, she beat Christina Cruz, who had pushed her into the losers’ bracket with a defeat on Tuesday. Douglas insisted, however, that she wasn’t tired — even while rattling off a stream of perfunctory, short answers that suggested otherwise.
“It was a good experience,” she said without expression. “I enjoyed it.”
The two other Olympic team slots were claimed by Queen Underwood, who defeated Mikaela Mayer in the lightweight class, and Claressa Shields, just 16, who overcame Tika Hemingway in the middleweight class. All three will have to secure those slots at an international qualifying tournament in China. Women’s boxing will be held in the Olympics for the first time at the Summer Games in London.
Douglas, 23, who spent her senior year of high school at the now-defunct City Lights Public Charter School for at-risk youth, trains in Baltimore at the Upton Boxing Center under Calvin Ford and Allison. She spent grew up in Washington, mostly bouncing through the District’s foster care system after she and her three siblings were removed from the home of her birth mother.
She began boxing at the Headbangers’ Boxing Team gym in 2004 after getting in a street fight that landed her in juvenile court; the judge recommended boxing as a more appropriate outlet.
Her brother Antoine, an honors student who attended Anacostia High, qualified for the Olympic trials for men, making them on the only brother-sister duo to achieve that honor, though Antoine also failed to win an Olympic slot.
“Certain things in life are just written, regardless of what we might want them to be,” Allison said. “She came up and gave 100 percent. Just being here today shows she gave 100 percent.”
Her next step?
Douglas said she plans to turn pro. Allison said they would seek opportunities to fight soon, while Douglas’s stock is high.
“It was cool,” Douglas said. “I ain’t frustrated. It was a good experience.”