Marlen Esparza, left, competes against Karlha Magliocco during the boxing… (Scott Heavey / Getty Images )
LONDON -- A U.S. boxing program struggling in recent Olympic Games received a double infusion of success Monday when female fighters Marlen Esparza and Claressa Shields won quarterfinal matches and assured the U.S. of at least two bronze medals.
Each still has a chance for gold in this, the first Olympic women's boxing tournament.
The event was limited to 12 fighters in each weight division, and each U.S. boxer drew a bye into the quarterfinals, putting each a victory away from a medal.
Esparza beat Venezuelan Karlha Magliocco, 24-16, in a match with lots of activity and aggression and the best of it going to Esparza. That was in the flyweight division (105 to 112 pounds). Esparza will face world champion Cancan Ren of China in a semifinal.
"That's what I came here for," Esparza said.
Shields, 17, beat Anna Laurell of Sweden, nearly twice her age at 32, with a flurry that ended a 12-12 tie going into the final round of their middleweight (152 to 165 pounds) match. She caught Laurell with a hard left that caused a standing eight-count and sealed the Swede's fate. Her final margin of victory was 18-14.
Shields will fight Marina Volnova of Kazakhstan in the semifinals. Volonova upset top-seeded Savannah Marshall of Britain.
The semifinals are Wednesday.