Tyrieshia Douglas avoids elimination

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. -- Tyrieshia Douglas emphatically avoided elimination from the first U.S. Olympic women's boxing team trials Wednesday night, stopping Taversha Norwood in the fourth round of their flyweight bout.

Lightweight Mikaela Mayer also recorded a fourth-round stoppage, dominating Asia Stevenson in the semifinals of the challengers' bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

Top-ranked middleweight Franchon Crews narrowly avoided elimination with a wild 27-26 victory over Tiffanie Hearn. Crews, the five-time national champion, broke into tears while Hearn collapsed after a vicious bout in which both fighters bounced off the ropes and traded haymakers.

Just 12 fighters remain with a chance to earn three spots on the U.S. team and the opportunity to qualify for the debut of women's boxing at the London Olympics. Judging by Wednesday's fights, the competition is tightening considerably as the fighters get close to earning a trip to May's world championships in China.

Douglas got the card off to a strong start at the Northern Quest resort-casino just outside Spokane, repeatedly breaking down Norwood's defense in the final two rounds for the first referee stoppage of the tournament. Douglas, a 23-year-old Baltimore fighter, used boxing to rise out of the foster care system along with her brother, Antoine, who is home training for USA Boxing's national championships in two weeks.

"I have nowhere to go, so I have to win this tournament," Douglas said. "Seriously, I'm homeless, and no one is taking my last piece of chicken."

Douglas, Christina Cruz and six-time national champion Marlen Esparza are in a competitive three-way derby for the sole spot on the U.S. team at 112 pounds. Douglas lost a tight semifinal bout to Christina Cruz Tuesday night when Cruz repeatedly hit her with a straight right hand in the late rounds.

"I was upset about my decision yesterday, so everyone has to pay from now on," Douglas said. "I'm taking this whole thing home."

Cruz and Esparza will meet Thursday in the winners' bracket finals, while Douglas will face Virginia Fuchs, who rallied for a 21-16 victory over home-state favorite Alex Love.

Mayer bounced back from a loss to lightweight favorite Queen Underwood by battering Stevenson, forcing four standing eight-counts in the final three rounds before the referee stopped it. Mayer, a Los Angeles-area native, will fight Tiara Brown, who eliminated Bertha Aracil from Yonkers, N.Y., 12-11.

Those fights were just preludes to a brawl between Crews and Hearn, who flung each other around the ring with abandon. Crews' loss to 16-year-old Claressa Shields on Monday was the tournament's biggest upset to date, and Crews realizes she might now be an underdog in the division she has long ruled.

"I'm in the losers' bracket, but it's not over," said Crews, who calls herself the Heavy-Hitting Diva for a singing voice that earned her an audition on "American Idol."

"I'm excited, and I'm ready to work," she said. "Being a No. 1, they expect a lot from you, but I'm ready to die for this. I ain't the classiest boxer. I ain't the prettiest or the most technical, but I've got a big heart, and I've got a strong will, and I want it. I've been here before, and I want it back."

The victory also was payback for Crews, who was disqualified from her fight against Hearn at the Pan-Am Games box-offs. On Thursday, Crews will face Raquel Miller, who hung on for a 7-6 victory over Andrecia Wasson.

Miller, a San Francisco fighter celebrating her 27th birthday, only began boxing two years ago. Wasson is a 10-year veteran and a former world champion welterweight who attempted to move up to 165 pounds to fit into the Olympics' three weight classes for women.