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Powerful Claressa Shields heads the USA boxing team in Rio and Southern California’s Mikaela Mayer makes up the rest of the one-two female portion of the American team.

It’s like the female version of a double-barrel shotgun.

Shields captured the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics at age 17 and has not exhibited any sign of slipping since she clobbered her way to the podium in London. Now she’s poised to defend the medal and remains the favorite in her weight class.

Unlike her first appearance at the Olympics, she will not be a surprise to anyone this time around. But can anyone compete with her?

“I have to make them respect me even more,” Shields told the Washington Post.

Raised in Flint, Michigan, it’s the same town that bred Andre and Anthony Dirrell, but the female boxer has few of the fighting hit and run traits of her male Flint counterparts. Instead, she utilizes a more pro-friendly style intent on hurting and stopping the competition through punishing shots. She attacks with style and skill.

Inside the boxing ring she unleashes all the fury of a virtually nonexistent childhood onto her opposition. She has not lost a fight since before winning gold in the London Olympics; one loss in 74 bouts. She was the only American boxer to win a gold medal in London. It was the first time that the Olympics were open to female boxers.

As a child she was reared by her mother for a while as her father served time in prison. After suffering from the mother’s boyfriends, she was shipped to her grandmother’s house. When her father was released he told her of his lost dreams of boxing. That inspired her to visit a boxing gym and the rest is history.

“I have the skills to pay the bills,” Shields said on Twitter. “Power to knock em over.”

The world is waiting to see if Shields can repeat her dominating performance of four years ago.

Born on St. Patrick’s Day, the Michigan female boxer has that calmness that comes from confidence.

“I never been a person to freak out, no matter what’s going on,” she said. “I don’t lose my cool.”

Shields’ first Olympic bout in Rio takes place on August 14.

Shotgun Barrel Number Two

Mikaela Mayer was also born on a significant day of the calendar. The slender lightweight from Southern California was born on the Fourth of July.

This is her first venture in the Olympic Games. The first attempt was blocked by Queen Underwood in the US Nationals in 2012. After that loss, a fire was lit inside of her that burned hot and kept burning until she made the USA team earlier this year.

“Obviously the nerves are kicking in. Started hitting me last night as I was packing up. Either all my dreams are going to come true or not. You just don’t know what is going to happen. Everything is going to be different one way or the other,” said Mayer just before boarding the plane to Rio de Janeiro.

Raised in the San Fernando Valley, the Valley girl chose kickboxing and showed an aptitude for fighting despite her non-violent upbringing. Some people are just born to fight and kickboxing was left behind for boxing.

After losing an Olympic bid in 2012, Mayer embarked on a purposeful trek toward self-improvement that saw her trade blows with seemingly every female wearing boxing gloves in remote gyms across the country. It was an amazing adventure to witness.

“It’s such an amazing journey. To look back at all the ups and downs to being just another boxer in the Maywood community boxing gym to being an Olympian,” said Mayer, 26, about her relentless road to make this Olympic team. “It was pretty inspiring even to myself.”

Mayer uses her height and swiftness to keep her opponents at bay. And when she attacks her combinations come with speed. Lately, she has combined the speed with power. During international competition she floored her opponent to nail down her spot on the USA Boxing Team.

This is her first appearance in the Olympic Games but she enters knowing what to expect. She’s seen all of the competition in tournaments and exhibitions including Katie Taylor of Ireland, the gold medal winner in London.

“Katie Taylor has been on the top of the game. A five-time world champion, she has also been beaten twice. So these medals are up for grabs. They can go to anybody,” says the confident Mayer. “What it comes down to is whoever can perform at the most important time will win.”

Mayer is scheduled to enter the boxing ring on August 12.

Claressa Shields

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