Medalist Esparza stays alive at US Olympic boxing trials

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza stayed in contention for a spot on her second U.S. Olympic team with a victory over Christina Cruz in the challengers bracket Friday night at the women's boxing trials.

Lightweight Jajaira Gonzalez and middleweight Tika Hemingway also won challengers bracket fights to advance to championship bouts on Saturday.

The trials winners in each of the three women's Olympic weight classes will represent the U.S. in international qualifiers to earn a spot in the Rio Games.

Esparza won a unanimous decision in her elimination bout, beating fellow veteran flyweight Cruz for the second time in four days.

Esparza won the Americans' first boxing medal in the 2012 Games in London, but was knocked into the challengers bracket of the double-elimination tournament Wednesday with a surprise split-decision loss to Virginia Fuchs, a fellow Houston-area native.

Esparza and Fuchs will meet again Saturday. If Esparza wins, they will have a decisive third bout Sunday.

Gonzalez won a unanimous decision over 2012 world champion Tiara Brown to advance to the 132-pound championship bout against Mikaela Mayer, a veteran amateur boxer and fellow Los Angeles-area native.

The 18-year-old Gonzalez has won several major youth titles, but is competing for a senior team spot for the first time. Mayer edged Gonzalez by split decision Tuesday.

Hemingway beat Raquel Miller by unanimous decision to advance to the championship bout against Claressa Shields, the Americans' only gold medalist in London and a strong favorite for a second Olympic berth.

Hemingway and Shields have a long-standing personal rivalry. Shields beat Hemingway by unanimous decision on Tuesday.

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