LONDON - Claressa Shields ducked one punch, deftly leaned away from another and stuck her tongue out at her Russian opponent. Just an American teenager having a little fun.
After all, Nadezda Torlopova is nearly twice Shields' age and about half her speed. And Shields had to laugh at any boxer trying to get between her and a historic Olympic gold medal.
The 17-year-old middleweight from Flint, Mich., beat Torlopova 19-12 on Thursday, capping her rapid ascent through women's boxing with a title in its Olympic debut.
"This was something I wanted for a long time, even when boxing wasn't going all right, even when my life wasn't going all right," said Shields, who found sanctuary in a boxing gym during a rough childhood.
"All I wanted was a gold medal, and I kept working towards it, even when people were saying I couldn't do it. I'm too young. I couldn't do it. There were girls who were going to beat me because of better experience, more experience. I proved them all wrong."
Shields did it in style - shuffle-stepping, brawling and even winning over a crowd that showed up to cheer Irish lightweight Katie Taylor and British flyweight Nicola Adams, who also won golds.
Shields had her hand over her heart on the podium when she burst into laughter, her head snapping back almost as if she had just been punched in the face.
That's a feeling her opponents in the first Olympic women's boxing tournament know quite well.
Only they're not laughing.
The five-day event was one of London's biggest hits. And even amid the sea of Irish fans cheering Taylor's every move, Shields was one of the breakout stars of the games. An ugly Olympics for the U.S. team ended with a performance worthy of Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier, Oscar De La Hoya and every American Olympic champion that came before Shields.
Shields providing USA Boxing with a much-needed boost. She won the 12-member American team's only gold medal in London, and flyweight Marlen Esparza took a bronze, but the winningest nation in Olympic boxing history got no medals from its men's team for the first time.