By Emily Goddard

USA_BoxingJune 17 - With just over a year until the debut of women's boxing in the Olympics, a talented group of American competitors will descend on Colorado Springs for the 2011 USA Boxing National Championships.

For the first time ever, one event will serve as a qualifying tournament for the US Olympic Team Trials for both male and female athletes with the top four finishers in the three female Olympic weight classes and 10 men's divisions clinching the critical qualifying spots.

Both the participant numbers and talent level on the women's rosters reflect the importance of the tournament with a record-breaking 36 athletes slated to compete in the female lightweight division.

The defending champions in the three Olympic weight divisions are back to defend their titles, with flyweight Marlen Esparza competing for her sixth straight National Championship, lightweight Queen Underwood boxing for her fifth title and middleweight Tiffanie Hearn vying for her second consecutive middleweight crown and third overall.

Should she win gold in Colorado Springs, Esparza will become the third female boxer in history to win six straight national championships.

However, the trio are set to face stiff competition from every direction.

Esparza will look to avenge a recent loss to 2010 National PAL Champion Christina Cruz and could face a rematch of her 2010 final round victory over Tyrieshia Douglas.

Both the former bantamweight national champion Cynthia Moreno and 2010 USA Boxing National Championships bronze medallist Alex Love also look set to make noise in the flyweight division.

The lightweight division features five former national champions in addition to 2010 National PAL Champion Stephanie Han all vying for one spot atop the medal stand.

Underwood (pictured) could face four-time titlist Caroline Barry, former featherweight national champions Melissa Parker and Jody Ann Weller, as well as 2010 bantamweight gold medallist Lauren Fisher in a busy week at the competition.

The middleweight division will showcase tremendous talent as well with numerous former or current titlists converging in the final Olympic weight division.

Hearn could face a strong test from four-time national champion Franchon Crews in a rematch from their Pan Am Box-offs showdown.

Former light heavyweight champion Tika Hemingway and defending heavyweight titlist Denise Rico have both moved down to the middleweight division for a run at London and will make their national debut at the new weight class.

The 2009 USA Boxing National Champions gold medallist Alyssa DeFazio rounds out a strong group of former titlist.

One defending national champion has returned outside of the Olympic weight divisions with light welterweight titlist and 2010 Women's World Championships bronze medallist Cashmere Jackson looking to defend her crown in this year's event.

All three Olympic weight divisions will open action on Monday (June 20) for the preliminary bouts, with the athletes in the three female weight divisions needing to earn berths in Thursday's (June 23) semi-final action to clinch their spots in the US Olympic Team Trials for men's boxing.

Two sessions per day will be contested Monday to Wednesday with boxing at noon and 6pm prior to Thursday's lone semi-final session beginning at 2pm.

The consolation bouts in all of the weight divisions will be tested at 4pm on Friday (June 24) in the final action and the event will close with a bang as the competition moves to the historic city Auditorium and the women's non-Olympic bouts take place at 2pm and the 13 Olympic weight division contests will begin at 6pm.

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