Women's boxing will make its Olympic debut this summer. 24 women at this week's U.S. trials in Airway Heights, Wash. (AP)

This summer in London, female boxers will compete for Olympic gold, silver, and bronze for the first time ever. The U.S. is holding its inaugural Olympic trials this week just outside of Spokane, Washington.

Greg Beacham of the Associated Press is there and joined Only A Game to discuss the tournament.

“You can feel a sense of redemption here this week, particularly among the veteran women’s coaches and the older athletes who competed in this sport long before they had any notion they could go to the Olympics at all,” Beacham said.

“Women boxers have won more Academy Awards than Olympic medals at this points. It’s Hilary Swank – 1, Everyone Else – 0,” he continued.

In a sport where professional men can go more than a year between fights, the women competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials are workhorses by comparison.

“It’s a very taxing, draining tournament. Even the ones that are undefeated still have fought almost every day,” Beacham said.

The additional challenge for veteran fighters is the decision to limit the sport to three weight classes for the London Olympics.

“This has been a bone of contention ever since the IOC finally added women’s boxing,” Beacham said. “There would only be fighters at 112, 132, and 165 pounds. In professional men’s boxing, the span is generally 5-8 pounds between weight classes. Marlen Esparza, the top flyweight was a 106-pound fighter for years, she had to gain 6 pounds to get to the 112-limit, while Christina Cruz fought at 119 pounds for years and years, and had to lose 7 pounds.”

The field at the trials isn’t limited to long-time fighters. One young boxer has upended the field.

“The star of the tournament has really been Claressa Shields. She’s a 16-year-old middleweight from Flint, Michigan, who only has been boxing on the international stage for less than a year, and she has taken everybody in this tournament by storm.”

Three fighters will advance to the world championships in China in May. That tournament will determine the final field for the games in London this summer.