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Beijing Olympic Boxing: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (2)
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09:05, September 01, 2008

The Bad

The Fall Of A Mighty Empire

Gone are the days when the U.S. built its mighty empire upon the boxing immortality by winning five gold medals on the land of Montreal 42 years ago.

Gone are the days when the king of the world completely dominated the ring by harvesting twelve medals, ten of which gold, in 1984 and eight shiny pieces of hardware four years after in Seoul.

Coming back from Beijing with no golds and no silvers, only one bronze, the team, billed as "the best U.S. Olympic Boxing Team since 1984", is not one of, but the worst in U.S. Olympic boxing history ever, as far as the end result goes. The 1948 team also won only one medal, but at least it was a silver.

First, it was the bantamweight Gary Russell Jr., one of the team's top medal contenders who collapsed and withdrew even before the Games had started.

It was reported that the former World Championships bronze medalist lost consciousness in his Olympic Village dormitory hours before missing the Olympic weigh-in, but Russell's father and personal coach Gary Russell Sr. told me here in Beijing that his son dropped out of the Olympics not because of the alleged weight problems, not because of dehydration, but because of some other unannounced reasons.

"Gary was treated with fluids by doctors at his dorm but was not hospitalized," Russell's father said.

The next big hopeful for the Olympic gold in the U.S. team to follow in Russell's footsteps is the flyweight world champion Rau'shee Warren.

Warren, the first U.S. boxer to compete in successive Olympics in more than 30 years, was eliminated in the first round after losing a razor-thin 8-9 decision against his old foe - the 2005 World Championships gold medalist South Korean Oksung Lee.

The last American world champion Demetrius Andrade also fell in the hands of a South Korean Jungjoo Kim, who went on to secure a bronze medal, in the quarterfinals. The 20-year-old prospect walked out of the ring even before the referee raised the winner's hand.

It was heavyweight Deontay Wilder, virtually an after-thought U.S. medal hopeful and the one with the least boxing experiences on the U.S. contingent, brought home with the United States' only hardware - a bronze.

He booked the only hardware for the former Mighty Empire with a 10-10 controversial tiebreaker victory over Morocco's Mohammed Arjaoui in the quarterfinals before losing his sluggish bout 1-7 to Russian Clemente Russo.

When I asked USA Olympic Defensive Boxing Coach Willy Price his feeling about Wilder's last outing in Beijing, the veteran handler said: "The guy (Clemente Russo) liked to hold and hug that made Wilder unable to take advantage of his long arms. With less than three years boxing experience, he (Wilder) brought home an Olympic bronze medal. Well, I think that's quite an accomplishment."

Commenting on the U.S. boxing team's performance, Willy Price said with a rueful tone: "I had a higher expectation coming here. My expectation is that we're going to take home with a bunch of medals...We've gotta talk about it."

He went on to say: "I think every coach's relation with the athletes is just like the father and sons. We shouldn't take anything away from any athlete (in regard to) how hard they trained, especially within the last couple of years."

I reckon that the 2008 Olympic U.S. Boxing Team consists of the most talented boxers from all over the United States of America, and the amateur scoring system is not a major factor to their terrible performance because it applies to every boxer who gets involved and the U.S. team did well enough with the international style to grab two golds and managed to dispatch three other boxers into the quarterfinals at last year's World Amateur Boxing Championships.

The Americans have the best traditions passed down from such greats as Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali), Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya, among others, and the best gyms, the finest nutrition coaches and the most gifted young prospects, why did they have a nightmare performance this time?

Forget about all the excuses - controversies, quirky scoring system, the dreadful amateur boxing styles...

Since the Golden Boy crowned his golden title in Barcelona 1992, the Mighty Empire has went into a major decline in the amateur boxing stage, grappling six medals in Atlanta 1996, four in Sydney 2000, three in Athens 2004 and one in Beijing at the freshly-concluded Olympic boxing tournament.

I believe the steady decline of U.S. amateur boxing should not be attributed to some particular coaches or boxers, but the entire U.S. amateur boxing program.

The USA Boxing needs to take a few more rounds to reexamine the system. Hopefully, heading into London, they would redeem themselves and restore their past golden glory.

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1 China 51 21 28 100
2 USA 36 38 36 110
3 Russia 23 21 28 72
4 Great Britain 19 13 15 47
5 Germany 16 10 15 41
6 Australia 14 15 17 46
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