U.S. Men’s Boxing Team hits all time low, while women earn two medals

Marlen Esparza of the United States (Blue) competes against Karlha Magliocco (Red) of Venezuela during the Women’s flyweight boxing quarterfinals on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL Arena, August 6, 2012. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

While the rest of the U. S. athletes are shining bright and winning all sorts of medals at this year’s Olympics, it appears the U. S. Men’s Boxing Team should have stayed home and watched the competition on TV. The 2012 London Olympic Games marks the first time the once great men’s amateur program has failed to bring home a single Olympic medal.

How is this possible? The U.S. came to the London Olympics with the largest contingent of male boxers of any country but not one of the ten boxers won a medal. For a country that has captured a record 48 boxing golds, 23 Silver and 38 Bronze by the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Oscar De La Hoya, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, there are many who say the USA Boxing Team has slipped big time.

The U.S. also had a horrible showing four years ago when they won just one medal, a bronze. The U. S. has now won just one gold medal in the last four Olympic Games, a light-heavyweight medal won by Andre Ward in 2004 at Athens.

The excuses given seem so lame, so unconvincing:

1) It’s because our best U. S. boxers rarely stay in the amateur ranks. They’re so impatient, they turn pro.

2) We haven’t been able to adapt to the new electronic scoring system. But, it’s the same for everyone.

3) Most of our boxers have been trained by professional coaches who emphasize an entirely different strategy. So therefore our team style is less suited for this amateur form of scoring.

4) Our preparation was poorly structured.

5) Since 2000, USA Boxing has employed four different National head coaches which has created an instability within the program.

6) The head coach of the U. S. Boxing Team, Basheer Abdullah, an Army officer who ran the U.S. Army’s boxing program for 15 years, was only appointed head coach a few weeks before the London Games began.

7) To further complicate matters, Abdullah was prohibited from being in his fighters’ corners or even at ringside because, having worked with professional boxers this year, he would have violated the amateur rules.

8) Anthony Bartkowski, the USA executive director for boxing, stated the U. S. Team had only recently introduced video analysis and sports science to their boxing program.

9) For many years, the USA Amateur Boxing program has been underfunded and trying to pay down a huge debt.

10) The 10th and final reason for no medals? According to a Florida Congressman who proposed a tax exemption bill for USA Olympians, this year’s Olympic athletes were troubled by paying the high taxes on the Gold medal and $25,000 bonus money. I suppose his next bill will have Congress wave the taxes on the bonus money given to the members of the winning Super Bowl team.    

Ernie Johnson, the well known trainer, owner of Old School Boxing and ex-boxer, passed along passages from an on-line article quoting the World Boxing Council President José Sulaimán.

“The WBC has called on the AIBA to immediately change their system of simply counting blows to decide amateur fights because that’s not boxing and undermines the different styles in the sport. It is not possible for a boxing match to be won by 7 to 3 when hundreds of blows connect and don’t count for anything.

“The WBC also protests the decision of Ireland’s John Joe Nevin over Mexican Oscar Valdez in the 2012 London Olympics stating that Valdez dropped Nevin with a hook to the liver and battered him from pillar to post only to lose the round 7-4. They say the Mexican Federation should have made a strong protest as did the U.S. and three other countries who had boxing results later changed on the desktop.”
And what about the Sales Pitch we were given?

But what about the ladies on the USA Olympic boxing team? It appears they did just fine.

The four remaining female boxers in the Flyweight division included (L to R, starting at the top) Marlen Esparza of the U. S., reigning world champion Ren Cancan of China, Nicola Adams of Great Britain and Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte of India. Photos: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

The four female middleweights entering the semi-final round included (l to r, top to bottom) Claressa Shields of the U. S., Nadezda Torlopova of Russia, Li Jinzi of the People’s Republic of China and Marina Volnoza of Kazahkstan. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

After Tuesday’s bouts, flyweight Marlen Esparza and middleweight Claressa Shields were on their way to the medal round after winning their bouts.

Esparza defeated Karlha Magliocco of Venezuela by a score of 24 to 16 in a fight with more action than most of the men’s bouts. Esparza astutely connected with left hooks despite having trouble with her headgear. She refused to get involved in a brawl and preferred to play it smart by moving in and out and using different angles.

On Wednesday, Esparza lost to the reigning world champion Ren Cancan of China. Even with the loss, she received a bronze medal.

For 17-year-old Claressa Shields of Flint, Michgan it was on to the finals. She beat Anna Laurell of Sweden, 18 to 14 in the quarterfinals and then took on Marina Volnoza of Kazahkstan, who beat the world champion and gold medal favorite Savannah Marshall of Great Britain. After defeating Volnoza, she got to box in the finals against Nadezda Torlopova of the Russia Federation.

The venue for women’s boxing, the ExCel Arena, was sold out for all the women’s bouts and the crowds have embraced women’s boxing with much enthusiasm. An Olympic official said the decibel level during the final bout of the day, pitting Irish world champion Katie Taylor against Great Britain’s Natasha Jonas, hit 113.7 decibels, the highest at the Games thus far. That would put it close to the 140-decibel roar of a jet engine.

Wednesday Update: 

Cancan Ren (R) of China celebrates her victory over Marlen Esparza of the United States after the Women’s Flyweight scores were announced on Day 12 of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Nadezda Torlopova (L) of Russia celebrates her victory against Jinzi Li of China during the Women’s Middleweight Boxing semifinals on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 8, 2012. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Claressa Shields celebrates her victory over Marina Volnova of Kazakhstan during the Women’s Middleweight semifinals on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Tomorrow she will face Nadezda Torlopova of Russia in the finals. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

As mentioned, on Wednesday flyweight Marlen Esparza of Houston, Texas lost a very close 10-8 bout to reigning World Champion Ren Cancan of China while her teammate Claressa Shields of Flint, Michigan won a dominant 29-15 victory over Marina Volnova of Kazakhstan.

Shields’ fight for gold on Thursday.

Claressa Shields (L) of the U. S. is backed up by Nadezda Torlopova (R) of Russia during the Women’s Middleweight Boxing final on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Claressa Shields (R) of the U. S. is shown clobbering Nadezda Torlopova (L) of Russia during their Women’s Middleweight match. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Referee Kheira Sidi Yakoub (C) raises the arm of Claressa Shields (R) of the U. S. after she defeated Nadezda Torlopova of Russia. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

(L-R) Silver medalist Nadezda Torlopova of Russia, gold medalist Claressa Shields of the U. S., bronze medalist Marina Volnova of Kazakhstan and bronze medalist Jinzi Li of China are on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women’s Middleweight Boxing final on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 9, 2012. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty

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