London 2012: Rau'shee Warren, USA Boxing's Crisis and More Olympic Impressions

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London 2012: Rau'shee Warren, USA Boxing's Crisis and More Olympic Impressions
Image courtesy of washingtonpost.com

The United States men’s boxing team got a much-needed boost when welterweight Errol Spence was reinstated into the Olympic boxing tournament after a ridiculous initial points defeat to Vikas Krishan of India, the 2011 World Championships bronze medalist.

The U.S. is undoubtedly ecstatic with Spence’s reinstatement as it temporarily prevents the 2012 boxing squad from going down in infamy as the least successful American team in Olympic history.

Spence still has an uphill battle to match Deontay Wilder’s lone bronze medal from 2008, but his quality performance in difficult circumstances against Krishan leaves room for hope.

According to fightnews.com, Krishan committed nine holding fouls in the third round alone, though the referee, shockingly, only gave one caution. Furthermore, at 2:38 of the second round, Krishan intentionally spat out his mouthpiece but was given no warning.

Based on these infractions, the U.S.’s appeal was successful, and the AIBA, according to the above-cited article, declared that the referee should have given at least two warnings to Krishan for holding, which resulted in awarding Spence four points upon review.

The referee’s sightline was interrupted as Krishan spat out his mouthpiece, but it is encouraging to see that justice was served as Spence’s original 13-11 points loss was overturned into a 15-13 victory.

While this is positive news for a reeling U.S. boxing team, the fact that an overturned result is, at the moment, the greatest cause for celebration certainly speaks to how the program has fallen from its once-untouchable perch.

For more information on Spence’s reinstatement, including information from an AIBA email, see Ralph Longo’s article.

 

Third Time is Not a Charm for Rau’shee Warren

You have to feel for American flyweight Rau’shee Warren. After eschewing professional money and a likely sweet promotional deal to turn professional after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Warren made history when he became the first American boxer to make three consecutive Olympic teams.

As the captain and third-seeded flyweight for the 2012 squad in London, everything seemed to be aligning properly for the 25-year-old Warren to make a deep tournament run.

After winning bronze at the 2011 World Championships, it seemed assured, at the very least, that Warren would not lose his first Olympic bout for the third consecutive Games.

Alas, Warren suffered heartbreak again, losing 19-18 to Nordine Oubaali of France in the round of 16 after receiving a first round bye.

Naturally, Warren was displeased with the result, and according to USA Today, “[…] Warren said he thought he won the fight, questioned the judging and said his contacts fell out—making Oubaali ‘blurry’ at times. But he also conceded that he made tactical errors in a bout that saw Oubaali fight with much more aggression and accuracy.”

Clearly, Warren was more philosophical than when he broke down after being upset in the first round in Beijing, and the fact that he ends his Olympic career at 0-3 is no reflection of the quality amateur he was and how he served as a tremendous ambassador for USA Boxing.

Paul Thomas/Getty Images
Rau'shee Warren had high hopes heading into London.

As Warren ends his amateur career by again bowing out in his first Olympic bout, fans should remember him as the boxer who won the World Amateur Championships in 2007 and the man who became the first three-time Olympian in American boxing history.

Despite his Olympic results, USA Boxing would be in much better shape if it had more athletes like Rau’shee Warren.

Given the class and commitment Warren has shown to his country and to USA Boxing, it is fitting to close this section with his words from the above-cited article:

“This ain't the end of Rau'shee Warren […] My journey will continue. … It ain't really no setback for me. I've still got a lot of stuff planned ahead. I'm going to put this behind me, learn from it."

 

The U.S.’s Disappointment

With captain and three-time Olympian Rau’shee Warren again succumbing in his first bout and welterweight Errol Spence being reinstated into the Olympic tournament and now standing as the U.S.’s lone medal hope, it has certainly been a whirlwind few days for USA Boxing.

After a promising start to the Olympic tournament, the men’s boxing team has hit close to rock bottom. Other than welterweight Errol Spence, here are the U.S. Olympic boxing team’s final results:

Rau’shee Warren (flyweight): 19-18 loss vs. Oubaali (France)—Round of 16.

Joseph Diaz (bantamweight): 21-15 loss vs. Alvarez (Cuba)—Round of 16.

Jose Ramirez (lightweight): 15-11 loss vs. Gaibnazarov (Uzbekistan)—Round of 16.

Jamel Herring (light welterweight): 19-9 loss vs. Yeleussinov (Ukraine)—Round of 32.

Terrell Gausha (middleweight): 15-14 loss vs. Singh (India)—Round of 16.

Marcus Browne (light heavyweight): 13-11 loss vs. Hooper (Australia)—Round of 32.

Michael Hunter (heavyweight): 10-10 vs. Beterbiyev (Russia)—Round of 16.

Dominic Breazeale (super heavyweight): 19-8 loss vs. Omarov (Russia)—Round of 16.

Upon examining the results, the U.S. lost five of their bouts by four points or less. While this does indicate the Americans were highly competitive in all of their fights—with the exceptions of Herring and Breazeale, who lost by wider margins—the fact that Errol Spence will be the only American to make the quarterfinals is a devastating setback for the program.

Warren’s failure to make the quarterfinals is especially deflating, but the fact that Ramirez and Browne didn’t advance further is also surprising.

As for the big men, Hunter was clearly competitive in his opening bout and drew the short end of the stick, and Breazeale gets a pass because he only started boxing in 2008 after his career as a college football quarterback ended.

Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Controversy loomed large for the U.S.

Similarly, Herring (USMC) put up a brave performance in his opening bout was simply overmatched.

Finally, Joseph Diaz deserves credit for his flashy first-round win, and the fact that he lost to reigning World Champion Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba in the second round takes nothing away from his world-class Olympic performances.

So, the hopes of USA Boxing are now squarely on the shoulders of Dallas’ Errol Spence, a three-time national champion who qualified for London 2012 at the 2011 World Championships.

Given Spence’s pedigree and stock as a professional prospect, expect him to contend for a medal.

While Spence surely understands that a loss in his next bout would relegate the 2012 boxing team into the annals of infamy as the least successful squad in American Olympic history, expect him to use his lifeline to make his country proud (as all the other boxers have in their own ways).

 

Great Britain’s Success

In stark contrast to the U.S.’s disappointments in the 2012 Olympic tournament, hosts Great Britain have enjoyed a hot start.

The seven-man squad has thus far gone 9-1 over the first two rounds of competition, and only lightweight Josh Taylor has been eliminated after losing in the round of 16.

Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Anthony Joshua of Great Britain.

Six British fighters will vie for a spot in the quarterfinals, and flyweight Andrew Selby, bantamweight Luke Campbell, light welterweight Tom Stalker and super heavyweight Anthony Joshua, all of whom won medals at the 2011 World Championships, look to be medal favorites.

Furthermore, skilled welterweight Fred Evans and middleweight Anthony Ogogo should not be counted out, especially Ogogo who has produced both class and high drama thus far.

The hosts of London 2012 won three medals in 2008, and they seemed poised this year to add at least one or two more. Should Great Britain double their medal count from 2008, which isn’t out of the question, expect even more British boxers to soon make noise in the professional ranks. 

 

Oh, Canada!

As a Canadian, when it comes to sports other than hockey (and a few others), I’ve learned to relish success in all its forms.

With regards to amateur boxing, Canada has had quality fighters go on to have successful professional careers, and the likes of Lennox Lewis, Shawn O’Sullivan, Egerton Marcus and Willie DeWit have all won Olympic medals.

Still, entering London 2012, Canada had not won an Olympic boxing match in eight years. The drought, however, ended quickly as welterweight Custio Clayton upset Mexican Oscar Molina 12-8 in the round of 32. Clayton then rode this momentum to a round of 16 victory over Australian Cameron Hammond by a score of 14-11.

Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Custio Clayton wins his round of 16 bout.

Clayton will fight Great Britain’s Fred Evans in the quarterfinals of what should be a cracking bout in front of a raucous crowd at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre. Clayton is the first Canadian to reach the quarterfinals in 16 years, and the six-time Canadian Champion, with his strong frame and powerful fighting style, needs only one more win to secure Canada its first boxing medal since 1996.

Not to be outdone, super heavyweight Simon Kean won his round of 16 bout over France’s Tony Yoka, rallying to win a razor-close decision after falling behind early.

Kean snuck into the Olympics at the 2012 American Boxing Olympic Qualifying Tournament (he nabbed the last spot), and his first round win was a tremendous result. His next bout is against 2011 World Championship bronze medalist Ivan Dychko of Kazakhstan.

Even if Clayton and Kean lose their next bouts, this will have been a successful Olympics for Canadian boxing. So far, the two-man Canadian team has won three bouts—only two fewer than the nine-man American squad (sorry, I had to). 

Oh, and if one factors in the collective boxing team, Canada has Mary Spencer—the nation’s most talented boxer and three-time World Champion—to look forward to. 

 

Update on Five Boxers to Watch at the Olympics

I recently posted an article on five boxers who will make a name for themselves at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As the Olympic boxing tournament gets set to move towards the quarterfinals, let’s check in with the budding stars and see how they’ve fared.

Vasyl Lomachenko: A defending gold medalist and 2008 winner of the Val Barker Trophy as the most outstanding boxer of the Beijing Olympics, Vasyl Lomachenko is the best professional prospect fighting in the London Olympics. After receiving a first-round bye, Lomachenko outclassed Wellington Arias of the Dominican Republic 15-3 in the Round of 16. Lomachenko’s quarterfinal fight will be against Felix Verdejo of Puerto Rico.

Zou Shiming: Light flyweight Zou Shiming won his round of 16 bout against Cuban Yosbany Veitia 14-11 (Zou was awarded a first round bye). A two-time Olympic medalist and defending champion, Zou is set to turn professional after London 2012, but before thinking about professional belts, he will contest his quarterfinal match of these Olympics against Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov.

Rau’shee Warren: Warren lost 19-18 against Nordine Oubaali of France in the round of 16. As stated above, losing in his first fight for the third consecutive Olympics is heartbreaking, but Warren can exit the amateurs with pride as the only man to make three U.S. Olympic teams. His professional debut will be highly anticipated.

Lazaro Alvarez: The 2011 World Champion at bantamweight got his Olympic campaign off to a solid start as he defeated tough American Joseph Diaz via 21-15 decision in the round of 16 (Alvarez got a bye). Alvarez, with his skills and speed, could be a breakout star from London 2012, and his next bout will be against Brazilian Robenilson Vieria.

Anthony Joshua: Joshua has become a force since winning a stunning super heavyweight silver medal at the 2011 World Championships. In one of the most anticipated opening round bouts of the Olympic tournament, Joshua won a 17-16 decision over Erislandy Savon—the nephew of Cuban legend Felix Savon—to advance to the quarterfinals where he will face China’s Zhang Zhilei.

As the medal rounds approach, tantalizing match-ups are materializing as the boxing tournament truly kicks into high gear. Don’t miss it.

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