Monday, December 24, 2012
What's Wrong With USA Olympic Boxing?
That got me thinking about the recently conducted Summer Olympic Games and US boxing in general.
I wondered what's happened to the US in the sport and stumbled across this interesting Bleacher Report article from August 1 discussing the topic.
One of the things I have been disappointed about when I've watched the Summer Olympics over the last decade and a half is the boxing team. I've probably been spoiled by watching the dominating performances of the 1976 and 1984 US Olympic boxing teams and the knowledge that our great heavyweight champs such as Floyd Patterson (1952), Muhammad Ali (1960), Joe Frazier (1964) and George Foreman (1968) were Olympic champions. Oscar De La Hoya (1992), David Reid (1996) and Andre Ward (2004) were also golden boys before winning titles in the professional ranks as well.
The 2012 London Games was one which will live in US Olympic infamy because the men produced ZERO medals. It was the women that upheld the proud USA boxing tradition.
Women's boxing was added to the Olympic competition program this year, and they produced the only US boxing medals of the London Games thanks to 17 year old Claressa Shields golden win and my fellow Houstonian Marlen Esparza winning a bronze medal in her weight class.
I've noted that since the 1988 Games and the implementation of a computerized scoring system to prevent people from getting victimized by questionable judging decisions has the consequence of encouraging what Teddy Atlas calls a 'fencing with gloves' style counterintuitive to the way Americans are taught to box, the teams haven't been as good.
Maybe that's part of a drop off in talent, or what I suspect is the fallout from talented boxers like Roy Jones, Jr and Michael Carbajal in Seoul and Floyd Mayweather, Jr had happen in Atlanta in terms of being screwed by international boxing officials during those Olympic tournaments..
There's less incentive for a talented US boxer to bust their behinds and slog through the amateur and international ranks for a chance at a Olympic gold medal if they are going to get screwed out of it by shady officiating.
Boxing has traditionally been seen as a way out of the 'hoods and barrios, and I believe another problem with US boxing besides the disorganization at the top and the closing of many of those neighborhood gyms that trained kids is there's not as much emphasis on the Golden Gloves youth tournaments that develop our amateur boxers and potential Olympic champions.
During the 70's and 80's I couldn't turn on the TV locally in Houston without seeing a public service commercial for the Progressive Amateur Boxing Association with its tagline of 'A kid can't open a knife or fire a gun with boxing gloves on'. PABA boxers were highly competitive in local and Texas Golden Gloves competition which added to its appeal.
And speaking of TV, yanking regular boxing matches off of network TV so that greedy boxing promoters could put them on pay-per- view cable also wasn't a wise move either. You draw talent and interest to your sport by televising it, not restricting the number of people that can see it. It's a contributing factor in why boxing is less relevant now and you have upstarts like MMA (mixed martial arts) and UFC bouts drawing huge ratings, growing international popularity and possible future Olympic medal status.
That breakdown in the US boxing developmental system is combined with some of our better athletes in the 'hoods focusing on other sports such as football and basketball and the rise of the Cubans as international boxing powers.
Granted, the USA with 49 gold medals and 110 medals all time is far and away the all-time Olympic competition medal leader but the Cubans with 34 golds and 67 total medals are number two, have a proud tradition of their own with three time Olympic champions Teofilo Stevenson (1972, 1976, 1980) and Felix Savon (1992, 1996, 2000) and probably would have caught the USA in total medals by now had Cuba not boycotted the 1984 and 1988 games.
But there is some serious soul searching, self examination and reorganization that needs to happen at USA Boxing if our once proud program is going to get back to the business of putting our young men and now women in the best possible position of competing for and winning international championships and Olympic medals.