SBD/August 8, 2012/Olympics

USA Boxing Hits Low Point At London Games With No Men's Medals For First Time

The U.S. qualified in 12 of 13 weight classes, yet failed to medal in any matches
What has been "a slow death over the past 20 years for U.S. Olympic boxing could result in expiration" at the London Games, as no U.S. boxer will medal for the first time ever, according to Michael Wilbon of ESPN.com. The program that produced 108 Olympic medalists, including 48 Gold Medal winners, is "now a dysfunctional embarrassment," as there has been just "one gold medal in the past three Olympic competitions and one medal at the most recent world championship." USA Boxing officials "gave a stiff-arm to proven trainers" like Freddie Roach and "locked out the boxers' individual trainers to make the Olympians work with only the Olympic coach, Basheer Abdullah." While Abdullah "has been a coach with this team as an assistant or head coach" since the '00 Sydney Games, he was not named head coach of this team until June 30. On top of that, Abdullah "can't even be in the fighters' corner during the fights" due to an Olympic rule prohibiting any coach who has previously worked with a pro boxer from being in the corner during bouts. A source close to the USA Boxing trainers said, "The whole USA Boxing needs fumigation" (ESPN.com, 8/7). U.S. assistant boxing coach Charles Leverette said that it is "time for the men to go back to the beginning." Leverette: "Our foundation has kind of crumbled a little bit. We've got to go back, rebuild. It's rough, but there's nothing that can't be rebuilt." In L.A., Kevin Baxter notes the U.S. men's boxing coaching staff "wasn't in place until six weeks before" the start of the London Games. Leverette: "Watching these kids work hard and try to achieve this goal, I just don't think they had enough time. ... We've got to do something different than we've been doing. The last-minute thing, it's not working" (L.A. TIMES, 8/8). 

WAYS TO GET BACK: SI.com's Chris Mannix wrote the first "medal-less Olympics in U.S. men's boxing history completed the bottoming out of a once-elite program." Fixing USA Boxing "won't be easy, but there are a few simple places to start." The steps include selecting a coach, incorporate fighters' personal coaches, participate in more global events and embracing former Olympians. But as USA Boxing "sinks to its nadir, there are reasons to be optimistic." For one, fiscal responsibility "has been restored." USA Boxing Exec Dir Anthony Bartkowski in '10 "inherited a program that had a $1.8 million deficit the year before." That deficit in '11 "was reduced to $313,000 and by the end of this year Bartkowski hopes to have it under six figures." Despite being "shut out of a medal, the U.S. qualified in 12 of the 13 weight classes, more than any other country" (SI.com, 8/7).

BEACH BUMMED? In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes, "The Olympic flame is eternal, but the world of sports now changes so fast, you're either trending or dead." On the night boxing in America "got knocked to the canvas and counted out as irrelevant," Leverette said that he was going to "go home, turn on the TV and watch beach volleyball." Leverette: "It's all about the ratings. It's a TV world" (DENVER POST, 8/8).
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