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London 2012 Olympics: Team USA Boxing Preview and Profiles

Team USA boxing captain Jamel Herring and top medal hope Rau'shee Warren hope to lead a resurgence at this year's Olympic games. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Team USA boxing captain Jamel Herring and top medal hope Rau'shee Warren hope to lead a resurgence at this year's Olympic games. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
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Matt Mosley returns today with a look at Team USA's chances in the upcoming Olympics, starting next Saturday. Can the Americans fare better in London than in Beijing four years ago?

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American amateur boxing fans haven't had all that much to cheer about over the last decade or two, but at the very least I expect to see an improvement this summer on what happened in Beijing four years ago, when the U.S. came away with just one bronze medal.

At best what we may see is a mini-resurgence and an emergence of some new, young talent, and possible future professional stars, along with one or two wiser, more experienced heads who might finally get to realize their dreams.

This is the Olympics though, the best of the best in amateur boxing and there's no getting around the fact that this is going to be very tough for Team USA.

All that great history is weighing on their shoulders. Are this group of fighter's good enough to restore some pride in U.S Olympic boxing?

Many would say no, but I am writing this preview with a positive attitude. I think they have a few fighters who could be there at the end when the medals are handed out.

As I have mentioned before, the AIBA rankings should not be taken too seriously when judging talent. Often the very top fighters are ranked appropriately (though certainly not always) but it is a points based system so it's far from infallible. For example, England's Anthony Joshua won the silver medal at last year's World Championships, yet was ranked No. 46 going into the tournament.

To quote Daniel Herbert of Boxing News:

"A mediocre boxer who competes at many events, but loses early at all of them, will compile more points than a talent who wins a major championships medal but then misses tournaments through injury, or changes division, etc."

The main problem for most of the U.S team here is that the AIBA rankings are used as the basis for seeding at the Olympics, so if you are ranked low or not ranked at all it's more likely you will run into a tough opponent sooner rather than later.

Here's a look at the squad and what I think of their chances.

Breazale_d_boxing120x187_medium Dominic Breazeale
26, Super Heavyweight - over 201lbs/91kgs

A former quarterback at the University of Northern Colorado, Breazeale has been boxing for only four years or so but has made it to the Games by winning the 2012 US National Championships, which then earned him the right to compete in May's final Olympic qualifying event for continental American fighters, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he took the silver medal. The top three medal places in that tournament earned qualification.

He's 6'6" and 255lbs, so is not lacking in size, and he also has a big punch, but he will be short on experience at this elite level in what is a strong weight class.

AIBA world ranking: Unranked.

Prediction: Early rounds exit.

Michael Hunter
24, Heavyweight - 201lbs/91kgs limit

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Son of the late Mike 'The Bounty' Hunter, a former pro heavyweight contender who peaked in the 1990's, beating the likes of Tyrell Briggs, Oliver McCall, Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Pinklon Thomas, Hunter Jr is a three time National Champion (twice at Super Heavyweight and once at Heavyweight).

He relies on speed, reflexes and defence but can also punch a bit when he wants to. However, when brought in as a consultant to the U.S. team, the word pro trainer Freddie Roach used to describe Hunter as was 'lazy'. He failed to qualify for last year's World Championships.

In the few video clips that I have seen of Hunter, I can't say that I have been overly impressed. However, they were in the super heavyweight division. His build is definitely more suited to heavyweight.

With the likes of current World Champion Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine, 2009 World Champion Artur Beterbiev of Russia, AIBA world No. 1 Teymur Mamadov of Azerbaijhan, Xuanxuan Wang of China and the Italian, Clemente Russo all in his division, I think he is really up against it.

AIBA ranking: Unranked.

Prediction: Quarter finals at best.

Marcus Browne
21, Light Heavyweight - 78lbs/81kgs

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

This tall (6'2") southpaw is the 2012 National Champion and three time NYC Golden Gloves winner. He is also the No. 1 rated light-heavyweight in the US and qualified for the Games at the Rio tournament. He started off well in last year's World Championships, KOing his first round opponent, but went out in the third round to Russia's Egor Mekhontsev (14 points to 6).

World Champion Julio Cesar de la Cruz of Cuba, Damien Hooper of Australia and the aforementioned Mekhontsev will be waiting for him in London and it's going to be tough for sure, but Browne has youth on his side and could improve on his World's showing by possibly getting into the medals in what does not seem as deep a division as some.

AIBA ranking: Unranked.

Prediction: Quarter finals.

Gausha_20t_bx_120x187_medium Terrell Gausha
24, Middleweight -165lbs/75kgs

Gausha qualified for London by winning gold in the Rio tournament, beating a Dominican in the final, and he is quite highly regarded by some who think he is capable of making it onto the podium at these Games. From the footage I have seen of him, he looks like he can crack a bit and may be looking to get his opponents out of there whenever possible. He is also not short on skills.

A two time National Champ and five time Cleveland Golden Gloves winner, he could be a live underdog in what is seemingly a fairly open division.

The two major threats come from Ukraine's World Champion Evhen Khytrov and Japan's Ryoto Murata.

AIBA ranking: Unranked.

Prediction: Quarter finals.

Errol Spence
22, Welterweight - 152lbs/69kgs

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Pushed into the sport by his father, the initially unwilling Spence has gone on to win three consecutive U.S. National titles in his first five years as an amateur and, outside of Rau'shee Warren, this powerful puncher is one of the best medal hopes for the U.S.

At last year's World's, he lost at the quarter final stage (by a score of 20-10) to the excellent, two time former World Champion (at light welterweight) Serik Sapiev of Kazakhstan, who would go on to lose a debatable decision in the final to the Ukrainian Taras Shelestyuk. Reaching the quarter finals is the minimum requirement at the World's to qualify for the Olympics, so Spence avoided the stresses of having to endure more qualifying tournaments.

Personally, I thought Sapiev should have won the gold in the final with Shelestyuk, and he is clearly one of the best amateurs in the world at any weight, so Spence will gain a lot from the experience of having faced him at a major tournament.

As far as I can see the toughest challenges will come from the two men mentioned above and also Wales' Freddie Evans, who will be fighting on home turf, but I think Spence is capable of making it onto the podium. He has had solid preparation for London, beating Russia's 2009 World Championships silver medalist Andrey Zamkovoy at a tournament in March of this year.

AIBA ranking - No. 19 out of 40.

Prediction: Bronze medal.

Jamel Herring
26, Light Welterweight - 141lbs/64kgs

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Team USA captain and a former U.S. Marine who served two tours of Iraq in 2005 and 2007, Herring won the silver medal at the World Military Games and took the gold at both the 2011 and 2012 Armed Forces Championships. He qualified through the Rio tournament after winning gold at the U.S Olympic Trials but he is seemingly unproven at the highest international level.

AIBA ranking: Unranked.

Prediction: Early rounds exit.

Jose Ramirez
19, Lightweight - 132lbs/60kgs

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

A highly regarded amateur in his home country, having amassed 143 career wins and 11 national titles, Ramirez ran into the current world's best amateur Vasyl Lomachenko in the second round at last year's World's and was beaten by a score of 16-9. Some thought the score should have been closer and others (mainly his team mates) even thought Ramirez deserved the win.

I watched that fight recently on YouTube and Ramirez did start well, but then it looked like he was dropped by a good shot in the first round, though the referee didn't administer a count. Ramirez continued to box well, was very busy, and landed some good shots to body and head as he aggressively stalked Lomachenko in round two, but I thought overall the better quality punches came from Lomachenko, mainly on the counter, and his impressive defence also made Ramirez miss quite a lot.

Ramirez looked good in that fight though, especially considering the opponent, and had it been scored with professional judges (and take out the fact that it looked like Lomachenko dropped him) there would definitely a case for Ramirez winning the fight. His aggression and pressure alone made it look like he was holding his own in there.

There's certainly no shame in losing to the man who would go on to win the gold at that event, and who also won the Val Barker Trophy for best boxer at the last Olympics, and I would not count Jose out should they meet again in London.

Ramirez has a tidy style, with his hands held high and he picks his shots well, to both head and body. As mentioned, he brings the pressure too and he is quite accurate with his punches.

Aside from Lomachenko, other danger men in this division are former World Champion Domenico Valentino of Italy and Yasniel Toledo of Cuba.

As always, seeding and the luck of the draw plays a role in avoiding the big names early on, and if he can do that, Ramirez might just get into the medals. The youngster may also spring a surprise or two.

AIBA ranking: Unranked.

Prediction: Bronze medal. If he was not in such a tough division I would say he could do even better.

Joseph Diaz
19, Bantamweight - 123lbs/56kgs

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Similarly to Ramirez, the baby-faced Diaz also somewhat unluckily ran into the man who would go on to win the gold in his division at last year's World's, this time in the form of Cuba's talented Lazaro Alvarez, though he did manage to get slightly further than Ramirez did, going out at the quarter final stage by a score of 19-10. To get to that stage he beat the Thai, Worapoj Petchkoom, a 2004 Olympic bronze medallist, and the Mexican, Oscar Valdez, a 2009 World Amateur Championship's bronze medal winner, so Diaz has shown that he can clearly mix with wthe world's best in his weight class, despite not yet being out of his teenage years. Before those World champioships last September/October he had very little international experience.

I have a feeling he is another one who could pull off an upset or two and make it into the later stages. Outside of Alvarez his main competition comes from England's Luke Campbell (who lost to Alvarez 14-10 in the World's final), Ireland's John Joe Nevin, and Anvar Yunusov of Tajikistan.

AIBA ranking: No. 12 of 27.

Prediction: Bronze medal.

Rau'shee Warren
25, Flyweight - 114lbs/52kgs

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

By far the most experienced (and successful) boxer on the U.S. squad, Warren is a former World Champion (2007) and this year he will become the first American to make it to three Olympic Games, having debuted in 2004 when only 17. He's seen it all before and though he was eliminated in the first round in his previous two attempts, he will be more determined than ever to bring back the gold medal before hopefully turning pro.

In all fairness to Warren, at the 2004 Games he ran into the great Shiming Zou of China and in 2008 he somewhat foolishly listened to his friends and club coach in the crowd who told him he was ahead, only to coast his way through the last round and lose by one point.

A fast, talented fighter, he is a four time National Champion and won the bronze at last year's World's, losing to eventual gold medal winner Misha Aloyan of Russia by a close score of 17-13 in the semi final.

I would really like to see it all fall into place for Warren after all the hard work he has put in and I certainly see him right there with the favourites for gold in this division, which is one of the strongest in amateur boxing.

His main concerns come in the form of the aforementioned Aloyan and AIBA world No. 1 Andrew Selby of Wales, who pushed the Russian to the very limit at the World's (losing 13-12 in the final) and will also be fighting on home turf.

AIBA ranking: No. 7 of 35.

Prediction: At best he can get the gold, at worst the bronze, in my opinion. Much depends on how the draw pans out, and if Selby and Aloyan happen to meet before the final, all the better for Warren.


As usual, expect there to be some decisions that you don't agree with, and possibly even one or two outright (or maybe perceived) robberies during this tournament. That's amateur boxing for you, where body shots rarely register on the judges scorecard (though can obviously still have the intended effect on the opposing fighter), and jabs often don't either.

If one fighter lands a hundred jabs and one solid shot, and the other guy lands three or four solid shots, unless the former has the jab of Sonny Liston, expect the latter to take the round.

Only solid shots landed to legal areas with the knuckle part of the glove count, but even then at least three of the five judges have to press a button within one second of each other for the fighter to gain one point.

It's not a great system, and is being dropped in favor of three judges, pro style, for the next Games in four years, but those hoping for glory in London have to learn to deal with it for the time being.

Ranking the Fighters

Here is how I rate the chances of the fighters in this team to medal:

1/ Rau'shee Warren
2/ Jose Ramirez
3/ Errol Spence
4/ Joseph Diaz
5/ Terrell Gausha
6/ Marcus Browne
7/ Michael Hunter
8/ Jamel Herring
9/ Dominic Breazeale

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