As was noted in the Round of 32 Recap posted just four days ago (the Olympics move fast - keep up or GET OUT!), Team USA boxing was having a better early showing in London than had been the result four years ago in Beijing.
But they did end that round losing their final two bouts, as light welterweight Jamel Herring and light heavyweight Marcus Browne came up short at the end, following a 4-0 start. 4-2, as I said then, wasn't amazing, and there still didn't appear to be any serious gold medal hopes, at least not to my eye. But there were certainly some hopes that maybe the team could do better than in '08, when only Deontay Wilder managed so much as a bronze medal.
That won't be the case, however. In the round of 16, still the "preliminary rounds" of Olympic competition, Team USA collapsed. The wheels just fell right off the bandwagon, and there wasn't anything we could do, for the most part, but watch it all fall down.
It started on Wednesday morning, when bantamweight Joseph Diaz Jr faced top-seeded Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba. It was a spirited affair, but one that Diaz lost, 21-15. The young man, who was arguably the most exciting of the American fighters, decided immediately after the fight that he'd be turning pro. It's a good decision by him. More on that in a few moments.
Following Diaz, heavyweight Michael Hunter Jr was eliminated on countback in a dreadful fight against Russia's Artur Beterbiev. That same morning, a third American went down, as inexperienced super heavyweight Dominic Breazeale -- a former quarterback at Northern Colorado -- was thoroughly outclassed by Russia's Magomed Omarov, who is a legit threat in the division.
That made it five. But the hits just kept on coming. On Thursday afternoon, two more Americans fell, as lightweight Jose Ramirez was outboxed by Faizliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan, and middleweight Terrell Gausha lost an incredibly tough decision, 16-15, to India's Vijender Singh, a bronze medalist in Beijing. Gausha had an argument to win his fight. The rest, if you're not trying to apply professional scoring to an Olympic bout, did not.
Friday was the worst. Down to just two remaining fighters, Team USA's backs were against the wall. First up was flyweight Rau'Shee Warren, a co-captain, third-time Olympian, and the only member of the squad to receive a seeded position, and thus a first round bye.
When we saw Warren's opponent, Nordine Oubaali of France, in the round of 32, I said then that Rau'Shee wouldn't have it easy. The Cincinnati native jumped out to a 9-6 lead after the first round, but then it painfully went sour on him. As Oubaali rose to the occasion and increased his firepower the next two rounds, Warren crumbled. And when the final, 19-18 score was read, Warren's dreams were crushed. For a third straight Olympics, he was one-and-done.
An hour later, it was all over. Welterweight Errol Spence lost to India's Krishan Vikas, 13-11, in a decision that outraged pretty much everybody. I have been doing updates here and on the Twitter account, where my timeline is filled with media, fighters, people in the business, and a lot of other folks from all over the world. Nobody thought Vikas, who was beaten around in the third round especially, deserved to win the fight. Somehow, the judges managed to given even the third round to Vikas.
There it was: Team USA, after a 4-0 start, rattled off nine straight losses to become, by results, the single worst American Olympic boxing team of all-time. By results, they had made even the highly-criticized Beijing squad look good. Forget medals. No one had even made it to the quarterfinals.
But Team USA protested, and the decision was reversed, giving the U.S. squad new life. Errol Spence is all we've got left. Everything rides on him. A few countries -- Nicaragua, Montenegro, Trinidad and Tobago, the Philippines, for example -- only sent one fighter to the games. And with no disrespect meant to those countries, right now, going into the quarterfinals -- not the medal round or anything! -- Team USA boxing supporters know how that feels. And being Team USA, it seems unthinkable, with our size, our many young boxers, and our past glory, that we're on that level.
It is insane that we've let our amateur program slip this far. And if the embarrassment of Beijing wasn't enough to actually right the ship, why does anyone think that things will change after London?
If anything, this is now two Olympics -- spanning eight years -- where young amateur fighters have seen that Team USA frankly can't compete anymore. Who would sign up for this, work so hard for four years to get a shot, only to be in a program that can't support the effort?
I am not down on our fighters. They're the thing least wrong with this system. A few of these guys are going to have good pro careers, a couple of them might have really good pro careers.
Following Beijing, we heard that Team USA boxing would come back with a vengeance in 2012. Freddie Roach was supposedly hired as a trainer, but wound up seeming more like a mascot. Other notable names passed in and out of the supposed ranks of the program, and in the end, we wound up with a team that was outcoached and outclassed.
Back in 2004 in Athens, when only Andre Ward won gold, it was supposed to be a wake-up call. And in 2008 when only Wilder won a medal, a bronze, it was supposed to be a huge wake-up call. 2012 was supposed to begin the process of bringing the Americans back into competition with the other top countries. For four years following Beijing, a lot of PR moves were made, but the program has remained catastrophic and unfocused.
These kids that went to London did right by Team USA. They all fought their hearts out. Most of them lost fair and square to better-prepared, better-coached fighters. Team USA did not do right by these kids. They were failed in London.
Here were the top five point totals for the round of 16. The high total for the full 2012 games remains light flyweight Yosbany Veitia (Cuba), with 26 in the round of 32 against Australia's Billy Ward.
1. (tie) Serik Sapiyev (Kazakhstan), welterweight - 25
1. (tie) Julio la Cruz (Cuba), light heavyweight - 25
3. (tie) Denis Berinchyk (Ukraine), light welterweight - 24
3. (tie) Esquiva Falcao (Brazil), middleweight - 24
5. Anthony Yigit (Sweden), light welterweight - 23
Rather amazingly for these Olympics to this point, Berinchyk and Yigit were opponents. It was a hell of a fight.
Note: Magomed Abdulhamidov (Azerbaijan), bantamweight, scored 22 against Satoshi Shimizu of Japan, but that fight was overturned by AIBA, so I'm just kind of ignoring it happened, outside of being outraged at the obvious absurdity of it all.
Men's Light Flyweight
1. Devendro Singh Laishram (India) - Nobody saw the 16-11 win for the Indian over Purevdorj Serdamba of Mongolia coming, but then it happened. Purevdorj won silver in Beijing and was considered a threat again in London, but the bum-rushing Laishram's awkward aggression had the Mongolian off through the entire fight. It was really something to see.
2. Aleksander Aleksandrov (Bulgaria) - Aleksandrov pulled off his own big-time upset, knocking off world No. 1 ranked Jonghuin Shin of South Korea, 15-14. It was a big-time effort. This division opened up a bit in the bottom half of the bracket thanks to this.
3. Zou Shiming (China) - The defending gold medal winner from 2008 kind of had to scratch and claw his way into the quarterfinals, and word in the last few years has been that his reflexes have slowed down enough to make him vulnerable in London. But you also have to remember that he was facing a very talented young Cuban in Yosbany Veitia, and he got the win, 14-11. Zou may have problems going forward, but we'll have to wait and see to make sure. Could be simply that Veitia is very good himself.
1. Robeisy Ramirez (Cuba) - This division has favorites, and one of them was not Robeisy Ramirez. But here we have another young Cuban standout, and the way he smashed Thailand's Chatchai Butdee -- a good fighter, mind you -- 22-10 in the round of 16 was eye-opening. With Great Britain's Andrew Selby struggling at times against Ilyas Suleimenov of Kazakhstan (19-15 win), Selby better be on his true A-game in the quarters, because Ramirez can fight.
2. Jeyvier Cintron (Puerto Rico) - I gave Cintron the business a bit in the round of 32, because I thought he was very fortunate to get the nod against Oteng Oteng of Botswana. But in the second round, he looked sharper and just plain better overall, outpointing Brazil's Juliao Henriques, 18-13. He faces top-seeded Misha Aloian of Russia next, and Aloian didn't look great in his first fight, a 14-9 win over Samir Brahimi of Algeria.
3. Nordine Oubaali (France) - He knocked off Rau'Shee Warren, and though my heart went out to the American in a big way, I can't help but say I love the way Oubaali won that fight. Warren had a big handspeed advantage, but Oubaali just out-fought him down the stretch and owned the ring in the latter two rounds. This is a good fighter, and he could be a handful yet again in the quarters, when he faces Ireland's seeded Michael Conlan.
1. Lazaro Alvarez (Cuba) - USA's Joseph Diaz Jr was one of our better fighters, and gave a terrific effort against the Cuban, but it was a class difference. If they were both coming back in four years, I'd have been dying to see them hook up again in Rio de Janeiro. With Diaz going pro, we won't be seeing that. Diaz gave a far better showing here than he did last year in Baku, and fought tooth-and-nail. But Alvarez was better on the day. The Cubans have thus far shown a lot of talent. I don't even know if Alvarez is one of their best.
2. Satoshi Shimizu (Japan) - In the first round, I thought Shimizu didn't totally earn a 10-9 win over Ghana's Isaac Dogboe. In the second round, he fought better, like Cintron from the flyweights, and ran the Azerbaijan fighter ragged, knocking him down constantly in the third round. The referee was comically inept, calling zero knockdowns, and it had to go to an appeal after the ludicrous event to get Shimizu rightfully advanced to the quarterfinals. But make no mistake about anything. This is only a technicality in the technicality sense. Shimizu whooped Magomed Abdulhamidov but good.
3. Oscar Valdez (Mexico) - As long as Oscar Valdez is fighting, he's going to make my top three. He's great fun. Upcoming fight with John Joe Nevin of Ireland will be tough for him, though.
1. Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine) - In the round of 32, we saw good fighters. We saw really good fighters. We saw class performances and great fights. What we had not seen until Thursday morning was LOMACHENKO: Reigning King of the Amateurs. Calling him a classy operator would be like saying that the steak Chet ate in The Great Outdoors was "pretty big."
2. Felix Verdejo (Puerto Rico) - It figures that the two fighters in the weight class I've been most genuinely impressed by will meet in the quarterfinals. One of them won't have a chance to medal.
3. Evaldas Petrauskaus (Lithuania) - See: Comment about Oscar Valdez above. Upcoming fight with Domenico Valentino of Italy will be tough for him, though.
Men's Light Welterweight
1. Roniel Iglesias (Cuba) - Iglesias, who won easy in the round of 32, took down the top-seeded Everton Lopes of Brazil, 18-15, in a classy, well-fought, high-quality bout that could well have been more or less a gold medal fight. It's nothing against Denis Berinchyk of Ukraine, the No. 2 seed and the biggest threat other than Iglesias, but if you judged by their round of 16 bouts, Iglesias and Lopes both would have beaten Berinchyk on that day.
2. Everton Lopes (Brazil) - Well, I thought he was the round's second-best fighter.
3. Anthony Yigit (Sweden) - He lost to Berinchyk, but it was by a point in what may have been the most thrilling fight of the Olympics so far. He was frankly figured to get fairly easily defeated, but the Swede was there until the final bell, swinging away with the favored Ukrainian.
1. Errol Spence (United States) - Give me a break with this one.
2. Serik Sapiyev (Kazakhstan) - Sapiyev was phenomenal against Yasuhiro Suzuki of Japan, winning by a blowout 25-11 score. He really did look like the class of the division. If Spence and Sapiyev both win, they'll meet in the semifinals.
3. Andrey Zamkovoy (Russia) - Here's Spence's next opponent, and he's been strong so far. In the round of 16, he was way too much for Ireland's Adam Nolan, winning 18-9.
1. Ryoto Murata (Japan) - The second-seeded Murata dominated Abdelmalek Rahou of Algeria, 21-12, and has a great second round matchup against Turkey's Adem Kilicci. That could be a hell of a good fight. Both are strong, very talented fighters.
2. Esquiva Falcao (Brazil) - Falcao's 24-11 win over Soltan Migitinov of Azerbaijan was fun to watch. He's got major talent.
3. Stefan Hartel (Germany) - I still like this guy a lot, and think he's a serious danger to Great Britain's Anthony Ogogo, who scored a debated upset of top-seeded Ievgen Khytrov of Ukraine.
Men's Light Heavyweight
1. Julio la Cruz (Cuba) - My opinion is that this is the weakest division we've seen, besides the heavyweights. But the Cuban came out and looked at least a step above the rest of the class, thrashing Ihab Almatbouli of Jordan, 25-8.
2. Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine) - Almost a stereotype. Efficient, effortless, and dominant without exerting a ton of effort. Two good wins have him looking a solid bet in the weak bottom half of the division.
3. Yamaguchi Falcao (Brazil) - Falcao was dead even with Fanlong Meng of China in the best fight of the round in this division. A countback win for Falcao gives him the opportunity to likely lose to la Cruz.
1. Siarhei Karneyeu (Belarus), 2. Yamil Peralta (Argentina), 3. Ali Mazaheri (Iran)
I didn't have much love for this division, honestly, and I don't have much to say about them. Mazaheri gets third place because he was brutally screwed by a DQ against Jose Larduet of Cuba.
Men's Super Heavyweight
1. Erislandy Savon (Cuba) - I know he lost to Anthony Joshua, but I thought he definitely deserved the win and was the best fighter we saw in this division. And it was a great fight, too.
2. Anthony Joshua (Great Britain) - It was a great fight. I think Joshua would have cleanly beaten anyone else in the division had he drawn them.
3. Ivan Dychko (Kazakhstan) - Rhymes with Klitschko!
* * * * *
Full Results - Round of 32
Men's Light Flyweight
Zou Shiming (China) def. Yosbany Veitia (Cuba), 14-11
Birzhan Zhakypov (Kazakhstan) def. Mark Barriga (Philippines), 17-16
Paddy Barnes (Ireland) def. Thomas Essomba (Cameroon), 15-10
Devendro Singh Laishram (India) def. Purevdorj Serdamba (Mongolia), 16-11
David Ayrapetyan (Russia) def. Jantony Ortiz (Puerto Rico), 15-13
Ferhat Pehlivan (Turkey) def. Ramy Elawady (Egypt), 20-16
Kaeo Pongprayoon (Thailand) def. Carlos Quipo (Ecuador), 10-6
Aleksander Aleksandrov (Bulgaria) def. Jonghun Shin (South Korea), 15-14
Misha Aloian (Russia) def. Samir Brahimi (Algeria), 14-9
Jeyvier Cintron (Puerto Rico) def. Juliao Henriques (Brazil), 18-13
Jasurbek Latipov (Uzbekistan) def. Hesham Abdelaal (Egypt), 21-11
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (Mongolia) def. Vincenzo Pardi (Italy), 17-16
Nordine Oubalali (France) def. Rau'Shee Warren (United States), 19-18
Michael Conlan (Ireland) def. Duke Micah (Ghana), 19-8
Robeisy Ramirez (Cuba) def. Chatchai Butdee (Thailand), 22-10
Andrew Selby (Great Britain) def. Ilyas Suleimenov (Kazakhstan), 19-15
Lazaro Alvarez (Cuba) def. Joseph Diaz Jr (United States), 21-15
Robenilson Vieira (Brazil) def. Sergey Vodopiyanov (Russia), 13-11
John Joe Nevin (Ireland) def. Kanat Abutalipov (Kazakhstan), 15-10
Oscar Valdez (Mexico) def. Anvar Yunusov (Tajikistan), 13-7
Luke Campbell (Great Britain) def. Jahyn Vittorio Parrinello (Italy), 11-9
Detelin Dalakliev (Bulgaria) def. Ibrahim Balla (Australia), 14-10
Mohamed Amine Ouadahi (Algeria) def. William Encarnacion (Dominican Republic), 16-10
Magomed Abdulhamidov (Azerbaijan) def. Satoshi Shimizu (Japan), 22-17*
* Result overturned by AIBA, Shimizu advances.
Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine) def. Wellington Arias (Dominican Republic), 15-3
Felix Verdejo (Puerto Rico) def. Ahmed Mejri (Tunisia), 16-7
Gani Zhailaouv (Kazakhstan) def. Jai Bhagwan (India), 16-8
Yasnier Toledo (Cuba) def. Qiang Liu (China), 14-10
Domenico Valentino (Italy) def. Josh Taylor (Great Britain), 15-10
Evaldas Petrauskas (Lithuania) def. Fatih Keles (Turkey), 16-12
Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (Uzbekistan) def. Jose Ramirez (United States), 15-11
Soonchul Han (South Korea) def. Vazgen Safaryants (Belarus), 13-13/countback - judges decision
Men's Light Welterweight
Roniel Iglesias (Cuba) def. Everton Lopes (Brazil), 18-15
Uktamjon Rahmonov (Uzbekistan) def. Yakup Sener (Turkey), 16-8
Daniyar Yeleussinov (Kazakhstan) def. Mehdi Toloutibandpi (Iran), 19-10
Vincenzo Mangiacapre (Italy) def. Gyula Kate (Hungary), 20-14
Tom Stalker (Great Britain) def. Manoj Kumar (India), 20-16
Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg (Mongolia) def. Richarno Colin (Mauritius), 15-12
Jeff Horn (Australia) def. Aberrazak Houya (Tunisia), 17-11
Denis Berinchyk (Ukraine) def. Anthony Yigit (Sweden), 24-23
Taras Shelestyuk (Ukraine) def. Vasilii Belous (Moldova), 15-7
Alexis Vastine (France) def. Tuvshinbat Byamba (Mongolia), 13-12
Custio Clayton (Canada) def. Cameron Hammond (Australia), 14-11
Freddie Evans (Great Britain) def. Egidijus Kavaliauskas (Lithuania), 11-7
Krishan Vikas (India) def. Errol Spence (United States), 13-11*
* Result overturned by AIBA, Spence advances.
Andrey Zamkovoy (Russia) def. Adam Nolan (Ireland), 18-9
Gabriel Maestre (Venezuela) def. Siphiwe Lusizi (South Africa), 18-13
Serik Sapiyev (Kazakhstan) def. Yasuhiro Suzuki (Japan), 25-11
Anthony Ogogo (Great Britain) def. Ievgen Khyrtov (Ukraine), 18-18/52-52, judges decision
Stefan Hartel (Germany) def. Darren O'Neill (Ireland), 19-12
Zoltan Harcsa (Hungary) def. Mujandjae Kasuto (Namibia), 16-7
Esquiva Falcao (Brazil) def. Soltan Migitinov (Azerbaijan), 24-11
Abbos Atoev (Uzbekistan) def. Bogdan Juratoni (Romania), 12-10
Vijender Singh (India) def. Terrell Gausha (United States), 16-15
Adem Kilicci (Turkey) def. Aleksandar Drenovak (Serbia), 20-11
Ryoto Murata (Japan) def. Abdelmalek Rahou (Algeria), 21-12
Men's Light Heavyweight
Julio la Cruz (Cuba) def. Ihab Almatbouli (Jordan), 25-8
Yamaguchi Falcao (Brazil) def. Fanlong Meng (China), 17-17 (countback)
Elshod Rasulov (Uzbekistan) def. Yahia El Mekachari (Tunisia), 13-6
Egor Mekhontcev (Russia) def. Damien Hooper (Australia), 19-11
Adilbek Niyazymbetov (Kazakhstan) def. Carlos Gongora (Ecuador), 13-5
Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran) def. Bahram Muzaffer (Turkey), 18-12
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine) def. Osmar Bravo (Nicaragua), 18-6
Abdelhafid Benchabla (Algeria) def. Enrico Kolling (Germany), 12-9
Artur Beterbiev (Russia) def. Michael Hunter Jr (United States), 10-10 (countback)
Terel Pulev (Bulgaria) def. Xuanxuan Wang (China), 10-7
Yamil Peralta (Argentina) def. Chouaib Bouloudinats (Algeria), 13-5
Teymur Mammadov (Azerbaijan) def. Jai Tapu Opetaia (Australia), 12-11
Siarhei Karneyeu (Belarus) def. Julio Castillo (Ecuador), 21-12
Jose Larduet (Cuba) def. Ali Mazaheri (Iran), DQ-2
Clemente Russo (Italy) def. Tumba Silva (Angola), forfeit
Men's Super Heavyweight
Magomedrasul Medzhidov (Azerbaijan) def. Meji Mwanba (Congo), stoppage-2
Magomed Omarov (Russia) def. Dominic Breazeale (United States), 19-8
Mohammed Arjaoui (Morocco) def. Blaise Yemou (Cameroon), 15-6
Roberto Cammarelle (Italy) def. Ytalo Perea (Ecuador), 18-10
Ivan Dychko (Kazakhstan) def. Erik Pfeifer (Germany), 14-4
Simon Kean (Canada) def. Tony Yoka (France), 16-16 (countback)
Zhang Zhilei (China) def. Johan Linde (Australia), stoppage-2
Anthony Joshua (Great Britain) def. Erislandy Savon (Cuba), 17-16