U.S. boxing has been having a forgettable time at the 2012 London Olympics so far, and if the team’s two remaining fighters lose then the men’s team could finish without a medal for the first time ever.
Losers of all of their bouts so far, the U.S. boxers are down to two fighters to keep the Americans’ slim hope of seeing a gold medal in a sport it once dominated. The losing streak reached seven bouts after narrow losses for lightweight Jose Ramirez and middleweight Terrell Gausha in evening sessions Thursday.
The performance is a steep drop for a sport where the United States won 50 medals at the Games between 1968 and 2000 and 19 gold medals in the five Olympics Americans participated in between 1976 and 1996, the Washington Post noted.
The U.S. boxers have come close to winning in London, but failed to crack their opponents or the computerized scoring system that has baffled fighters for the last 20 years, The Associated Press reported. Ironically, it was one of the most famous American boxers and a controversial decision that helped lead to the new system.
Roy Jones Jr. sailed through the 1988 Seoul Olympics before meeting Park Si-Hun. Fighting before a home crowd, Si-Hun couldn’t match up against Jones and spent the majority of the fight under a barrage of punches. Despite the lopsided fight, judges awarded the victory to native son Si-Hun.
The outrage that followed the match led to a rule change requiring judges to separately press a button when a punch is landed, and if enough judges see the punch it is automatically scored. This created an advantage for boxers who can land a high number of punches, no matter how hard.
The U.S. boxing team is now desperately trying to avoid their worst Olympics showing ever, which came in 2008 when the team managed just one bronze medal. While the Associated Press noted that a trio of talented women fighters have a good chance at earning a medal when the women’s tournament starts Sunday, the picture for the men looks bleak.
Bill Plaschke, a boxing reporter with the Chicago Tribune’s Olympic bureau, said the lack of big, bruising fighters shows just how far U.S. boxing has fallen. He wrote:
Where are the heavyweights? Where are the guys who once made U.S. Olympic boxing a glamour team, with former gold medalists such as the then-Cassius Clay, Leon Spinks, Frazier and Foreman? Where are the dudes who used to brawl with the Cubans and battle the Russians and turn the Olympic boxing event into one long scene from “Rocky”?
There are still hopes for Rau’shee Warren, who hung around amateur boxing for more than a decade hoping to win gold but lost the first fight of his last two Olympic games. Now he gets a third chance with a fight Friday, one that not only his own hopes but the aspirations of all U.S. boxing fans desperate for a win.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I know what I have to do,” Warren told the Associated Press. “I’m ready to do whatever is necessary to get that gold medal.”
With his bout against France’s Nordine Oubaali, Warren will officially become the first American to fight in three Olympics. The U.S. boxing team also has welterweight Errol Spence still to fight, but if both he and Warren lose, the men’s team is out of the Olympics entirely.