by Dafydd Thomas
It’s been two years since the disappointment of the young U.S. Olympic boxing team. Two years of excuses, re-building, and hopefully, development. To celebrate independence day, or put a downer on things, here’s a before and after shot of the U.S Olympic team, to find out if the fighters are finally matching up to the expectations and pre-Olympic hype.
Sadam Ali [Lightweight, Round of 32]
What happened in Beijing? Prior to the tournament, Ali found himself in deep trouble after testing positive for the banned substance cathine in an exhibition event. He was banned for two years from 2007, which would have seen Ali miss the Olympics. Ali protested the decision, claiming that a doctor subscribed him medicines that created cathine to get rid of a cold that he had contracted in China. The ban was overturned in time for Ali to participate in the qualifying tournaments. After all the hassle, Ali didn’t go very far, losing a wide 20-5 point loss to Romanian boxer, Georgian Popescu.
What happened next? Ali had already announced that he would turn pro after the 2008 Olympic Games, which upset a few members of the camp, so it came as no surprise when he made his debut in January 2009. Fighting four-round fights, Ali has racked up a (7-0, 3 KO) record, and will fight his first six-rounder against Julias Edmonds in New Jersey on the 16th of July. Ali campaigns at welterweight, but fought his last fight at junior middleweight.
Demetrius Andrade [Welterweight, Quarter-Finals]
What happened in Beijing? Going into Beijing, Andrade was a front-runner. He was expected to cruise through the bottom half of the draw and capture a medal. Winning gold in Chicago had filled everyone with confidence that Andrade was the real deal, as he thoroughly dominated Non Boonjumnog in the final. The first round was closer than expected, but Andrade still won convincingly. Andrey Balanov of Russia had no answer to Andrade’s superior boxing skills in the last 16, with “Boo Boo” winning 14-3. Kim Jung-Joo was simply just another stepping stone for Andrade en route to the final. Wrong. Andrade underestimated the Korean, who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the competition by out-pointing Andrade 11-9. Joo lost to the eventual winner in the semi-final, and America again, missed out on a medal.
What happened next? Following his lacklustre performance at the Olympics, Andrade immediately turned professional and debuted in October 2008. Andrade is further down the production line than his Olympic teammates, and is ready for a step-up in quality of opponents. Andrade is (10-0, 7 KO) and has appeared on Friday Fight Nights, debuting with a first-round stoppage of Tom Joseph. At junior middleweight, Andrade fills out his 6’1” dimension well, and if he establishes a solid jab, he could be challenging the fringe contenders of the division. There’s no doubting his talent, but the dedication needs to be there for Andrade to succeed and reach his potential, which could be on the world stage.
Shawn Estrada [Middleweight, Round of 16]
What happened in Beijing? With an amateur record of 110-7, Estrada entered Beijing as one of the favourites, but like the rest of his American colleagues, failed to hit the mark when the pressure was on. In his round of 32 fight, he defeated Argentinean Ezequiel Maderna before losing to eventual gold medallist and BTBC House Fighter, James DeGale 11-5.
What happened next? Estrada made his debut before the turn of the year, knocking out Lawrence Jones in a minute. Since then, Estrada has won five more by stoppage, taking his record to (6-0, 6 KO) at super middleweight. Estrada hasn’t fought in a year due to undergoing surgery on his right hand following a ruptured tendon. He’s also been struggling with a back injury, that forced the layoff in the first place.
Javier Molina [Light Welterweight, Round of 32]
What happened in Beijing? After winning the National Championships in 2007 at the age of just 17, Molina was already touted as one for the future, especially with his father, Miguel Molina, having a successful amateur career too. He went on to take bronze in the World Championships, and comfortably sealed his place in the Olympics in the trials. He endured a surprising loss to Bulgarian fighter Boris Georgiev by a wide margin of 14-1, but doctors disputed that the fight shouldn’t have taken place due to a small hole in the boxer’s lung.
What happened next? Molina signed with Goossen Tutor and fought for the first time in February 2009, scoring a second-round stoppage win over debutant Jaime Cabrera. Molina has fought twice since, also winning both by second-round knockout. Molina fights at around the welterweight limit, and would seem a very small junior middleweight if he did step up in weight class.
Gary Russell Jr. [Bantamweight, Failed Weight]
What happened in Beijing? A rollercoaster ride, that’s what happened. After winning bronze at the 2005 World Amateur Championships at the age of 17, everybody looked at Russell as a shoe-in for a medal in 2008. That dream was almost derailed at the trials, when Russell lost his first round fight to Roberto Marroquin and found himself in the challenger’s bracket. From there, Russell had to fight six times in six days. He won all six, defeating Marroquin 18-14 on the last day to make the team. Only three other boxers have ever made the Olympic team out of the challenger’s bracket: Evander Holyfield, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Roy Jones Jr. Hopes were high on Russell, but on the day of the weigh-in, he was found unconscious by flatmate Luis Yáñez, possibly due to dehydration of making weight. He missed his weigh-in slot and therefore, was out of the tournament.
What happened next? Gary Russell Jr. was another one of the team to turn to the professional world, debuting in January 2009 against Antonio Reyes. Russell continued with a similar level of overmatched opposition, and has notched up an undefeated record of (10-0, 7 KO). Russell Jr. is a very talented fighter in my opinion, and at 22 is another star in the making at 126 pounds, who already boasts the likes of Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez as amateur successes. Russell Jr. next fights on July 16 against an unnamed opponent.
Rau’shee Warren [Flyweight, Round of 32]
What happened in Beijing? Many believed Warren, who had won gold at the world championships in Chicago 2007, was America’s best hope for a medal in the sport. With the expectation on his shoulders, Warren made a monumental mistake, believing he was ahead at the end of the first fight against Lee-Ok-Sung. He wasn’t, and to his surprise, was eliminated on a 9-8 defeat to the Korean.
What happened next? Warren, 23, decided to stay on the amateur scene following his calamitous mistake at the Olympics. He moved up to bantamweight at the Nationals in 2009 and controversially lost to the eventual winner, Jesus Magdaleno, in the semi-final 19-19 on a tie-breaker.
Deontay Wilder [Heavyweight, Bronze Medallist]
What happened in Beijing? Wilder eased through the opening fight against Algerian heavy Abdelaziz Toulbini 10-4. In the quarter-finals, he had a much tougher time, scraping past Mohamed Arjaoui on a tie-breaker as the fight finished 10-10. Wilder’s luck eventually ran out as he lost to Clemente Russo of Italy 7-1 in the semi-finals, but he had already secured a bronze medal, the only American to win a medal at the games.
What happened next? Wilder turned pro and made his debut on the Taylor-Lacy undercard against Ethan Fox, winning by second round stoppage. In his first twelve months as a professional, Wilder had already racked up eight wins, all by stoppage. “The Bronze Bomber” record currently stands at (11-0, 11 KO), all against weak opposition. Standing at 6’7’’ with a reach of 84’’, Wilder has the right frame for the current crop of heavyweights, but can he convert his Beijing success onto the world stage?
Raynell Williams [Featherweight, Round of 16]
What happened in Beijing? Williams had a good run in the World Championships in 2007, soundly defeating co-favourite Khedafi Djelkhir 28-18 in the opening round. But Djelkhir extracted his revenge on the Olympic stage, out-pointing Williams 9-7 in the second round to end the American’s hopes of a medal. Djelkhir went on to win the silver medal.
What happened next? Williams, 21, also decided to get some experience in the amateurs before turning to prizefighting. He competed in the 2010 Golden Gloves at lightweight, and lost in the second round to Erick DeLeon, who went on to win the competition.
Luis Yáñez [Light Flyweight, Round of 16]
What happened in Beijing? Yáñez was lucky to even be in the Olympics, after he was removed from the team for missing three weeks of training camp in Colorado. He was reinstated, and started his campaign against Kelvin de la Nieve of Spain, where he won 12-9. His journey didn’t go very far though, as he lost to runner-up Purevdorjiin Serdamba 8-7 in the round of 16.
What happened next? After question marks over his dedication from the American camp, Yáñez decided to turn pro, and fought his first fight at bantamweight, winning by four-round majority decision over Julio Valadez. In his third fight he won the vacant Texas State super flyweight title against Jose Manuel Garcia, which is like being called the best crap sandwich winner. Yáñez now campaigns at flyweight with a record of (4-0, 0 KO), and at 21 fighting out of a southpaw stance, Yáñez could be a wildcard for the future.