Frank Warren Discusses The Decline of U.S. Amateurs

By Frank Warren

Now that the dust has settled from London 2012 and Team GB basks with a bounty boxing medal haul, in America the inquest now begins as to how their mens boxing team came back empty handed for the first time in history. Despite the U.S. coming on top of the overall medal board, it’s a major embarrassment for a nation that has won more boxing medals than any other - 108 medals in total of which 47 are gold - to not win a single thing.

It’s unbelievable when you look at the prestigious list of past medal winners that includes legends like Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, Floyd Patterson, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard and greats like Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr., Evander Holyfield and Floyd Mayweather.

Of the nine US men, two lost in the opening round with six going out in the second and only Errol Spence progressing through to the quarter-finals - only after getting a decision overturned - where he then lost.

Actually, the last Americans to go out were NBC Sports boxing commentators Teddy Atlas and Bob Papa after they were asked to move from ringside because they were “very disturbing” to boxing officials who were working on fights.

Team USA’s blushes were only partially spared by a 17-year-old girl from Michigan, Claressa Shields, who won gold in the middleweight division and flyweight bronze medallist Marlen Esparza.

While British star Anthony Joshua won the super-heavyweight gold, the Yanks haven’t won gold in this division since Tyrell Biggs nearly twenty years ago. Riddick Bowe won silver in 1988, but since then no American boxer has won a medal in the blue ribbon division that has been dominated by European and Eastern-European boxers.

It wasn’t that long ago that U.S amateur boxing ruled the sport so what’s happened to the country that produced the legendary 1976 Montreal team that had five gold medal winners that included Sugar Ray Leonard and brothers Leon and Michael Spinks, or the record-breaking 1984 Los Angeles team that had a nine golds from a dream team that included Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker, Mark Breland and Biggs.

One of the theories being banded for the decline in the super-heavyweight division is that the big men are more interested in American football, basketball and track and field events rather than the hurt and pain of boxing, but how does this explain the lack of medals in the lighter weights?

Funding has been a big problem. In 2007, USA Boxing received $1.1m in grants - which are based on performance and potential - from the United States Olympic Committee and in 2010 it went down to $482,000 which was less funding than even third and fourth tier sports like taekwondo, curling and biathlon.

The grant was cut again to $440,000 but the condition was the then head coach Joe Zanders had to go. He resigned in March this year and Bashher Abdullah replaced him in June which left them with less than a month to prepare for London and it proved disastrous.

Promoter Bob Arum says he tried to encourage his young prospects Jesse Magdaleno and Jose Benavidez to stay amateur and go enjoy the Olympic experience but they were so disillusioned with the set up that they insisted on going pro. Arum invests heavily in the Hispanics fighters and by turning professional early and building up their careers, eventually they are the ones capturing the imagination and the market.

For once America will have to learn from it European counterparts.

In Britain, after Audley Harrison won gold in Sydney and silver medallist Amir Khan was the only representative in Athens, the boxing programme was overhauled and increased lottery funding resulted in a gold plus two bronze in Beijing to London where it was the best result in 92 years with three golds a silver and a bronze.

So where is the next big American boxing name going to come from if there are none coming through the amateur ranks?

Floyd Mayweather only has a couple of fights left before he calls time on his career, then there’s rising star Adrien Broner and Andre Ward - the last American boxer to win Olympic gold in 2004, after that it’s very hard to say.

So I get tired of hearing that fighters need to go to America or get an American trainer. The trainers here are just as good, if not better, and our amateur system is now one to be reckoned with.

Such is the death of US talent in the last 15 years or so you’ve had non-American fighters who would never have had a look in the US such as Brit-Arab in Naseem Hamed, Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, Lennox Lewis who won Olympic gold in 1988 for Canada, Brazilian Acelino Freitas, Filipino Manny Pacquiao, Russian Kostya Tszyu, it seems like the TV glory days of American Olympic fighters such as Leonard, Taylor, Whitaker, Jones and Holyfield are well and truly in the past.

Johnny Tapia’s widow Teresa revealed he died of heart disease and high blood pressure and not of a drug overdose.

She wanted to make it clear nor were there any indications of drugs or alcohol that he’d struggled with throughout his life.

Michael Watson, who was left paralyzed after his fight with Chris Eubank, will be a torchbearer carrying the torch in London’s Paralympic relay.

Rumours are circulating that Ricky Hatton will be stepping inside the ropes again as a fighter. I certainly hope that’s not the case. I believe that he shouldn’t be making a comeback and let’s hope no-one is encouraging him to do so. He is doing a good job in promoting and training fighters and should stay outside of the ropes.

WBO/WBA/IBF Boss Wladimir Klitschko dukes it out against unbeaten 27 fight US based Pole Mariusz Wach on 10th November in Hamburg.

Wach stands an inch taller than Wladimir at 6ft 7” – I don’t expect him to be that tall for long!

Normally fighters have got the beef, but Billy Joe Saunders is feasting on Skippy meat ahead of his Commonwealth title defence against Aussie challenger Jarrod Fletcher at the York Hall next month.

His nutritionist has put him on a special diet of protein packed kangaroo meat which is apparently better than chicken and will give him the added firepower against his unbeaten challenger who beat James DeGale in the amateurs.

There is no truth in the rumour Arsenal’s Santos who was nicked for 130mph speeding this week was doing a RVP or Alex Song and trying to get away from the club as fast as he could!

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by BabyFaceAssasin on 08-25-2012

Lol at Frank insisting that people don't need to come to America for training. Wasn't Lewis trained by Emanuel Steward and that's their most accomplished fighter. Also, V. Klitchko the best in Europe has the same trainer. Best fighter to…

Comment by 4Corners on 08-25-2012

America, currently at least, still has the best pro fighters in the world. As far as this Olympic team, it's troubling that not even one American got a medal. I still think Rau'Shee Warren and Luis Arias can have good…

Comment by Mick Higgs on 08-25-2012

Frank's not stupid & would allways perfer to put Money before Sport! Why's Nathan Cleverley not fighting Shumenov or Cloud? Why's Groves vs Anderson II not been signed. Burns vs Mitchell is bringing in the £$£$£$ right now for FW,…

Comment by mattr on 08-25-2012

How very shrewd of you to work that out. Anyone would think it clearly stated that in the article.

Comment by Weebler I on 08-25-2012

Sounds like the US needs to increase funding to their amateurs.

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