By Ryan Maquiñana
Jamel Herring and Marcus Browne qualified for the 2012 Olympics by winning their respective quarterfinal bouts at the Americas Qualifier in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday.
For this pair of fighters, the road to London could not have been longer. After winning last year’s Olympic Trials, Herring and Browne did not finish high enough in the World Championships to qualify for the Summer Games.
As a result, they were forced to win the fiercely competitive 2012 National Championships to regain their spots on Team USA and chance to compete in this week’s final Olympic qualifier at the Maracanazinho.
The 26-year-old Herring, originally from Coram, N.Y., but now a U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C., was tabbed by many as the least likely member of Team USA to qualify for London. But Herring will now board the next plane to Heathrow after defeating Venezuela’s Yoelvis Hernandez by decision, 12-10.
“I turned a dream into a reality,” Herring told BoxingScene.com. “After the Olympic Trials people screamed fluke. I was the first to lose at the World Championships. Then I ended up with a bull’s-eye on my back during the 2012 U.S. Nationals, and I still came on top. Still, some had no faith in me to succeed, but I worked hard day and night to prove everyone wrong, and now I'm an American Olympian!”
Browne, a 21-year-old light heavyweight southpaw from the Cops N Kids Gym in Staten Island, N.Y., outpointed the Dominican Republic’s Felix Valera 12-6 to advance to the semifinals and earn a berth in the 178-pound tournament of the London Games.
“The fight was cool. It was an easy boxing lesson,” Browne said. “This is what I’ve been working for since I was a kid, so for it to be here now and going through what I went through just makes it sweeter.”
With the new additions, a total of five American boxers have qualified for the Olympics. Rau’shee Warren (flyweight/114 lbs.) of Cincinnati, Ohio, Joseph Diaz Jr. (bantamweight/123 lbs.) of South El Monte, Calif., and Errol Spence (welterweight/152 lbs.) of DeSoto, Tex., punched their ticket to London through last year’s AIBA World Championships.
Another four Americans can join them if they continue to advance in this week’s tournament, which resumes Wednesday with the rest of the quarterfinal matchups.
Among the members of Team USA with their Olympic hopes still alive is Las Vegas-based heavyweight Michael Hunter, who blitzed Venezuela’s Marcio Figueroa 25-7 to win his Tuesday 201-pound quarterfinal. However, Hunter needs a top-three finish at the Maracanazinho to join Browne and Herring in the Summer Games.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and on the Ratings Advisory Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.