2016 Olympics Underway As Americans Look to Seek Gold!
By: Ken Hissner
The Olympic Games are in Rio, Brazil, with boxing opening up on Saturday but no Americans have fought yet through first 3 rounds.
There are 3 CA boxers and 2 from KS on the 10 man team of the USA. At Super heavyweight is Marlo Moore, of Hayward, CA, light heavyweight is Jonathan Esquivel, of Anaheim, CA, and at lightweight is Carlos Balderas, of Santa Maria, CA. At heavyweight is Cam Awesome, of Lenexa, KS, and at light flyweight Nico Hernandez, of Wichita, KS. At middleweight is Charles Conwell, of Cleveland Heights, OH. At welterweight is Philadelphia’s Paul Kroll. He is the lone Philadelphia boxer.
There were 3 others Philadelphia boxers who have turned professional after not winning a spot. The most talented is now welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis who has won by knockout in all 5 of his fights in 5 months. Moving up a weight class is Christian Carto who has won both of his bouts by stoppage. He will be making his Philadelphia debut August 26th at the Sugar House Casino. At super heavyweight Darmani Rock has won all of his 4 bouts, 3 by knockout in 4 months. 11-0 for the Philadelphia threesome who were Olympic Alternates in 2016.
At light welterweight is Gary Antuanne Russell, of Capitol Heights, MD. One of the boxers favored to get the Gold is Bantamweight Shakur Stevenson, of Newark, NJ. Rounding out the 10 team member is Antonio Vargas of Kissimmee, FL.
In some of the past history of the Olympics there have been 3 boxers who have won 3 Gold Medals. First was Hungary’s Laszlo Papp winning in 1948 in London, 1952 in Helsinki and 1956 in Melbourne. Promoter Lou Lucchese once told me he tried contacting Papp’s people hoping he would come to the US to fight then middleweight champion Joey Giardello out of Philadelphia. Next thing he knew the FBI was at his door. Seems Papp was not allowed to leave Europe per the Communist country of Hungary. After a bout in October of 1964 he was told he wasn’t allowed to fight again by the government and that he could not fight for a world title in 1965. He was 27-0-2 and European champion.
Then came the well-known Cuban heavyweight Teofilo Stevenson winning Gold in 1972 in Munich, 1976 in Montreal and 1980 in Moscow. Most recently Cuba’s heavyweight Felix Savon won Gold in 1992 in Barcelona, 1996 in Atlanta and 2000 in Sydney. Many rumors had Stevenson coming to the US to fight World Champion Muhammad Ali but they were only rumors. There was no way the Castro brothers were allowing Stevenson to come to the US and be exploited by Ali.
In 1904 in St. Louis American Oliver Kirk won Gold medals at 125 and dropped 10 pounds in a week to win at 115. Eddie Eagan (1920) won a pair of Gold Medals in boxing and part of the 4-man Bobsleigh. Cincinnati’s Rau’shee Warren competed in 3 Olympics in 2004, 2008 and 2012 without medaling. The USA team hasn’t won a Gold Medal since 2004 when Andre Ward took Gold at 178. 2000 was Gold empty. 1992 and 1996 brought in a Gold Medal apiece. The 1996 Gold medal went to Philadelphia’s David Reid. Oscar “Golden Boy” De la Hoya of East L.A. won Gold in 1992.
In 1988 there were 3 Gold medal winners. At Heavyweight Ray “Mercilless” Mercer. Kennedy McKinney took the Bantamweight Gold medal. Andrew Maynard won the Gold medal in the Light Heavyweight Division.
In 1984 without Russian, East Germany and Cuba competing the USA team took 9 Gold Medals. They were won by Paul Gonzales, Steve McCrory, Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker, Jerry Page, Mark Breland, Frank Tate, Henry Tillman and Tyrell Biggs.
The USA 1976 team in this writer’s opinion was the greatest Olympic team ever. They won 4 Gold Medals and all winners went onto win world titles in the professional ranks. They were John Tate, Michael and Leon Spinks along with “Sugar” Ray Leonard. This writer did a story about 1976 vs 1984 with Manny Steward of the Kronk Gym and Joe Clough of the Tacoma Boy’s Club who trained 5 Gold medalists along with this writer as judges. The 1976 team won 8-3.
1956 Heavyweight Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher made his professional debut losing to 1952 Gold Medal Olympian and then World Heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson. Current WBO Super featherweight champion Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko was a two-time Gold Medalist in 2008 and in 2012. He challenged for a world title in his second pro fight losing. Then winning the WBO featherweight title in his third fight. He took his current title in his seventh fight.
There have been numerous Gold Medal winners who would go onto becoming world champions in the professional ranks. Starting with Ray Leonard (1976), and his teammates were Michael Spinks, Leon Spinks and Leo Randolph. Leon would win the world heavyweight title in his 8th fight defeating Muhammad Ali. From the 1984 team were Mark Breland, Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker, Evander Holyfield, Virgil Hill and Frank Tate.
Others were Italy’s Maurizio Stecca (1984), Cuba’s Joel Casamayor (1992), Ray Mercer (1988), Jackie Fields (1924), David Reid (1996), Hungary’s Istvan Kovacs (1996), Andre Ward (2004), Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux (2000 and 2004) won the interim WBA World Super Bantamweight title in his 7th fight and in his 9th fight the WBA World Super Bantamweight tite, George Foreman (1968), Oscar De la Hoya (1992), Fidel La Barba (1924) UK’s Anthony Joshua (2012), Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa (2004), Canada’s Lennox Lewis (1992), KAZ Vassiliy Jirov (1996), Italy’s Nino Benvenuti (1960), Muhammad Ali then Cassius Clay (1960), Argentina’s Pascual Perez (1948) and Joe Frazier (1964) to name a few.
There have been anywhere from 47 to 49 Gold Medals won by USA boxers since 1904. This writer counted 47 in 22 Olympics over a 112 year period. On the women’s team there is Claressa Shields who won a Gold medal in the 2012 Olympics. The other woman is Mikaela Mayer. The 3 men are Gary Antuanne Russell, Shakur Stevenson and Antonio Vargas. All 5 may be long shots but you never know in boxing especially this Olympics there will be no headgear. Let’s root them on!