The 2012 Olympic Games in London will be the start of a large rebuilding process for the Olympic boxing team following a one-medal showing at the 2008 Olympic Games. Yet with the potential of two returning Olympians, including the first three-time Olympian in history, the future has potential.
Two-time Olympian and 2007 world champion Rau’shee Warren is vying to become the first U.S. boxer in history to compete in three Olympic Games. Warren is now boxing at the new 114-pound weight division following the elimination of his 112-pound weight class and possesses a rare blend of experience, speed and skills that he hopes will lead him to his first appearance on the Olympic medal stand. His 2008 Olympic teammate Raynell Williams took an extended break from the sport following his disappointing experience in Beijing but returned to the sport just in time. Williams claimed the final U.S. Olympic Team Trials spot in his new lightweight division and hopes to make his second Olympic appearance in London, but will have a tough road in a talent-laden weight division.
With the reduction from 11 weight classes to 10 for the 2012 edition, the Olympic spots are even more highly coveted than in the past and a talented group of young athletes hope to claim them. Heading the list are two-time national champion Louie Byrd, who was just days too young to compete for a spot on the 2008 Olympic Team, and 2008 Olympic Team Trials super heavyweight champion Michael Hunter. Byrd has owned his light flyweight division over the last few years and hopes to finish what he couldn’t start in 2008. Hunter was unable to qualify internationally for the 2008 Olympics, falling one win short in all three qualifiers, but hopes to fulfill his Olympic dream in London in his new heavyweight class. Hunter could face a stiff challenge from 2010 USA Boxing Athlete of the Year, Steve Geffrard, who won all three major national championships in the heavyweight division last year. Three-time welterweight national champion Errol Spence (Desoto, Texas) will vie for his first Olympic berth in London as well.
Women’s boxing will make its Olympic debut in London and several talented American women are vying for the coveted three spots from the United States. The flyweight (112 lbs), lightweight (132 lbs) and middleweight divisions (165 lbs) will be the three Olympic weight classes, which has upped the ante for those three spots. Six-time national champion Marlen Esparza moved up to the flyweight class from her previous light flyweight division in 2010 and hasn’t missed a beat, becoming only the third female boxer to claim six straight national titles. With a bronze medal from the world championships in her trophy case, she is one of the few American women with international hardware.
Five-time national champion Queen Underwood, is coming off a bronze medal at the 2010 world championships, and is considered a top medal hopeful following her recent performances.
The middleweight division is wide open and five-time national champion Franchon Crews, 2010 titlist Tiffanie Hearn, and 2009 USA Boxing National Championships gold medalist Alyssa DeFazio are all athletes to watch leading into London.
- Women’s Boxing will make its Olympic debut in 2012 with three weight divisions – flyweight (112 lbs), lightweight (132 lbs) and middleweight (165 lbs) – being contested in London. There are strong favorites in the flyweight division with six-time national champion and 2006 world championship bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, and lightweight division with five-time national champion and 2010 world championship bronze medalist Queen Underwood ruling their respective weight classes. Numerous athletes have claimed national titles over the past few years at middleweight. Due to there only being three weight classes contested in London, there is tremendous talent in the three Olympic weight classes with former national champions in several weight classes all converging in the flyweight, lightweight and middleweight divisions.
Two-time Olympian and 2007 world champion Rau’shee Warren can become the first-ever U.S. boxer to compete in three Olympic Games should he earn a spot in London. He was the youngest U.S. male athlete in any sport in Athens at only 17, and made a rare return in 2008. Although Warren came in as the favorite for gold in Beijing following his world championship in 2007, he was upset in the first round. Not having accomplished his goal of placing a gold medal around his mother’s neck in China, Warren decided to return for another run in 2012.
- Rau’shee Warren’s 2008 Olympic teammate Raynell Williams can join Warren as one of only three U.S. boxers ever to compete in two Olympic Games if he punches his ticket for London. Williams took an extended break for the sport following a heartbreaking loss in Beijing and barely qualified for the Olympic Team Trials, earning his berth at the Last Chance Qualifier tournament. Should he and Warren both make the 2012 Olympic Team, it will be the first U.S. Olympic Boxing Team to boast two returning Olympians.
- Widely-renowned professional boxing trainer Freddie Roach is bringing his skills to the amateur ranks as USA Boxing’s director of boxing strategy. Most well known for taking Manny Pacquaio to the top of the boxing world, Roach offered his services to USA Boxing to aid in taking U.S. boxing back to the top of the medal stand. He is working closely with USA Boxing’s national coaching staff to facilitate training and preparation for London. Several of USA Boxing’s top athletes are traveling to Los Angeles for mini-camps at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in preparation for key events as well.
- Two top male heavyweights will vie for the U.S. berth in London with 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials super heavyweight champion Michael Hunter coming back for a second run at his new heavyweight class and 2010 USA Boxing Athlete of the Year Steve Geffrard competing to make his first U.S. Olympic Team. Although Hunter, the son of a professional heavyweight, won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in 2008, he failed to qualify internationally and therefore didn’t get the opportunity to compete in Beijing. Geffrard, the son of two Haitian immigrants, is currently studying business at the Nova Southeastern University in South Florida while chasing his dreams in the boxing ring.
- Three-time light flyweight national champion Louie Byrd was just days too young to compete for an Olympic berth in 2008, but he’s controlled his weight division since Beijing, winning three USA Boxing National Championships and four National Golden Gloves titles. A new father to a baby girl, Amelia, Byrd has a whole new focus in the ring and hopes to fulfill his Olympic dream which has been simmering throughout the past four years.
- Lightweight Erick Deleon impressed the boxing world with two wins at the National Golden Gloves but he ran into a large obstacle outside the ring – he wasn’t a U.S. citizen. With the Olympic Games quickly approaching, the son of Mexican parents knew that he would have to gain citizenship in order to achieve his goal of representing the United States in London. With the help of attorneys, Deleon was sworn in earlier this year, just in time to win a third Golden Gloves title and punch his ticket for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
- Rau’shee Warren: Two-time Olympian and 2007 world champion – Cincinnati, Ohio
- Louie Byrd: Three-time light flyweight national champion – Denver, Colo.
- Errol Spence : Three-time welterweight national champion – Desoto, Texas
- Steve Geffrard: 2010 USA Boxing national champion – Boca Raton, Fla.
- Michael Hunter: 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials super heavyweight champion – Las Vegas, Nev.
- Raynell Williams: 2008 Olympian, now competing at lightweight – Cleveland, Ohio
- Marlen Esparza: Six-time national champion, flyweight – Houston, Texas
- Queen Underwood: Five-time national champion and 2010 World Championships lightweight
- bronze medalist – Seattle, Wash.
- Franchon Crews: Five-time national champion, middleweight – Baltimore, Md.
The winners of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Men’s Boxing, which runs from July 31-August 6, 2011, in Mobile, Ala., will compete in the 2011 AIBA Men’s World Championships from Sept. 22-Oct. 10 in Baku, Azerbaijan. The boxers in the light flyweight (108 lbs) through light heavyweight (178 lbs) divisions will have to finish in the top 10 to qualify for London, while the heavyweight and super heavyweight athletes will need to earn a berth in the top six.
The first ever U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Women’s Boxing are tentatively scheduled for early 2012. Trials qualifying is still ongoing with women earning berths through securing a spot in the Pan American Games, finishing in the top four at the USA Boxing National Championships, winning the Women’s Golden Gloves and placing in the top two at the 2011 National PAL Championships. The winners of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials will then advance on to the Women’s World Championships in May 2012. The top-eight finishers in each of the three weight classes will win spots in London. Following that event, a tripartite commission will meet to determine the additional four boxers in each weight class that will compete in the first Olympic Games for women’s boxing.
- July 31-Aug. 6, 2011: U.S. Olympic Team Trials (men’s) – Mobile, Ala.
- Sept. 22-Oct.10, 2011: AIBA Men’s World Championships – Baku, Azerbaijan
- January/February 2012: U.S. Olympic Team Trials (women’s) – TBA