(RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL) – The United States´ two heavyweights claimed the final two spots on the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team on Friday with key semifinal victories at the Americas Qualifier Tournament in Brazil. Heavyweight Michael Hunter (Las Vegas, Nev.) completed a five-year journey to fulfill his Olympic dream while super heavyweight Dominic Breazale (Alhambra, Calif.), a newcomer to the sport completed his meteoric rise to the top of the sport. The two heavyweight victories guarantee Team USA nine of 10 Olympic berths in men´s action in London.
Middleweight Terrell Gausha (Cleveland, Ohio) and light heavyweight Marcus Browne (Staten Island, N.Y.) each advanced in tournament action as well, winning their semifinal contests on Friday. Lightweight Jose Ramirez (Avenal, Calif.) and light welterweight Jamel Herring (Coram, N.Y.) both dropped their semifinal bouts but will return to the United States as 2012 Olympians and are Americas Qualifier bronze medalists.
Hunter was the first of the two U.S. boxers to qualify on Friday, winning a 14-8 decision over Julio Castillo of Ecuador in semifinal action. Using his experience from his first round of Olympic qualifying tournament in 2008, Hunter took a 6-3 lead after the first round. He continued to use his movement and footwork to out-box Castillo in the second stanza and held a 10-6 lead with three minutes of boxing remaining. Hunter refused to allow Castillo back into the bout in the final round and won the 14-8 final decision to fulfill his dream of becoming a U.S. Olympian. He will face Argentina's Yamil Peralta in the finals.
Breazale competed in the final bout of the night in his semifinal contest with Puerto Rico's Gerardo Bisbal. The former University of Northern Colorado quarterback fell behind early in the context, trailing by a 5-3 margin after one. Following a tied second round, Breazale faced a 10-8 deficit with one round remaining in the bout. Yet Breazale refused to allow his Olympic hopes to slip away. The 6-6 boxer peppered Bisbal with shots, giving him a standing eight count and chipping away at his deficit. His third round efforts paid off as he was announced the winner by a 15-12 margin to claim the ninth Olympic spot for Team USA. He will take on Ecuador's Ytalo Perea in championship round action today.
Hunter's journey to the Olympic Games reaches back to 2007 when the then teenager won the 2008 Olympic Trials. After falling to the Russian and Cuban super heavyweights in the qualifying bouts in the first two international Olympic qualifying tournaments, he got food poisoning during the final Olympic qualifying tournament and despite his best efforts, lost in last opportunity to qualify for Beijing. He made the decision to come back for a second run in 2012, moving down a weight class to the heavyweight division. The son of a former professional heavyweight, Michael "The Bounty" Hunter, he boxes in his father's memory.
Breazale boxed his way on to the Olympic Team with only three years of experience in the sport. A former collegiate quarterback, Breazale is a product of the All American Heavyweight program in Carson, Calif.
Gausha moved on to the finals with a 15-10 win over Marlo Delgado of Ecuador in their middleweight semifinal and will face Junior Castillo of the Dominican Republic in today's finals. Browne won a 12-8 decision over Carlos Gongora of Ecuador in light heavyweight action to move on to a final round showdown with Brazil's Yamaguchi Florentino.
Herring dropped an 11-6 decision to Francisco Vargas of Puerto Rico in his semifinal contest to win a bronze medal. Ramirez made a large comeback attempt in the third round of his bout with Wellington Arias of the Dominican Republic, giving him two standing eight counts in the final round but lost 13-10.
With the total of nine male boxers qualifying for London, the United States is tied for second place in the world for the largest number of male boxers vying for Olympic gold with only Australia sending a full team and Kazakhstan also taking nine berths in the 2012 Olympics.