After seven days of competition at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Men’s Boxing in Reno, Nevada, nine athletes emerged one step closer to punching their tickets to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Boxers must still qualify their Olympic quota spots internationally, so none have officially been named to the Olympic team. They will get their next opportunity to do so at the AIBA Continental Olympic Qualifying Event for the Americas in March, followed by two final qualifying events in May and June. Should they be among the top finishers in their weight classes at any of those events, they will join lightweight Carlos Balderas as members of the 2016 Olympic team. Balderas qualified last month by virtue of his season ranking in the World Series of Boxing.
The following athletes will be the ones to watch as the Road to Rio continues.
Nico Hernandez (light flyweight): The 19-year-old Hernandez has been on the scene since becoming Junior Olympic National Champion in 2011 and 2012. He was the 2013 national Golden Gloves champion, 2014 youth world champion and 2015 Continental Championships bronze medalist.
Antonio Vargas (flyweight): Vargas was the 2013 USA Boxing youth champion and has had a breakout season in 2015, winning the national championship and being the only U.S. man to take home gold at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. In his second fight at Trials, Vargas beat the 2012 Olympic Trials champion Eros Correa.
Shakur Stevenson (bantamweight): At just 18 years old, Stevenson has seen significant success at the youth level, winning the 2013 junior world championship, 2014 youth world championship and the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games gold medal.
Gary Russell (light welterweight): Russell is one of six brothers named Gary, all of whom are boxers. His older brother, Gary Jr., won the 2008 Olympic Trials and Gary Allan Russell competed at the 2012 Olympic Trials. This Gary is the 2014 Golden Gloves champion and emerged victorious at Trials after losing his opening bout, just as his brother had in 2008.
Paul Kroll (welterweight): Kroll also earned his win at Olympic Trials out of the challenger’s bracket after falling on the first day of competition to two-time national champion Jose Alday; the champion of the Olympic Trials Qualifier II, he went on to win six consecutive bouts. Kroll beat world championship team member Brian Ceballo to make it to the final against 2015 national champion Ardreal Holmes.
Charles Conwell (middleweight): A two-time youth national champion, Conwell hit his stride in 2015, becoming a national Golden Gloves champion and winning his weight class at the Olympic Trials Qualifier III. Conwell beat two-time national champ Leshawn Rodriguez in his opening bout, followed by world championship team member Anthony Campbell and 2015 national champion Chordale Booker.
Jonathan Esquivel (light heavyweight): The Olympic Trials Qualifier II champion, Esquivel had an impressive tournament at Trials and closed out his qualifying run with a 3-0 decision to claim gold. In his second fight, Esquivel beat national champion and world team member Steven Nelson.
Cam F. Awesome (heavyweight): Formerly Lenroy Thompson, Awesome has been a stalwart on the U.S. boxing scene for years. A qualifier for Olympic Trials in both heavyweight and super heavyweight, he is the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion, a four-time Golden Gloves champion, a four-time USA Boxing national champion and took bronze at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. On his road to the final, Awesome won over 2014 national champion Joshua Temple and 2014 Golden Gloves champion Derae Crane.
Marlo Moore (super heavyweight): Not one of the favorites entering Trials, Moore proved his mettle with four victories including a decisive 3-0 win to take gold and cap an improbable run at the Olympic team. He had earned a silver medal at the 2015 USA Boxing National Championships and was the Olympic Trials Qualifier I champion. In his second fight, Moore overcame 2014 Youth Olympic silver medalist Darmani Rock, a favorite in the division.