U.S. boxers don’t slide into the ring until the second half of the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, but their patience waiting for July 18 will be rewarded.
If anything, the additional time will serve as an advantage for the Americans, who are eager to get started.
“I’m super excited,” said Cam F. Awesome, who will compete in the super heavyweight class for the U.S. “I didn’t realize how big of a deal the Pan Am Games were. It’s like the mini Olympics.”
Awesome will have eight other teammates representing the U.S. men’s boxing team: Steven Nelson, Melik Elliston, Brian Ceballo, Luis Feliciano, Anthony Campbell, Antonio Vargas, Francisco Martinez and Carlos Balderas. Including the two athletes representing the women’s team, Claressa Shields and Marlen Esparza, a total of 11 boxers will compete for Team USA.
Awesome has won four USA Boxing National Championships, four National Golden Gloves and the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials championship.
“I have won and accomplished a lot, and some people will say I’m one of the winningest boxers in my weight class, and I don’t believe so,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a great boxer until I reach the Olympics. I plan for my achievements to get bigger and bigger.”
Shields will also look to add to a list of already impressive accomplishments. At age 16, Shields became the first U.S. women’s boxer to earn Olympic gold when she won the women’s middleweight division at women’s boxing’s Olympic debut in 2012. Shields is also the 2014 world champion.
Some of the boxers qualified for the Pan Ams through the 2015 WSB and World Championships Team Trial in Chattanooga, Tennessee last year, where they faced competition from the Americas – the same competition that they will encounter in the ring at the Pan American Games.
“Our guys got valuable experience (in Chattanooga),” head coach Ed Weichers said.
Though there are no Olympic qualification implications for both boxing teams through the Pan American Games, it still will provide them with the same valuable experience as Chattanooga.
Weichers, the former head boxing coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy, will lead both teams as they gain that experience.
Echoing Awesome’s sentiments, Weichers believes this will be a good experience for both young teams.
“The Pan American Games are the next thing to the Olympics,” Weichers said. “You’re boxing several days in a row. Guys are going to be put to the test…This will be a good measuring stick.”