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How to Address the American Amateur Boxing Struggles

By James Stillerman– For the first since boxing was introduced to the Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904, an American boxer failed to medal. Despite the fact that America brought ten fighters to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, more than any other country, none of them reached the finals. Five fighters lost in the first round and another three boxers lost in the second round.

America recorded 108 medals, 48 gold, over the last 108 years competing in the sport which is the most among all the countries competing in boxing.

However, the United States amateur boxing has been on a steady decline since it reached its peak between the 1976 and the 1988 Olympics. American fighters in 1976, won seven medals, five of them gold, (they boycotted the 1980 Olympics since it was held in the former Soviet Union) in the 1984 Olympics, boxers won eleven medals and in 1988 the United States gained eight medals. Yet, in the last three Olympics, American fighters have only garnered seven medals and only one gold medal, which Andre Ward received in 2004. In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, American boxers only recorded a bronze medal which went to Deontray Wilder.

There are several reasons for the decline of American Olympic Boxing, first and foremost due to the lack of a national program, as seen with the other sports. Most sports have a strong, well organized and structured national organization that oversees a steady pipeline of talent of all age groups being fed into the amateurs and then the elite amateurs having the opportunity to compete for the Olympics. In boxing, there is no such thing. While boxing does have the amateur ranks it is not nearly as organized and structured as with the other sports. If boxing was stronger it would garner more children to become involved in the sport, increasing their chances of having better boxers at the Olympics by having a larger pool of athletes to chose from.

The American Boxing Federation`s president, coaches and trainers are constantly being changed, there is a great deal of in house fighting and the protocol on training for the Olympics varies every four years. For example, in the 2012 Olympics none of the boxing coaches’ staff was in place until a couple of months before the games and the President of the Amateur Boxing Federation, Hal Adonise was removed just before the games started. This lack of continuity prevents fighters from getting better and adds another distraction that they have to contend with along the way.

The American Amateur Boxing Federation needs to have its president, coaches and trainers in place within the next year, so that they have three years to build a plan of stability. Furthermore, with a stronger and more organized boxing amateur organization it might convince more exceptional boxers to compete for the Olympics instead of becoming professionals right away, giving the Americans a stronger team in which to compete at the Olympic Games.

United States amateur boxers need to be more immersed into the rules, scoring and fighting style of amateur boxing. These fighters need to compete in more exhibitions against other good amateur fighters leading up to the Olympics and be more accumulated to the Olympic style of judging. The Olympic scoring gives fighters more points for great defense and counter punching rather than the professional style of fighting, which many U.S. boxers are taught, and should not be at the amateur level, which is being aggressive and throwing a great deal of power punches.

There is more competition from Asian countries and the breakup of the Soviet Union, creating more fighters and better boxers that the Americans have to compete against that they did not have to face before, making their competition a great deal fiercer. These foreign fighters appear to be better fundamental trained with their skill set which is geared more to the Olympic style of scoring than Americans are, giving them a distinct advantage at this stage. If the United States coaches and the Amateur Boxing Federation address these issues than they will help these men become more acclimated to what they should expect and how to be better prepared for these amateur bouts.

Amateur boxing lacks experienced and knowledgeable coaches and trainers to help these boxers get where they need to be. Several former Olympic boxers complained that they were not being properly trained for the Olympics nor taught how to fight to the Olympic style judging. In addition, since 2004 there have been four boxing coaches. A way to address this problem is to allow American fighters to have their own trainers in their corners during bouts, as many other countries do. No one knows their fighters better than their own coach. This will prevent fighters having to conflict between doing what their trainers taught them and what their trainers for the Olympics are teaching them. It would also end the coaching carousel where fighters have a new coach and trainer and new set of rules and style of fighting every two years.

Hopefully in 2016, when the Summer Olympics resumes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil the American Amateur Boxing Federation can correct their mistakes and address these issues and have a much better showing than they have in the previous three Olympics and bring the United States back to its Olympic Boxing glory.

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