Sugar 'N Spice: "The Olympics. The Big O."
01.09.04 - By Bert Randolph Sugar,Sr. Boxing Analyst at-large for CMXsports.com: To those unanswerable questions like “How did those ‘Keep Off the Grass’ signs get there in the first place?,” “Why does Hawaii have interstate highways?” and “Why did Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?” can be added yet another: “What’s the matter with the American Olympic boxing program?”
Article posted on 01.09.2004
With that 17-day smorgasbord of sports, better known as the Olympics--which included everything but the famous diving horse from Atlantic City’s Steel Pier joining the American synchronized diving team--mercifully coming to a close, Americans can look back on 35 gold medals. However, only one came in boxing, supposedly a sport in which America reigns supreme--placing its gold strike as somewhat short of the 25 medals given out for doping, the five for the Cuban boxing team and equal to the one by tiny Thailand.
It takes no giant intellectual balloon ascension to see that America’s amateur program is in trouble. Big trouble.
There was a time, in the not-so distance past, when Olympic boxing and Olympic gold were synonymous for the American boxing team, with Americans winning five at the Montreal Games in ’76 and almost running the table at the ’84 L.A. Games. However, that has not been the case in recent years with the United States winning only one gold, at Barcelona in ’92 and Atlanta in ’96, and striking not gold but out at the 2000 Sydney Games--the first time in 52 years they had failed to pan gold.
This time ‘round there was a false sense of optimism about the American team’s chances--somewhat along the lines of the husband who thought his wife had stopped smoking cigarettes ‘cause he found cigar butts in the ashtray. In fact, several bargain-basement guess-your-weight merchants had speculated in their vital 50-cents essays about the American team’s “excellent” chances in the Athens Games.
However, it was not to be as four of the nine Americans lost in the first round, one in the preliminaries, two in the quarters and one in the semis.
To give you an idea of the piss-and-vinegar exhibited by the American team, all one had to do was reflect on the more-than-candid but less-than-astute comment of super heavyweight Jason Estrada, who, after fighting the entire quarterfinal in a fetal defensive position and losing to Cuba’s Michael Nunez Lopez, said: “If I’m going to lose, I’m not going to get hit a lot.”
In boxing’s version of Agatha Christie’s “10 little…9 little…Indians,” it remained for light heavyweight Andre Ward to salvage the Olympics for the American boxing team. And this fugitive from the law of averages did just that. Forging his resolve in the smithy of his soul, he came from behind to defeat a Belarusian whose name resembles an eye chart to give America its 35th and final gold medal on the last day of the Olympics.
But what of the future? And how to fix the fix that American amateur and Olympic boxing is currently in?
Short of rewarding the fighters who earn gold with more gold--as Thailand did by giving light welterweight champion Manus Boonjummong rewards worth $480,000--something needs to be done, something changed, or the beat and the beatings will go on. The U.S. Olympic boxing coach, Basheer Abdullah, acknowledges this, saying, “We’ve got to change something when we get back, otherwise we’ll be right here talking about the same thing four years from now.”
One of the “things” Abdullah mentioned to Boston Globe writer Ron Borges was that the U.S. needed “a national coach and a national philosophy.” This, for American amateurs view the Olympics merely as a stepping-stone to the professional level and are taught to fight in a professional manner by trainers, plural, not by one system or philosophy, if you will. It is not a method employed by, say, the Cubans, who have made amateur boxing almost their national sport--so much so that no less than 12 other countries had former Cuban fighters as their coach.
It could be the coaching or the lack of international competition or the lack of unification of the program. But something is amiss. And it showed at Athens.
For no tonic, no matter how popular and widely advertised, could have the reviving effect for boxing fans as a successful Olympic boxing team. And before the gilt of our great gold tradition begins to tarnish and fade from memory, something needs to be done to repair our amateur and Olympic programs. And done quickly. Otherwise, 2008 will be a repeat--maybe worse--for the American Olympic boxing team.
Bert Randolph Sugar, CMXsports’ Sr. Analyst At-Large, called “ The Guru of Boxing,” has a new book Bert Sugar On Boxing,” (or “The Best of Bert Sugar, The Worst of Bert Sugar, What the Hell’s the Difference?”), published by The Lyon Press and currently available at Border’s, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com
BERT RANDOLPH SUGAR'S latest weekly column --"Sugar 'N Spice" -- can be read EXCLUSIVELY at www.CMXsports.com. Sugar, the world-famous boxing historian and sports bon vivant, is the Senior Boxing Analyst at-large for CMXsports, where he is also part of the new Latin boxing broadcast series, "CMX Boxeo de Campeones," which made its debut, May 28. Presented by CMXsports and promoted by Guilty Boxing, "CMX Boxeo de Campeones" allows boxing fans from around the world to catch all the action via a live internet stream, and access the replay, at www.cmxsports.com for a monthly subscription fee of just $4.95. The series airs Friday nights, beginning at 11 P.M. ET / 8 P.M. PT. Subscribers can also access archived fight footage and get behind-the-scenes interviews, previews and articles. The broadcasts are available in English and Spanish. This week's show will emanate from The Gold Coast Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
The Runyonesque Sugar, a former editor of The Ring, and Boxing Illustrated magazines and the author of over 50 sports books, lends his world-renowned knowledge and razor-sharp wit to his weekly column which will be dedicated to the hot topics facing boxing today, as well as contrasting and comparing today's boxing scene to the historic eras of the past. This week, Bert plants his tongue firmly in cheek with his look on "THE OLYMPICS. THE BIG O." (Scroll down for free preview in text version.
CMXsports and Guilty Boxing are scheduled to produce 48 two-hour shows a year over a three-year period with two cards each month emanating from Las Vegas --The Orleans Hotel & Casino and the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino. The remaining two shows per month will be broadcast from different locations, including, southern California and Mexico.
“CMX Boxeo de Campeones” showcases the very best in action-packed Latin fights, a staple of Guilty Boxing shows over the past decade, as well as an extensive amount of high-quality features on boxing. CMXsports complements the broadcast with the Internet’s capability to provide fans around-the-clock, behind-the-scenes information about the fighters before and after the show, and the state-of-the-art CMXlivecam, allowing fans unprecedented access to the fighters on a real-time basis. In short, CMXsports is leveraging the latest in Internet streaming and interactive technology to produce an unprecedented experience for the viewer.
CMXsports is one of the rapidly growing members of the CMX family of sports and entertainment companies founded by A. Demetrius (Tony) Brown. Brown, a former professional basketball player, established a successful metal trading company that later evolved into CMXchange, a successful Internet-based trading exchange. Over the past two years, Brown has purchased or created a number of companies focused at a range of sports and entertainment products and services.
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