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US men's team make humiliating early exit

Updated: Saturday, 04 Aug 2012 00:56 | Comments

Rau'shee Warren of the USA is greeted by his corner after facing Nordine Oubaali of France
Rau'shee Warren of the USA is greeted by his corner after facing Nordine Oubaali of France

The United States men's team made a humiliating exit from the London Games on Friday after their final two fighters were eliminated, the first time the once great amateur boxing nation has failed to bring an Olympic medal home.

The US came to the Olympics with the biggest boxing squad of any country but after less than a week's fighting, not one of their nine male boxers, competing across all bar one weight class, were good enough to make it beyond the last 16.

Three female fighters can salvage some pride for the US when they enter the fray on Sunday and Monday, but for a country that has captured a record 48 boxing golds, won by the likes of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Friday marked a fresh low.

"We still have the girls as long as they don't get any bad decisions or stuff like that," Rau'shee Warren told reporters after losing to France's Nordine Oubaali, launching a now familiar complaint against scoring at the Games.

The US had thought they had a horrible Games four years ago when they won a solitary bronze. It was a roaring success compared to the last seven days.

The team had started brightly, winning their first four fights with Joseph Diaz Jr and Errol Spence impressing, but they then lost nine in a row culminating in Spence's 13-11 loss to world amateur bronze medallist Krishan Vikas of India.

"It's real disappointing because we expected to come home with medals and we didn't so it's kind of a sad day," said Spence who left the ring in tears after his narrow loss.

"I feel like I let down a lot of people, my family and the people that is at home."

The Americans have now won just one gold from the past four Games including London, light-heavyweight Andre Ward's victory eight years ago in Athens.

Boxing greats like Oscar De La Hoya and Evander Holyfield, Olympic medal winners who supported the team all week via Twitter and at ringside, must wonder what has gone wrong.

One answer could be that U.S. team's best boxers are impatient to turn professional and rarely stay in the amateur ranks. Of their 2012 squad, only Warren fought in an Olympics before and most intend to turn pro after the Games.

Another is a struggle to adapt to the electronic scoring system introduced after a judging scandal at the 1988 Olympics. Spence admitted that, trained mostly by professional coaches, the team's style is less suited to the amateur form of scoring.

However this particular squad of fighters also suffered from a haphazard preparation that saw Basheer Abdullah, an officer who ran the US army's boxing programme for 15 years, appointed head coach just weeks before the Games began.

To further complicate matters, Abdullah was forbidden from being in his fighters' corners or even at ringside because, having worked with professional boxers this year, he violates amateur boxing rules.

US executive director for boxing, Anthony Bartkowski, told Reuters on the eve of the games that they had only recently introduced video analysis and sports science to their boxing, expressing his surprise that it had not been implemented before.

Team captain Jamel Herring, eliminated earlier this week, also told Reuters on Thursday that the team's training camp "wasn't the greatest" and that he hoped the experience would be a learning curve to get future programmes back on track.

On Friday, Herring was in the crowd, cheering the boxers on along with his team mates. In a packed arena, chants of 'USA, USA, USA', a refrain heard in sporting events across the world, came only from Herring and his demoralised fellow fighters.

It epitomised a lonely Olympics for American amateur boxing.

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Country Total
USA 45 27 30 102
China 38 28 23 89
Great Britain 29 17 19 65
Russia 25 25 32 82
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Ireland 1 1 3 5
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