I didn’t plan to watch the Olympics every night. But I do. I’ve become hooked. I was hooked on swimming and now I’m hooked on track. I wish I could say I was hooked on boxing.
I love boxing, amateur and professional. Olympic boxing, however, is almost unwatchable. The computer scoring system, which was designed to remove favoritism and bias from the judging, is flawed. I see punches that clearly land for which boxers fail to get credit.
Even more frustrating is the U.S. boxing team.
Eight years ago I covered the U.S. team in Tampa, where the Olympic qualifiers were held, and again at the Olympics in Sydney. Calvin Brock, from Charlotte, was the superheavyweight on the team. When he and the fellows trained in a little Ybor City gym, the temperature about 100 degrees, I thought, “I have never seen so much boxing talent.”
But the team went on to win only four medals -- two silver and two bronze. And Brock lost his first fight.
Brock’s father and trainer, Calvance, was banned from ringside. All individual coaches were. So he sat next to me on press row.
Meanwhile, the U.S. coach yelled at Calvin to “Stay busy!” He yelled the same advice at his little boxers and his medium-sized boxers. Staying busy – moving and throwing lots of punches – is one way to fight.
There are others. You can conserve energy, for example, by calmly picking your shots instead of throwing punches simply to be throwing punches. Blind aggression does not impress computers.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it, and I asked the coach why he yelled “Stay busy!” regardless of boxer, the size of the boxer or the situation.
“What am I supposed to say?” he asked.
Many coaches are political appointees. They work in the sport for years and they’re rewarded with an Olympic assignment. It’s like working on a political campaign and being rewarded with an ambassadorship to the Fiji Islands.
Meanwhile, there are brilliant coaches in sweaty little gyms all over the country. And those that know their fighters best are shut out at the Olympics.
There has to be a way to integrate the coach that oversees the program with the coaches that helped their fighters make the Olympics team.
The U.S. won only two medals four years ago in Athens. They’ll win only one in Beijing. Deontay Wilder, a heavyweight, is the only U.S. boxer still in contention. He fights Friday.
Yes, the talent has been diluted. Some of our best talent’s are playing linebacker, point guard and centerfield. But there is too much tradition, and too many good fighters, to have only one advance to the semifinals.