The US went out with a whimper, a weak one at that, instead of a bang in Beijing. The last remaining United States boxer, heavyweight Deontay Wilder, was bounced in the semifinals Friday by Italy’s Clemente Russo in a 7-1 decision.
The 6-8 Wilder, age 22, will get a bronze, so the US will at least leave China with something besides a bad taste in their mouths. This was the worst showing by the US squad, led by head coach Dan Campbell, in Olympic history.
“It was a good fight, but I think it was sloppy. A lot of the points that he scored, I didn’t agree with because the only punches I felt were on the back of my neck,” the Alabaman Wilder said to the AP. “The whole thing was to get in there and have fun and I did.”
Russo, age 26, is the reigning world champion, so to look on the bright side, at least the 2007 national Golden Gloves champ Wilder didn’t get trounced by a bum. Andre Ward had beaten Russo early in the 2004 Games.
Wilder didn’t start boxing until the fall of 2005, so personally, this outing is something of a triumph. He is easy to root for, as he is providing for his little girl, Naieya, who was born with spina bifida. He holds a full time job driving for a beverage company and works at Red Lobster on the weekends for extra cash. He has a tendency to hold his hands too low, wait too long to get off, and has balance issues, so clearly, he is a work in progress, but here’s hoping his fast-track growth translates into the pro game.
For the team and the national program, the bronze does little to remove the tarnish. It is time to refashion the program. Manny Steward, or Teddy Atlas, want the job?