The snapback on the men's side of the team USA sent to the London Olympics was rather severe following the exit of Errol Spence, the last hope for the men to medal in the Games. Claressa Shields' gold diminished some of the chopsbusting, as it meant the US squad didn't leave the Olympic medal-less for the first time ever. But, rightly so, folks have been intent of getting the real deal on why USA's amateur boxing program is so pitiable compared to their glory days.
Teddy Atlas, never one to mince words, wasn't afraid to single out some of the boxers he thought underperformed. The analyst, who worked the Games with Bob Papa, told TSS last week that Ru'Shee Warren, taking part in his third Games, failed to impress him. “He didn't fight like it meant anything to him,” Atlas said. He said Warren ran too much and generally fought like someone who wasn't hungry. Ohio's Warren has been able to draw a salary while maintaing his amateur status, fighting in the World Series of Boxing, and Atlas told me he isn't keen on that arrangement, believing it offers an opportunity for some to not work as hard as one has to in the pros, while still gettting paid. (Atlas is the sort, as am I, I admit, who likes to see athletes obviously giving their all in competition, emptying their tank, being willing to yes, go out on their shield, with honor, rather than coasting in the waning moments of a lost cause. Why not go down swinging, right?)
Julie Goldsticker, who has worked with USA Boxing since 2001, and headed up media relations for Team USA in these Games, thinks that the men, in particular have drawn undue scorn for their London outing. Atlas told me he would've liked to see more emotion from the men, maybe some tears, showing a level of caring; Goldsticker was present during those moments away from the camera, when pride fell away, she told me, and indeed many of these athletes shed tears because they didn't deliver.
“Just because they didn't cry in the walk from the ring to the NBC area 50 yards away doesn't mean they didn't cry,” said Goldsticker, making note that she wasn't speaking for USA Boxing as an entity. “The large majority of that team shed tears, but even if they didn't, tears equalling caring isn't how it works for every person. I sat in dark hallways, dorm rooms and a wide array of areas with athletes as they cried and replayed their bouts and the lead-in to them. All 12 of these athletes put years into this and I can assure you, representing their country on this stage meant a great deal to them.
“In regard to the comments that have been made about the Olympics lacking importance to some of the athletes, I can assure that the Olympic Games meant the world to all 12 members of the team, particuarly three-time Olympian Rau'shee Warren. Rau'shee gave a third of his life to the pursuit of winning an Olympic gold medal and placing it around his mother's neck and no one would commit that type of time to any goal that they weren't passionate about,” she said. She noted that Warren gave of himself to the kids training at his gym, and to his teammates, especially Shields, to whom he acted as a mentor. “Rau' Shee is the heart of so much of what we do and his impact has never been properly acknowledged,” Goldsticker said.
Check back tomorrow, for suggestions from Atlas, Manny Steward and Goldsticker on how to help get USA Boxing back on its feet.