The 2016 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team left Colorado Springs on Tuesday, July 19. The squad will continue their training in Brazil as they await the start of the summer games which will be held August 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro. The squad consists of eight boxers, five shy of the U.S. contingent at the 2012 games in London. On the men’s side, the U.S. will not field a representative in the welterweight division or in the three highest weight classes: light heavyweight, heavyweight, and super heavyweight.
For aspiring Olympic boxers, the road to the summer games has become more difficult. There are layers of qualifying tournaments that did not exist as recently as 2008 when Andre Ward won the gold in Athens – the last U.S. boxer to win an Olympic gold medal. The final qualifying tournament in Vargas, Venezuela, proved to be the end of the line for welterweight Paul Kroll (Philadelphia, PA), light heavyweight Jonathan Esquivel (Anaheim, CA), heavyweight Cam X. Awesome (Lenexa, KS), and super heavyweight Brandon Lynch (Albany, NY).
For crushing his Olympic dreams, Jonathan Esquivel can thank Taiwanese architect Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, the president of AIBA, the worldwide governing body for the sport of amateur boxing. It has long been a vision of Dr. Wu to open the competition to professionals and he succeeded in imposing his will on the membership of the organization.
In the last-chance qualifier in Venezuela, Esquivel survived the opening round and then ran into Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam of Cameroon. A 2004 Olympian who fights out of France, N’Dam N’Jikam is 33-2 fighting as a pro. His two losses came in world title fights.
Esquivel won a round on the card of all three judges, but the Cameroonian won two. Goodbye Esquivel.
In the Olympics, there are only three weight classes for women: flyweight, lightweight, and middleweight. Flyweight Virginia Fuchs (Kemah, Texas) was eliminated at a qualifying tournament in Kazakhstan, leaving the U.S. without a competitor in her weight class. The two remaining females, lightweight Mikaela Meyer and middleweight Claressa Shields, are expected to make a deep run in Rio. That goes double for Shields who won gold in 2012 at age 17, the first year that female boxers were eligible to compete in the Olympics.
The U.S. Olympic boxer attracting the most buzz is 19-year-old Shakur Stevenson (pictured) who competes in the bantamweight (123 pound) division. Named for the late rap artist Tupac Shakur, Stevenson was raised in a Newark housing project. He is 23-0 in international competition.
Here is the complete U.S. Olympic Team roster.
Light flyweight – Nico Hernandez, Wichita, KS
Flyweight – Antonio Vargas, Kissimmee, FL
Bantamweight – Shakur Stevenson, Newark, NJ
Lightweight – Carlos Balderas, Santa Maria, CA
Light Welterweight – Gary Antuanne Russell, Washington, DC
Middleweight – Charles Conwell, Cleveland Heights, OH
Lightweight – Mikaela Meyer, Los Angeles, CA
Middleweight – Claressa Shields, Flint, MI
U.S. Olympic Boxing Team Has Eight Members