Team USA – What The Hell Happened?

With the Olympics officially over the USA boxing team has taken a ton of flack for it’s piss poor performance in Beijing.¬† The blame game has touched on everything from the unpopular residency program to the ineptitude of the AIBA appointed judges and the abysmal scoring system.¬†¬† Whatever the reason many have labeled our nine man team the worst ever to be fielded by the good ol’ US of A. Photobucket But what happened to us?¬† There was a time when the USA was a boxing powerhouse but in recent times we have seen our medal count at the hollowed games dwindle to new lows in number.¬† Seems fitting that our lone medal this go around was a bronze won by heavyweight Deontay Wilder the teams least experienced member.¬† Let us examine¬†two of the excuses being thrown out for our teams performance: The Team Itself Our national team’s inner turmoil has been chronicled in full extent.¬† Noted boxing scribe Ron Borges sums up the publicized clashes between the team and head coach Dan Campbell in gritty detail here¬†on the Sweet Science.¬† Many believe the dissension arose based on Campbell’s reinstatement of the unpopular residency program that required the members of the team to live and train at the training compound in Colorado Springs, CO.¬† While a great idea in theory – especially given the substantial differences between the amateur scene here in America and the AIBA’s.¬† But all the residency program seemed to do was cause a monumental rift between the team and the coach.¬† In this instance I have to say that I am against such a requirement.¬† In boxing, a fight is often won or lost in the boxer’s mind before they step between the ropes.¬† A fighter who is uncomfortable or distrusting of his corner is bound to falter in the heat of combat.¬† It seemed Campbell sought out little advise from his fighter’s local trainer’s and coaches instead enacting a “my way or the highway” edict that did little to gain his fighters trust.¬† This was the very reason that team members Luis Yanez and Javier Molina went A.W.O.L., performing to train under the guidance of their long-time coaches and risk disciplinary action than train under Campbell.¬† Then there is the training that Campbell put his team through.¬† Various members of the team have gone on record questioning the merits and boxing acumen of Campbell.¬† Many claimed that a day of training consisted of little more than standing around and hitting a heavy bag with sporadic mitt work and sparring sprinkled in.¬† Fighters complained of not being motivated or pushed physically at all.¬† Campbell was selected to head the team based on his extensive knowledge of the international game, its rules and nuances.¬† What more than a few amateur coaches have told me is that Campbell was not necessarily tabbed based on his knowledge but because he actively campaigned for the position.¬† Not to say he was unqualified for the role but I do think that USA Boxing should have stepped in when it was clear that there was a problem between the coaching staff and the fighters.¬† To stick your head in the sand did nothing to resolve the problem and if anything further hurt the team’s chemistry.¬† I mean there is a serious issue when fighters are basically ignoring their coach in the middle of a fight.¬† The Scoring Ok, make no mistake the AIBA’s open electronic scoring is a travesty on to the sport.¬† I understand that the AIBA had to do something to save face in light of Roy Jones’ robbery of gold at the 88 Olympics in Korea but their knee-jerk solution was this load of crap we see before our eyes.¬† Instead of addressing the real issue (biased and corrupted officials) they chose to save face by revamping the system.¬† The end result has turned Olympic boxing into a game of sissy slap fighting with ample moment of grab-ass.¬† Not exactly a ringing endorsement for your sport if you ask me.¬† As I watched highlights of past Olympic matches on ESPN it is clear that what we have now is a boxing in name only.¬† I mean to see greats like Mark Breland and Howard Davis fight in captivating fashion in the name of nationalistic pride is part of the reason I fell in love with the sport.¬† Now Olympic boxing is down right unwatchable.¬† Shots to the body, hooks, uppercuts, hell anything that is not a straight punch is not scored.¬† What we have now is fighters playing “slap-boxing” with jittery movements and enough clinches to make John Ruiz look like Manny Pacquiao. The solution is simple.¬† Go back to professional style judging and impose stiff penalties for any official caught being corrupt.¬† It’s the only way.¬† This way boxers actually, let’s see, what’s the word…box.¬† Something must be done, the health of the sport and the sanity of its spectators is on the line.¬†

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.