Norm Frauenheim

U.S. Olympic Trials: Warren wins division, one step from third Games

MOBILE, Ala. – Three fingers from Rau’shee Warren’s raised right hand added up to a destination more than a celebration. He’s not there yet. But a victory Friday allowed Warren to point to London and his third Olympics, a first for an American boxer and another chance for the Cincinnati flyweight to win an elusive medal.

“My journey is not done yet,’’ Warren said after a 31-18 computer-generated decision over Shawn Simpson of Chicago in the finals of the U.S. Olympic Trials at the Mobile Civic Center.

No, it isn’t. Perilous roadwork remains. But Warren knows a lot about peril and lousy luck. He has first-round eliminations at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Games in Beijing to show for all of his travels. His stubborn decision to continue rather than go pro, however, is a sign that this time he can reach the medal stand’s top pedestal in 2012.

“I still have to qualify,’’ said Warren, who gets his first chance at London at the World Championships, Sept. 22-Oct. 10, at Baku, Azerbaijan, where he has to finish among the Top 10 to gain Olympic qualification.

At 26, he has matured in several ways since he was a 17-year-old first-time Olympic teammate of 2004 gold-medalist Andre Ward, the current super middleweight titleholder.

“My older two brothers were in jail then,’’ said Warren, who was selected Outstanding Boxer of the Trials. “I was held back for another year in school. A lot of stuff was going on in my life. I wasn’t ready for it then.’’

But some hard-won maturity and international experience makes him U.S. coach Joe Zanders’ most valuable fighter.

“He’ll mean a lot to this team,’’ said Zanders, who is worried about an overall lack of international experience. “He’ll be another coach for us.’’

A new direction in American coaching has already been a big plus, Warren said. He already has worked at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., with famed pro trainer Freddie Roach, a consultant on Zanders’ staff. On Thursday, Roach told Warren to throw body punches.

“He liked what he saw from my body punching while I was at the Wild Card,’’ said Warren, whose fast hands and strength propelled him to a predictable victory over the 17-year-old Simpson. “When I saw him on Thursday, he reminded me to go to the body. Then when I looked over tonight (Friday), I saw him sitting there.

“I felt like I started out sleepy. I had taken a nap. Then I saw him and I remembered. I got myself going with those body shots.’’

Warren’s Olympic quest will continue without one former teammate. Cleveland lightweight Raynell Williams, a 2008 Olympian, was beaten by Jose Ramirez 21-16 in a must-win fight after an earlier loss to Ramirez had dropped him into the challengers’ bracket.

Ramirez possessed a dynamic right hand that repeatedly streaked through William’s defense and landed like a major-league fastball.

A victory by Cleveland would’ve forced a decision match on Saturday.

Ramirez’ victory was just one of 10 on night when the winner’s bracket – the red corner – won all of the bouts.

The rest of the American team:     

  • San Jose light-flyweight Eros Correa’s inexhaustible footwork and repeated combinations earned the first Olympic berth of the U.S. Trials with a 22-18 decision over Santos Vasquez of Sparks, Nev. The shorter Vasquez displayed power, but only in single punches that never could slow down the lanky, elusive Correa.
  • Joseph Diaz, Jr., of El Monte, Calif., claimed the spot at bantamweight with an unpopular 17-14 decision over O’Shanique Foster of Orange, Texas. The crowd at the Mobile Civic Center cheered Foster for some head-rocking right counters, but Diaz appeared to land blows more often and with better accuracy.Cpl. Jamel Herring, a Marine stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C., commanded the ring with speed and power to win the light-welterweight spot with a 15-10 decision over Pedro Sosa, a 141-pound fighter from New York who kept it close in the computer-generated scoring, yet never seemed to have much of a chance at an upset.
  • At welterweight, Errol Spence of Desoto, Tex., scored often enough with quicker hands for a close, 24-19 victory over Amir Iman of New York.
  • For middleweight Jesse Hart of Philadelphia, there were tears and a trip to the World Championships for a chance to get to London. Hart won 21-6 over Luis Arias of Milwaukee. Before his victory was announced, he began to cry. When he heard the score, he went to his knees and cried into the bottom of his red jersey.
  • Light-heavyweight Marcus Browne got onto the U.S. team with a narrow escape, 14-12, the closest score of the finals in a sloppy, slip-and-slide decision over Siju Shabazz of Las Cruces, N.M.
  • Michael Hunter, perhaps America’s best heavyweight prospect in years, left Joseph Williams of New York with virtually no chance after the opening round. Hunter, who sparred with Wladimir Klitschko before the heavyweight champ’s victory over David Haye, threw huge shots that had Williams hanging on to the ropes. Williams recovered, but a tiring Hunter, of Las Vegas, survived for a 28-17 victory
  • And in a super-heavyweight clash that often resembled two trucks crashing into each other, Lenroy Thompson of Lenexa, Kan., got up twice, once after he was thrown onto his pink headgear, through ropes and near a hand-held button that a judge punches to record blows. The computer survived. Laron Mitchell of San Francisco did not. Thompson won, 21-9.

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