British star Amir Khan (center) is surrounded by the men’s U.S. Olympic boxing squad that will compete in the 2012 London Games, along with the team coaches and two members of the female team, Queen Underwood and Marlen Esparza (far right, front row).
The Olympic boxing tournament of the 2012 London Games begins with round 32 of the bantamweight division on Saturday, July 28. RingTV.com takes a look at each of the nine boxers representing the United States.
These capsules were orginally published in the August 2012 issue of THE RING magazine. Click here to order a copy.
Hometown: Alhambra, Calif.
Resume: He knows more about throwing a football than he does a punch. The starting quarterback in 2006-07 at the University of Northern Colorado, Breazeale didn’t start boxing until 2008. He was invited to work out at a gym in Carson, Calif., named “the Rock,” which is financed by television producer Michael King in an attempt to build new American heavyweights. The athletic Breazeale immediately showed promise. The door to London opened when Cam Thompso, who had reached the final eight in the 2011 World Championships, was suspended for a year for missing three successive drug tests. Breazeale earned a trip to London in the Brazil qualifier, where he finished second.
Motivation: Breazeale thought his athletic career was over after he took his last snap at Northern Colorado. He said he didn’t know where his life was going. Little did he know that it was going to the Olympics.
Hometown: Las Vegas
Resume:A three-time U.S. national champion, Hunter found himself in a fight for redemption in his Olympic quest. He tested positive for marijuana after winning at the U.S. trials in Mobile, Ala. He was suspended and then regained his eligibility in time to fight at the 2012 USA National Championships in March. He won, which earned him a trip to the Brazil qualifying tournament. He won there, too, earning a shot in London in a division that includes gold-medal favorite Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine.
Motivation: Hunter grew up in boxing. He often talks about his father, Michael “The Bounty” Hunter, who had an erratic pro career, including victories over Dwight Qawi, Pinklon Thomas and Oliver McCall. Hunter’s dad died in 2006 in a Los Angeles police shooting.
Hometown: New York
Resume: Browne won the Police Athletic League’s national title in 2010 and a U.S. national championship in 2012. He turned in one of the most-dominating performances at the U.S. Trials in August. At the subsequent World Championships, Browne reached the round of 16 and lost to Russian Egor Mekhontsev. Mekhontsev had to reach the finals for Browne to get a quick ticket to London. The Russian didn’t; Browne didn’t. Not to worry. Browne assured himself of a chance in London by winning gold at the Brazil qualifier. Browne, who has been compared to Chad Dawson, is in a division dominated by Cuban gold-medal favorite Julio Cesar la Cruz.
Motivation: Browne remembers N’Watchi Hartley, who he used follow to the gym. Hartley died in 2008 after he was hit by a car. Browne says he is fighting for his lost friend.
Resume: A 2009 U.S. national champion, Gausha nearly gave up on his Olympic hopes in August when he didn’t win at the U.S. Trials in Mobile. Then, the Trials winner, Jesse Hart, failed to qualify for London at the 2011 World Championships. Hart continued to struggle. Gausha got a second chance and won a controversial decision over Hart at the 2012 USA National Championships. That earned him the right to fight in Brazil for Olympic eligibility in only his second international tournament. He won gold in Brazil. Next stop: London.
Motivation: Gausha, who says his strength is an ability to adjust, talked about second chances after he came home from Brazil. He learned how valuable they are. He also knows how to capitalize on one.
Resume: He is a three-time U.S. national champ, a pro prospect and medal contender. At the U.S. Trials last August, he displayed a good jab and evident power, especially in his right hand. He qualified for London at the 2011 World Championships, where he lost to the eventual silver medalist Serik Sapiyev, a Kazakhstani who won world amateur titles at light welterweight in 2005 and 2007.
Motivation: His dad, who was born in Jamaica, got his son interested in boxing while watching retired heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, a Jamaican who won Olympic gold for Canada in 1988. Spence, who can often be seen doing his roadwork late at night during Dallas’ hot summers, hopes to emulate Lewis’ poise.
Hometown: Coram, N.Y.
Resume: A sergeant in the Marines, Herring won a silver medal in the 2010 World Military Games, gold at the 2011 Armed Forces Championships and a 2012 U.S. national championship. In winning the U.S. Trials in Mobile, he was impressive with agile footwork and evident speed. He lost his opening bout at the 2011 World Championships but qualified for London in May in Brazil.
Motivation: Sgt. Herring, the first active Marine to make an Olympic boxing team since Sergio Reyes in 1992, has done two tours in Iraq, 2005 and 2007. In his second tour, he was a gunner on top of a Marine vehicle when he watched a vehicle in front of him explode and vanish in flames from a roadside bomb. He says he’s fighting for his comrades.
Hometown: Avenal, Calif.
Resume: He is a 2011 U.S. national champion who started boxing as an 8-year-old and earned his ticket to London with a second-place in Brazil. After winning the U.S. Olympic Trials last August in Mobile, he traveled to Azerbaijan and drew the tournament’s toughest challenge in the opening round. He faced Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko, the 2008 gold medalist and winner of the Val Barker Trophy for being the best boxer at the Beijing Olympics. Some of his teammates thought Ramirez, who is at his best while throwing combinations, outworked Lomachenko,but he lost. Lomachenko went on to win the 2011 World Championship.
Motivation: Another shot at Lomachenko and a gold medal for his parents, who worked the fields in his hometown.
JOSEPH DIAZ JR.
Hometown: South El Monte, Calif.
Resume: A relative newcomer to the international scene, he is a 2011 U.S. national champion. He has a chance at a medal. He gained valuable experience at the 2011 World Championships last fall. He qualified for London in Azerbaijan by reaching the quarterfinal round, in which he lost to Lazaro Alvarez, a talented Cuban who goes to London as the gold-medal favorite.
Motivation: He is proud of confronting adversity with patience and poise, often rare in a young fighter, yet important on a stage as big as the Olympics. He says he is a thinking fighter who likes to control the ring, which is one way to get to the medal stand.
Resume: He is America’s first boxer to make three Olympic teams. He didn’t medal in either 2004 or 2008. However, his international experience, including computer-scoring, is an edge that gives him the best chance at winning America’s first gold since Andre Ward in 2004. A four-time U.S. national champion, he won a World Amateur Championship in 2007. He won bronze at the 2011 World Championships in Azerbaijan.
Motivation: His mother, Paulette. He says he has yet to go pro because he promised his mom that one day he would drape Olympic gold around her neck.
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