Hellhound on The Trail

By Robert Ecksel on August 12, 2012
Hellhound on The Trail
"We've got to get a little more stability in the organization. We've got to be more organized."

“You have to be taught how to fight. It’s not a strength sport. It’s a skill sport.”—Gil Clancy

Sometimes nothing less than a slap in the face will do. That shouldn’t be the case, but complacency plays by its own rules.

Complacency is what has beset amateur boxing in the US, and the slap in the face was the abysmal showing at the 2012 London Olympics.

Someone should have noticed, must have noticed, that the program was a failure of epic proportions. We need only go back four years to Beijing, where the sole member of the Olympic squad to win a medal was Deontay Wilder, who won a bronze (and whose thus far unimpressive pro career may or not speak to his amateur underpinnings).

Numbers don’t lie, except when they do lie, and the US had won 108 medals in boxing since the advent of the modern Games. But that was then and this is now. As Team USA packs its bags and heads for home, we hope that its structure, objectives and leadership are scrutinized to within an inch of their lives.

“We definitely have some work to do,” USA Boxing’s executive director Anthony Bartkowski told the LA Times. “We’re going to go back home, regroup, debrief and try to construct a road map for Rio in four years. It’s going to be very labor-intensive.”

“We’ve got to look at other countries and see what they’re doing,” head coach Basheer Abdullah added. “The rest of the world has caught up to us. So we’ve got to make some changes.”

For Bartkowski to say “we…have some work to do,” and for Abdullah to say that “some changes” need to be made, suggests that neither man fully grasps how dire the situation is. They can both be excused for protecting their turf, but there’s a hellhound on their trail. Unless those at the top recognize that the system doesn’t need modification but needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch, the problem will persist and, hard though it may be to believe, may grow even worse.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum, a canny operator and astute observer of all things boxing, chimed in with remarks that were as revealing as they are cautionary.

“It’s totally disorganized and that’s how our kids looked,” he said, “disorganized, lost.” As an example, Arum mentioned Jesse Magdaleno and Jose Benavidez, two 20-year-old pros on the cusp of boxing stardom.

“We at first told these kids to leave our office and go enjoy the Olympic experience. But they refused. They said the Olympic structure was such a racket, so disorganized and convoluted that they were going to turn pro with or without me.”

The kids in the London Olympics were no less athletic, tough or ambitious than the American boxers that preceded them. What has changed is the lack of adequate preparation, teaching, training and coaching. 

Charles Leverette, an assistant coach who worked several corners at the London Games, more or less agrees.

“We’ve got to get a little more stability in the organization,” he said. “We’ve got to be more organized.”

A “little more stability” echoes “some work to do” and “some changes” that need to be made. If these gentlemen don’t get it, and with their ringside seats there’s no reason they should not, the problem may be even more insurmountable that it even now appears.

(Full article can be read here)

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  1. NYIrish 09:18am, 08/12/2012

    Take a page from the NFL. If the coach can’t get it done fire him. The executive director bears responsibility for those under him and the overall results. If he cannot present a concrete plan for improvement for the next Olympiad and a postmortem on what is wrong with the American program he needs to go. Athletes are only young once. Status quo has got to go!

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