U.S. Olympic men’s boxing solid through first round, falters in round of 16

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After a horrendous outing at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the U.S. men’s boxing team has looked to recapture its former glory in London.

Historically, the U.S. has a commanding lead in all-time boxing medals, with a total count of 108. However, in 2008 the U.S. took home only one medal when heavyweight Deontay Wilder captured bronze. Of the nine competing, four boxers failed to make it out of the first round.

Now with the first round of 32 completed and the round of 16 in progress, the U.S. has found itself in a similar situation to Beijing.

After the first round, the U.S. posted a strong 4-2 record. For a while, it appeared things were on the upswing for Team USA.

“I was just excited to see my family here, and my teammates here, and we’re just blessed. We’re just going to push each other to the top,” lightweight Jose Ramirez told NBC Olympics’ Ryan Maquinana after his bout.

Ramirez, 19, was one of the many to dazzle in the first few days at London. While the final score of his fight ended up close at 21-20, Ramirez entertained throughout by being aggressive against France’s Rachid Azzedine.

In other weight classes, bantamweight Joseph Diaz, Jr. threw flashy combinations to outland his opponent 19-9 against Pavlo Ischenko of Ukraine. Welterweight Errol Spence also earned a decision over his Brazilian opponent, Myke Ribeiero de Varvalho, 16-10.

The U.S. scored the first knockout of the Olympics as middleweight Terell Gausha dramatically stopped Aremenia’s Andranik Hakobyan in the final seconds of the last round. Gausha had been trailing the whole fight.

Although even with Gausha’s dramatic come from behind victory, some members of Team USA weren’t so lucky. The team’s co-captain and former Marine Corps sergeant Jamel Herring was ousted in the first round after a 19-9 decision against Daniyar Yelussinov of Kazakhstan.

“His right hook was opening things up for his left,” Herring told Maquinana. “We had the game plan to avoid that left, but that looping hook was awkward.”

Light heavyweight Marcus Browne was also another American to be upset. Australian Damien Hooper edged out a 13-11 victory after pulling away in the third and final round.

Things worsened at the beginning of the second round. Heavyweights Michael Hunter II and super heavyweight Dominic Breazeale, whose weight classes didn’t have a round of 32, were both ousted in their first fights at the London games.

Hunter’s fight originally ended in a 10-10 draw. In the case of a tie, the five judges scoring ringside are tallied instead of the three highest that are used. Hunter’s opponent, Artur Beterbiev, advanced to the next round when all the scores were tallied.

Dominic Breazeale suffered the most lopsided defeat for the U.S. so far. Russian Magomed Omarov outclassed Breazeale to win a 19-8 decision victory. Breazeale suffered two standing eight counts in the fight.

Perhaps the most disappointing loss of the day was at the very beginning. Joseph Diaz, Jr. lost to former amateur world champion Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba.

Diaz, one of the most impressive boxers from the round of 32, fought hard, but Alvarez proved to be too much. The more experienced Alvarez outpointed Diaz 21-15.

Alvarez’s victory was just another example of Cuba’s dominance in the last few Olympics. In Beijing, seven Cubans medaled. While they failed to reach gold, it was more of a rarity than a standard. During the 2004 Olympics in Athens, five Cubans took home gold medals compared to the United States’ one.

With the losses in the round of 16, the U.S. has dropped five losses in a row. If the U.S. wants to medal, it will be up to either Ramirez, Spence, Gausha, or the team’s other co-captain Rau’shee Warren. Warren has yet to fight due to a bye in the first round of 32 for the flyweight division.

What seemed like a promising start is now in danger of entering very familiar territory.