The good news for USA Boxing was that on Thursday, 17-year-old middleweight Claressa Shields became the first American female boxer to win Olympic gold. Flyweight Marlen Esparza captured a bronze medal.
The bad news? The U.S. men failed to medal for the first time in Olympic boxing history. In a recent Sports Illustrated column, Chris Mannix characterized the outcome as “a century of dominance reduced to a medal-less pile of rubble.”
Mannix joined Karen Given on Only A Game to discuss the state of the U.S. men’s Olympic boxing program.
“[The slide] didn’t start this year,” Mannix said. “It started after 2004, when the program started liberally spending money that it didn’t have. It misspent the money it got from the United States Olympic Committee. It misspent the resources it got from membership fees and through sponsorship, and it found itself in a pretty big financial hole…It’s going to take a lot of work and effort to clean it up.”
To give a little perspective about how far the men’s boxing program has fallen, the U.S. earned 108 medals between 1904 and 2004 and one bronze medal in 2008 before coming up empty this summer.
In his column, Mannix recommended four steps that would immediately improve the boxing program: select a permanent head coach, incorporate boxers’ personal coaches, take part in international amateur competition and have successful pro boxers offering advice.
Despite the program’s troubles, Mannix believes that there are reasons to be optimistic about U.S. men’s boxing.
“I think the people who are in charge are smarter than those who were in charge in the past,” he said. “I think the more familiarity a U.S. Olympic coach has with those kids, the better the program will be.”