Boxing: U.S. men regaining respect, says coach Walsh

Sun Aug 14, 2016 5:31pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The once-great U.S. men's Olympic boxing team is clambering out of the basement and heading back to where it belongs, coach Billy Walsh said on Sunday as Nico Hernandez collected his light-flyweight bronze.

The first medals ceremony to feature a U.S. male fighter since the 2008 Beijing Games provided a useful moment for the former Irish welterweight and national coach to take stock of the work in progress.

Hired after Ireland won three men's boxing medals at London 2012, and the U.S. drew a blank, Walsh said the results were starting to show.

"We're starting to gain respect again and hopefully it will continue," he said.

In 'Cold War' days, the United States and Communist Cuba were twin powerhouses of amateur boxing with some of the greatest names to grace the ring starting out at amateur level.

Muhammad Ali won the 1960 light-heavyweight title, as Cassius Clay, while Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Henry Tillman and Ray Mercer followed as heavyweight champions.

Leon Spinks won the 1976 light-heavyweight title while brother Michael was middleweight gold medalist at the same Montreal Games and Sugar Ray Leonard won the light-welterweight division.

Times have changed. The last U.S. male boxer to win gold was light-heavyweight Andre Ward in Athens in 2004 and the current team -- the smallest in more than a century -- have no heavyweights of any sort in Rio.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Boxing - Victory Ceremony - Men's Light Fly (49kg) Victory Ceremony - Riocentro - Pavilion 6 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 14/08/2016. Nico Miguel Hernandez (USA)  poses with his bronze medal during the victory ceremony. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra