This team was good and could’ve been great.
But the Team U.S.A. men’s boxing team was never given a chance, trainer Jesse Ravelo said.
A retired sergeant first class and owner of JR Boxing Club in Killeen, Ravelo coordinated Team U.S.A.’s camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., and wrestled with the dysfunctions of U.S.A. Boxing before attending the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London.
“I think we could’ve had at least five — I’ve never predicted anything, but in my mind, I thought we could’ve gotten five medals out of the whole deal, not counting the women,” said Ravelo, who also coached on the 1996 team. “We had a hell of a team, they worked pretty hard at the camp. They were focused. ... It was just the things that happened internally, I blame it on U.S.A. Boxing, the organization.”
What happened? More like what didn’t happen.
U.S.A. Boxing didn’t name a head coach for the team until June 30, less than a month before the Opening Ceremonies signalled the start of the games; the team did compete against international competition prior to the games and some of its most experienced coaches were not allowed in the boxers’ corners during fights.
“We had a great camp. The guys worked hard, they were focused, but they were not mentally prepared due to all the problems we had going on,” Ravelo said.
And the result was the United States’ worst showing in boxing ever.
For the first time, the U.S. did not earn a single medal in men’s boxing. If not for the Claressa Shields’ gold medal and Marlen Esparza’s bronze medal in the inaugural bouts of Olympic women’s boxing, the entire American experience inside the London rings would’ve been forgettable.
Ravelo hopes some good can come out of it, though: Change.
“We’ll have a meeting probably next month in Colorado Springs and we’re going to talk about this Olympics and what we have to do for 2016,” Ravelo said. “I love that we have some changes on the board of directors and changes in the task force for the coach’s committee. I think everything will be just fine.”
But from the beginning, the 2012 team was doomed.
According to Ravelo, after the U.S. qualifying tournament in 2011, the team competed poorly at a European qualifier. But instead on working to improve when they arrived back home stateside, the team was told their Olympian status’ had been revoked and they had to qualify again through another United States tournament (all but one original qualifier qualified for the team again).
“They should’ve kept the guys and started the camp right there and then (after the first U.S. qualifier),” Ravelo said. “We had competition against Italy and they canceled that. We had competition against Cuba and they canceled that. It was a big old mess.”
But the course continued.
The team converged on Colorado Springs for its camp in late June — a full month after the 1996 team started its camp prior to the Atlanta Summer Games — and still didn’t have a head coach.
Ravelo said he was supposed to be the team’s head coach, but then heard his name get dropped from first choice to third, then sixth and finally off the list entirely.
He was finally added to the team as a trainer, but was one of many U.S.A. Boxing coaches not allowed in the corner for the Americans’ fights.
The team adjusted and discussed game plans in the locker room before fights, but those plans weren’t carried out, Ravelo said, by either the boxers or the coaches.
And with no international competition prior to the games, the Americans’ chances for success were all but wiped out.
“We had a lot of good boxers. These guys could beat anybody on the national level, they can beat anybody in the United States, but they can’t beat anybody outside the United States because the competition is different,” Ravelo said. “The boxers are different, their style is different, the scoring points is different. We went handicapped when we went to the Olympics.”
The United States had just one fighter make the quarterfinals, everyone else was done early except the women.
“I know there’s going to be a big deal right now, the (U.S. Olympic Committee) is investigating, there’s a lot of changes that’s going to be happening this year because it’s embarrassing what happened and it’s all because of the organization,” Ravelo said. “The coaches were there, the athletes were there, we just didn’t have the resources.”