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'84 Olympic reunion prompts comparisons

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

The 1984 U.S. Olympic boxing team, which produced nine gold medals, one silver and one bronze, as well as six professional world champions and, when all is said and done, two Hall of Famers, will hold a reunion this weekend in Atlanta.

Most of the big names, including Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Mark Breland, will attend.

A likely point of discussion will be why the USA has become an also-ran since its massive haul at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. In the six Games since Los Angeles, the U.S. has won six gold, eight silver and 12 bronze medals.

Breland, a 1984 gold medalist and two-time professional welterweight champion, said the amateurs are fighting a professional style and the U.S. doesn't place an emphasis on amateur boxing like it used to.

In the 1970s and 1980s, major amateur boxing meets between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, for example, were regularly broadcast on network television. Now, not even the U.S. fights in the Olympics make network television.

And the U.S. amateur fighters lack fundamentals and use a style more suited to the pro game.

"If you watched amateur boxing back then, you saw guys who had fundamentals, who used their jabs, who knew how to fight in the amateur system," Breland said. "Watch these kids now. Do you see anyone – anyone – using a jab regularly? I pretty much won my fights with my jab.

"The fundamentals of the guys now are non-existent. And the guys that do have talent, they're fighting like they're pros."

As successful as the 1984 boxers were at the Olympics – and the Eastern bloc countries boycotted those Games – they went on to just as much success in the pro ranks.

Whitaker is one of the greatest fighters ever and has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Holyfield will join him in the Hall once he retires. Taylor was one of the great fighters of his day. Breland posted a 35-3 career mark. Frank Tate won a middleweight title. Virgil Hill had two long reigns as the light heavyweight champion and a brief stint as a cruiserweight champion.

[Related: Promising boxer fights for life after horrific accident]

There are no such hopes riding with the current USA boxing team.

"We all want to see it happen," Breland said of the USA's return to dominance in amateur boxing. "It's not like there aren't good kids out there. But for whatever reason, they're not being developed into successful [amateur] fighters. That's got to change."

Hooks and jabs

• The second episode of HBO Sports' "24/7: Pacquiao-Marquez" was only marginally better than the weak first episode. The problem is that these fighters have been featured so many times, there's nothing new to report and it looks very forced.

• HBO plans to show highlights of featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. against Dat Nguyen on its Nov. 26 broadcast from Cincinnati. The question is, why? If you're going to match him against a second-tier talent like Nguyen, who was brutally beaten by Luis Orlando Del Valle in his last outing, don't bother putting him on premium television.

• Saturday is a great night for U.S. boxing fans, as both Showtime and HBO have interesting bouts. Showtime's super middleweight bout features IBF champion Lucian Bute, No. 8 in the Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound rankings, against veteran Glen Johnson. HBO has what could be a modern-day version of the Marvelous Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns classic from 1985 (albeit with far, far, far, far, far, far less skill) when it televises Alfredo Angulo against James Kirkland. You can't call yourself a boxing fan if you miss either of those fights.

• Steve Kim of MaxBoxing took a closer look at Juan Manuel Marquez's new strength and conditioning coach, Angel Hernandez. The results are troubling. Hernandez used to go by Angel Guillermo Heredia, according to Kim, and in Marion Jones was coached by Graham.

• I like Top Rank president Readers always write

Robinson not close to the best

Sugar Ray Robinson was not close to being the best pound-for-pound fighter of all-time. I think many make excuses for every fight in which Robinson or Joe Louis would lose. At age 30 Robinson only managed a decision over a fighter with a record of 7-24. Duran (when properly conditioned, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and Carlos Monzon, among others, would have beaten Robinson given that he was beaten twice by Paul Pender.

Hugh
Chicago

Thanks, Hugh. I needed a great laugh. It's been a rough couple of days. Pound-for-pound stuff is only an opinion that can not be proven, and you're certainly entitled to yours. I don't think you've looked too closely at Robinson's accomplishments, though. He was almost 40 years old when he lost to Pender and it was a split decision. That was at least five years after his prime. Do you know he started his career 128-1? Do you know how many world champions he beat? Do you know how many Hall of Famers he beat? If you don't consider this list: Henry Armstrong, Kid Gavilan, Carmen Basilio, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Graziano, Gene Fullmer and Fritzie Zivic. Those seven men might be 1 through 7 the best fighters in the world today if they were fighting, and Robinson beat several of them multiple times. Do you know that in a series the Associated Press did at the end of the previous century, a panel of boxing experts chose Robinson as the best welterweight AND the best middleweight of the 20th century? Robinson lapped the field so far, it's not even funny. There's no one even close to him. Even Sugar Ray Leonard would tell you that Robinson was by far the best.

Lay blame on Donaire

As a boxing fan and insider for more than 40 years, I get aggravated when the overmatched, underdog fighter gets the blame for a stinker of a fight against an anointed boxing hero, and in the case of Nonito Donaire against Omar Narvaez, a pound-for-pound fighter. Wasn't it Donaire's mandate to show us why he's rated so highly? Or did he just want Narvaez to drop his hands and let him punch himself out? If Donaire would've gone to the body more he could've gotten Narvaez to drop his shell, but then he would've had to risk Narvaez countering him to the head. Then we hear from Donaire that Narvaez didn't want to fight. No, it was Donaire's responsibility as one of the top fighters in the world to adapt and overcome this mismatch that they set up for him to look good, but because of Narvaez's defense, he couldn't get it done. So he should blame himself, not his opponent, and so should we.

Robert C. Jackson
Edinburg, Texas

There is a lot of truth in what you're saying, though I'm not totally on your side, Robert. I did say after the fight that I thought Donaire diminished a bit in my eyes because of his performance. I think it's fair to question how good Donaire really is in light of the points you make. Since he couldn't find a way to break through the guard, perhaps he's not as good as we thought. I think that is a fair assessment. But the blame for the fight is another matter entirely and the lack of action rests solely on Narvaez's shoulders. I know why he fought as he did – he would have been knocked out had he done otherwise – but it is still his fault for the lack of action.

Quoteworthy

"Glen Johnson has seen almost everything in boxing. He's always there and he's always in great condition. He's faced all the great boxers: [Roy] Jones, [Antonio] Tarver, [Chad] Dawson twice. He even fought [Bernard] Hopkins in the beginning and he looked good, even if he lost it. I can say by far that he is the best opponent [I've faced], with the best credibility. His resume speaks for itself, so for me, it's a major step up." – Lucian Bute, the IBF super middleweight champion, discussing his opponent on Saturday, Glen Johnson.

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