Now that the Beijing Olympics are over, my two DVRs and two DVD recorders are finally resting after two weeks of massive overtime spent recording and burning the entire boxing tournament to 24 discs in a demented project that only a serious Fight Freak could understand (although that is probably questionable). Anyway, here are some final thoughts after a tournament of ups and downs:
• I won't even get into the scoring system too much because that has been beaten to death, but I think it is fair to say that the American amateur boxing system finally hit rock bottom after a miserable performance, which started with bantamweight medal hopeful Gary Russell failing to make weight and ended with heavyweight Deontay Wilder saving the U.S. from a medal shutout with a bronze.
Do you realize that it was the worst U.S. performance in Olympic boxing history? The 1948 team also won only one medal, but at least it was silver. It's pretty sad after seeing such super stars as Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya, among many others, get their starts on the U.S. Olympic team.
U.S. coach Dan Campbell's constant complaining about the scoring didn't evoke much sympathy from me because it was not only the American fighters who were getting screwed. It was fighters from countries all over the globe, save host country China, which was clearly a favored nation by the judges. Campbell's comparison of featherweight Raynell Williams' loss to the Roy Jones robbery of 1988 -- the scandal responsible for the current horrific scoring system -- was a bit over the top.
But no matter what scoring system is used, to me there's a problem when a traditional power such as the United States, with a population of more than 300 million, wins a single medal, the same total as Moldova (population of about 4.5 million) and Mauritius (1.3 million), two countries most of you never heard of and could not locate on a map if your Saturday night beer depended on it. And how about Mongolia (3 million) doubling the American haul with two medals, a gold and silver?
• In a bit of depressing news, it seems as though 20-year-old Ukrainian featherweight gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, the Val Barker Cup winner for most outstanding fighter in the Olympic tournament, plans to remain amateur and compete in the 2012 Olympics in London. That's a shame. He is, in my opinion, the best professional prospect I saw in the Olympics. Fortunately, there's plenty of time between now and 2012, so maybe he'll change his mind.
• Super heavyweight gold medalist Roberto Cammarelle of Italy also has the look of a quality pro prospect, but he plans to remain amateur and go for a third Olympic medal in London. He received bronze in 2004 in Athens. It's a real bummer when the best fighter in the Games, Lomachenko, and the super heavyweight gold winner both decide to stay amateur.
• Is it me, or do the professional alphabet sanctioning organizations actually look like bastions of honesty and integrity when compared to the governing bodies of amateur boxing?
• I thought NBC host Jim Lampley was dead-on when he suggested that the powers that be in Olympic boxing quickly get on the horn with CompuBox, which has tracked punch outputs in fights for HBO and ESPN for many years. Compared to the current horrific system, CompuBox, headed by Bob Canobbio, would do a much better job of accurately determining the winner of the fight if the winner is supposed to be determined by number of punches landed (as opposed to the quality of those punches).
• Think about this for a minute: Although powerhouse Cuba didn't win an Olympic gold in boxing, its eight medals (four silver, four bronze) led the tournament, an amazing achievement considering it essentially fielded its junior varsity. The Cubans were missing six studs from the 11-man team. Odlanier Solis, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Yan Barthelemy, all gold winners at the 2004 Games in Athens, defected in late 2006 and are now professionals. Two-time gold medalist Mario Kindelan retired. Erislandy Lara, a former world amateur champion expected to win gold in Beijing, defected a few months ago and turned pro. And Guillermo Rigondeaux, also an Athens gold medalist, attempted to defect last summer at the Pan American Games and was kicked off the team. If the Cubans who medaled in Beijing return for the 2012 Olympics in London, expect to see many of those silvers and bronzes turn into gold.
• In a blog last week, I praised NBC for its tremendous coverage of the boxing tournament as it more or less turned cable channel CNBC over to it for two weeks, during which it often showed more than six hours of boxing per day. So I was thoroughly disgusted with the way the gold medal matches were handled. Mothership NBC aired four of five gold fights on Saturday and three of six on Sunday. Talk about incomplete. Fortunately, I was able to find four of the missing matches on Spanish-language Telemundo, one of the many NBC-owned networks that covered the Olympics. So I got to see 10 of 11 gold medal fights. However, it will annoy me forever that there was no TV for Russian lightweight Alexey Tishchenko's historic gold medal victory. Tishchenko, who won featherweight gold in Athens, pulled off the rare feat of winning back-to-back gold medals. Instead of seeing that historical accomplishment, NBC not only didn't air it, it completely ignored it without even so much as a highlight or mention. I enjoyed Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt as much as the next guy, but how about a little respect for Tishchenko -- and those of us who stuck through the tournament from start to finish, including many sleepless nights spent watching light flyweight preliminary action at 4:30 a.m.?