US men shut out in Olympic boxing

Updated: August 8, 2012, 12:51 AM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- The U.S. men's boxing team is headed home from an Olympics empty-handed for the first time.

The rest of the world caught and passed the once-dominant American team long before welterweight Errol Spence's uninspiring final effort.

And now the world's best amateur fighters are down to the final days of their quests for all those medals the U.S. won't be winning.

Chinese light flyweight Zou Shiming will attempt to clinch his third Olympic medal when he opens the final day of quarterfinal bouts against Kazakhstan's Birzhan Zhakypov. Ireland's Paddy Barnes, India's Devendro Laishram and Britain captain Tom Stalker are all in action Wednesday in bouts that decide medals.

The U.S. team's fate was decided when Andrey Zamkovoy's arm was raised after an otherwise unmemorable bout. Spence and the U.S. boxers had reached a nadir.

"It's very disappointing for all of us, but we all fought hard and tried," said Spence, who couldn't capitalize after his apparent last-gasp loss to India's Krishan Vikas last week was overturned on appeal.

Spence's tentative effort against the more polished Zamkovoy was matched by most of his teammates, who weren't nearly good enough -- or lucky enough in a mostly brutal draw -- to match the nation's boxing pedigree. The Americans went out in a spectacular collapse, losing nine of their last 10 bouts.

U.S. women Marlen Esparza and Claressa Shields already have clinched medals in their sport's debut tournament, but their male teammates are done. The team that won a record 108 medals while sending giants from Cassius Clay to Joe Frazier to Oscar De La Hoya on to Olympic success -- and to pro stardom -- is at its lowest point.

"I think the foundation is kind of crumbling a little bit, but we're going to rebuild it," U.S. assistant coach Charles Leverette said. "The support is there, but we have to figure out the best way to help these athletes get back to the top."

Spence struggled to feel out Zamkovoy, a more polished amateur who knows how to hit and get away. Spence slightly increased his aggression in the third round but couldn't land nearly enough scoring blows.

The Americans won their first four fights on the opening weekend in London, but never again left the ring with their arms raised. The U.S. men did even more poorly than the squabbling Beijing team that had the previous worst performance -- yet at least that team won six fights and Deontay Wilder's bronze medal.

"I'm glad a better guy beat me this time, because I didn't like the way I went out last time," Spence said. "I didn't think about the pressure on the team. I just tried to fight my fight, and it didn't work out. He was the better man."

Besides the American team's quiet exit, the card at ExCel arena featured solid action and eight more fighters clinching medals.

And Britain is still rolling on: Welterweight Freddie Evans secured the home team's fifth medal of the Olympic tournament with a countback victory over Custio Clayton, who fell just short of Canada's first boxing medal since 1996.

Clayton and France' Alexis Vastine were the latest two fighters to protest the results of their bouts after losing on tiebreakers in an increasingly bad-tempered tournament, but amateur boxing's governing body rejected both protests late Tuesday night.

Vastine put on a theatrical display of disappointment after losing to top-seeded welterweight Taras Shelestyuk of Ukraine on countback, flopping on his back in the ring and punching a turnbuckle before collapsing in the tunnel in body-shaking sobs.

The session also included two of the most impressive fighters in the London Olympics.

Top-seeded flyweight Misha Aloian of Russia continued his outstanding tournament by reaching the semifinals with a 23-13 win over Puerto Rico's Jeyvier Cintron, and Cuba's Robeisy Ramirez pulled off one of the most difficult feats at these Olympics when he beat a British boxer, flyweight Andrew Selby.

Selby fought gamely, but couldn't keep up with the talented Ramirez, who broke through Selby's defense repeatedly to score points. Selby was the second-seeded flyweight after winning a silver medal at last year's world championships, but said he's open to staying in the amateur ranks until the 2016 Rio Games.

"He wasn't so much fast, he was just clever," Selby said. "He knew when to hit me at the right time, and he's very strong."

Vastine was a bronze medalist in Beijing, but he left the Olympics feeling robbed after dropping a decision to gold medalist Manuel Felix Diaz of the Dominican Republic in 2008 on a final-round point deduction.

This time, Vastine felt he had won a close fight with Shelestyuk. When he finally made it to the tunnel, Vastine gave a hysterical interview to a TV reporter before collapsing in sobs -- and hurling a large water bottle so hard it broke on the floor.

Clayton took his narrow loss with much more aplomb, praising Evans while acknowledging the home crowd is an obstacle just as large as the fighter.

"I didn't even hear them against me, but it probably makes a difference sometimes on the scorecards," Clayton said. "It felt like a close fight, but I thought I won."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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