Professional champions who didn't medal in the Olympics

Barry McGuigan, left, might've stumbled at the Moscow Games, but he more than made up for it in the prize ring. Steve Powell/Getty Images

As disappointing as it has been for the U.S. boxers who failed to reach the medal round in Beijing, it is by no means the end of the world -- especially for those who are intent on pursuing professional careers.

Many professional champions didn't win a medal in the Olympics. Their opponents -- the ones who enjoyed the elation of victory -- have in many cases slipped into obscurity.

Sometimes, boxers from Western nations were virtually boys against men when they came up against the mature boxers from the old Communist bloc countries. A boxer with a so-called "professional" style might have suffered under the amateur code, in which hard punches are not rewarded the same way they are in the pros. Also, there is always the luck -- or ill luck, in this case -- of the draw, in which a boxer might find himself matched with an elite performer long before the medal round.

Out of many, here are 10 examples of boxers who left the Olympics empty-handed but went on to become professional champions.

10. John H. Stracey

Londoner Stracey had a tough draw in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, meeting the classy American southpaw Ronnie Harris in just his second bout, after eliminating a Canadian. Although Stracey was clearly outpointed (even though one of the five judges scored the bout in his favor), his gritty showing against the eventual lightweight gold medalist earned him considerable praise. In an ironic turn of events, Stracey enjoyed his greatest professional victory in this same city in 1975 when he upset the odds by stopping Jose Napoles to become welterweight champion.

9. Gilberto Roman

Mexico's Roman lost in the flyweight quarterfinals in the 1980 Moscow Games, but the man who beat him, Peter Lessov of Bulgaria, went on to win the gold. Roman, though, became a two-time 115-pound champion as a professional and is considered one of the greatest boxers in history of that weight class.

8. Antonio Esparragoza

Esparragoza was a world championships bronze medalist in the amateurs but he proved a big disappointment for Venezuela in the 1980 Olympics, losing in his opening bout to Britain's Peter Hanlon in the featherweight division. It was a 4-1 verdict under the amateur system used at the time and Esparragoza was hurt in the scoring by twice having points deducted -- in what were then called "public warnings" -- for ducking too low (too low for the amateur code, that is) to avoid punches. However, the Venezuelan won the WBA 126-pound title as a professional, defending the championship seven times before losing it in South Korea. He is best known for his thrilling 12th-round stoppage win over Steve Cruz on his opponent's home ground in Fort Worth, Texas.

7. Trevor Berbick

Anyone watching Berbick lose to Romania's Mircea Simon in his opening bout in the 1976 Montreal Games would surely never have dreamed that the strong but clumsy Jamaican would become world heavyweight champion and even go down in the record books as holding a win over Muhammad Ali (who was, of course, sadly faded at the time). Meanwhile, Simon actually reached the Olympic final but had a disappointing professional career in the U.S.

6. Joan Guzman

Even the most talented of boxers can lose in his first bout of the Olympics. It happened to Guzman at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, when the future pro champion from the Dominican Republic lost in the opening round of the flyweight competition to Argentina's Omar Narvaez. Maybe Guzman, who had a long amateur career, was struggling to make weight, because when he made his pro debut a year later, he weighed 124 pounds. As for Narvaez, now a world flyweight champion, he lost in his second bout in Atlanta -- yet another outstanding professional who didn't reach the medal round in the Olympics.

5. Daniel Zaragoza

Zaragoza was known as a rough, tough fighter even in the amateurs. The future pro bantamweight and 115-pound champion went out against Guyana's Michael Anthony in the third series of the bantam competition in the 1980 Games. However, Zaragoza might have been a bit drained by a grueling second-round bout with Britain's Ray Gilbody in which each man was given a standing eight count.

4. Vic Darchinyan

Darchinyan was a top-level amateur on the Armenian national team, but after beating a Russian in his opening bout, he lost 15-8 on the electronic scoring system to Kazakhstan's Bulat Jumadilov in the flyweight quarterfinals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The story had a happy ending, of course: Darchinyan became a permanent resident of Sydney and went on to win world titles at 112 and 115 pounds.

3. Barry McGuigan

McGuigan was considered Ireland's brightest hope for a gold medal but he surprisingly lost in the featherweight third series in the Moscow Games -- a 4-1 split decision against Zambian Winfred Kabunda. In the book "Leave the Fighting to McGuigan," author Jim Sheridan suggested that the future professional featherweight champion habitually overtrained as an amateur, and certainly the "Clones Cyclone" was considered to have boxed well below his best against the tall, rangy Zambian. McGuigan "had not yet perfected the body shots that would reduce such opponents to his size," Sheridan noted, "but he still should have beaten Kabunda, who was not in his league."

2. Mike McCallum

One of the finest ring technicians in recent years, Jamaica's McCallum went out to West German Reinhard Skricek in the welterweight quarterfinals of the 1976 Games. Perhaps the body punching of the future junior middleweight and middleweight champion wasn't appreciated by the Montreal judges, in which case one might say that nothing has changed.

1. Miguel Cotto

Of all the future pro champs who had a tough draw in the Olympics, Cotto might have had the toughest of all. Just 19 years old, the Puerto Rican prospect found himself matched against the strongest boxer in the light welterweight division, Uzbekistan's world champion, Mohamad Abdullaev, in his opening bout. Unsurprisingly, Cotto lost 17-7 on the electronic scoring method. Abdullaev went on to win the gold medal, but Cotto had his revenge in the professional ring, stopping Abdullaev in nine rounds at Madison Square Garden five years later, when the outclassed Uzbek surrendered due to a closed right eye.

Graham Houston is the American editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for FightWriter.com.