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U.S. Boxing Team May Not Be Well Represented in Beijing

Boxing is a dying sport. That's a familiar refrain to anyone who follows the sport in this country. The conventional wisdom is that boxing is on its last legs. Pundits cite numerous reasons from convoluted sanctioning bodies to mixed martial arts to pay-per-view broadcasts that make it too hard for the casual fan to follow the sport. All have some truth but with the Olympics coming this summer, we're being reminded of a reason that may trump all the rest. Amateur boxing is in a bad way in this country.

Only five members of the U.S. Olympic boxing team have qualified to put on the headgear in Beijing at this point. The other six will need to qualify, either at the current Americas Olympic qualifier in Trinidad or in April's event in Guatemala, by finishing in at least the top three, although some of them need to reach the finals or win. Unlike previous qualifiers, the Cuban team is competing in Trinidad which should make matters more difficult.

During the Oleg Maskaev-Sam Peter and Wladimir Klitschko-Sergei Igbramov heavyweight title bouts, much was made of their extensive amateur backgrounds. None of the fighters grew up in the U.S., something that's the case among champions in many weight classes as is the deep amateur experience. The training begets better boxers which begets championships. The U.S. Olympic struggles underscore the problem developing fighters here and the lack of a home team is a big reason for boxing's diminishing returns in this country.

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