1988 Olympic Gold Medalist"Merciless" Ray Mercer
Looks Back at His Olympic Experience!
(February 11th) Thirty-two years after he captured an Olympic gold medal, "Merciless" Ray Mercer fondly remembers his Olympic experience like it was last month. Mercer, who is the only American heavyweight champion to knock out all of his Olympic opponents, went on to become world heavyweight champion as a professional for our "heavyweight double."
For Mercer, it all started in Germany, where his U.S. Army unit was based. Offered a chance to avoid a 30-day field exercise, Mercer accepted an offer to serve as a sparring partner for the post's heavyweight boxing champion. Despite never having put on a pair of gloves before, Mercer was a quick learner who was naturally strong, and he rapidly developed into the 1985 U.S. Army and Inter-service heavyweight champion.
The World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), in which qualified athletes have an opportunity to train fulltime for the Olympics, didn't exist back then, nor the Olympic qualifier rules of today. Mercer defeated future world heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison in the opening round of the 1988 Olympic Trials and another future world heavyweight titlist, Michael Bentt (5-0) in the championship final. At the 1988 USA Olympic Box-offs at famed Caesars Pala
ce in Las Vegas, Mercer won a split decision (3-2) over Bentt, but Mercer had already qualified to fight in the Olympic Games by being the U.S. Armed Forces champion.
"When I was in the Army, I had to win in the service, maintain things, and go to the next step," Mercer remembered. "I had to beat some good fighters on my way to the Olympics, and I was in the best shape of my life. There was more discipline in the amateurs than the professional ranks. The final year before the Olympics, I left my home unit, traveled a lot to fight, and stayed in my trainer's house instead of living in the barracks.
Mercer made history at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, when he became and remains the only Olympic heavyweight champion from the United States to knockout all four of his opponents: Rudolf Gavenciak (Czechoslovakia - RSC3), Luigi Gaudiano (Italy - KO1), Arnond Vasnderlyde (Netherlands - RSC2) and Baik Hyun-Man (South Korean - KO1).
"I knew I had to knockout the South Korean in the final," Mercer admitted. "I just wanted to do what I could to be the Olympic gold medalist. I don't think I used a jab.
"Winning the Olympic gold medal resulted in some big-time changes for me. I became a celebrity, a household name, and it allowed me to make money as a professional. The best thing that ever happened to me was winning the Olympic gold medal, even more than winning the world title as a pro. Nothing compared to becoming an Olympic gold medalist. I accomplished my dream. I had never dreamed of going pro, until after I won the gold medal.
"It was really important to win that gold medal. I fought with my heart; no money was involved, celebrated so hard that night (after winning the gold medal) that I lost my medal for a few hours. My dream had come true, my hands were shaking, and I lost my medal. What a night!"
Mercer offers members of the 2020 USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team one bit of advice, "Keep fighting, follow your dream and take that last step."
Mercer, who was born in Jacksonville, Florida, made his much-anticipated pro debut in 1989, stopping Jesse McGhee in the third round of their fight in Atlantic City. "Merciless" won his first 18 pro fights, including a ninth-round knockout of Francisco Damiani, followed by a successful defense against Morrison, who was stopped in the fifth round.
During his 19-year pro career, Mercer compiled a 36-7-1 (26 KOs) record, defeating four world champions in Damiani, Morrison, Tim Witherspoon and Ossie Ocasio. Five of his eight career losses were to world champions: Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield and Shannon Briggs.
"Ray represents everything that makes USA Boxing proud," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. "As an Army veteran, Olympic gold medalist, and heavyweight champion of the world, he has demonstrated excellence and professionalism that reflects the best of what USA Boxing has to offer."
USA Boxing Alumni Association
Created to champion lifelong, mutually beneficial relationships between USA Boxing and its alumni, --boxers, officials, coaches and boxing fans -- The Alumni Association connects generations of champions, inspiring and giving back to USA Boxing's future boxing champions, in and out of the ring.
The USA Boxing Alumni Association is open to anyone who has a love for boxing and would like to stay connected with amateur boxing. Members are granted access to a wide variety of special events hosted by the Alumni Association, including its annual USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame reception.
To join the Alumni Association, simply register at firstname.lastname@example.org for a $40.00 per year membership fee. New members will receive a T-shirt, keychain and e-wallet.
Mercer's outstanding amateur boxing career also included a classic match-up against Cuban great and three-time Olympic gold medalist, Felix Savon, at USA vs. Cuba dual match, in which Mercer twice staggered Savon, who survived without suffering additional damage only because the Cuban referee made a questionable intervention that gave his fellow countryman time to recover and a controversial 2-1 victory.
"And he gave me a standing eight-count for no reason," Mercer added. "I beat that guy and he knows it. We're still in touch even though he doesn't speak English. He has a friend translate and we're in touch on Facebook. We like each other."
Today, Mercer is founding a charity at home in North Carolina, which will include free boxing clinics, but, more importantly, give back to the community and teach youths, especially those who are bullied, the skills they'll need to go out into the real world.
Ray Mercer has reached the zenith twice in boxing as an Olympic gold medalist and world heavyweight champion as a professional. Not too shabby for somebody who never really wanted to box.
"Boxing saved my life," Mercer concluded. "I can't imagine my life without boxing, it certainly wouldn't be the same.
ABOUT USA BOXING: The mission of USA Boxing shall be to enable United States' athletes and coaches to achieve sustained competitive excellence, develop character, support the sport of boxing, and promote and grow Olympic style boxing in the United States. The responsibility of USA Boxing is not only to produce Olympic gold, but also oversee and govern every aspect of amateur boxing in the United States.
USA Boxing Featherweight Andrea Medina
Closing In On 2020 Olympic Spot In Tokyo!
(February 11th) Coming off consecutive runner-up finishes in major tournaments, USA Boxing featherweight Andrea Medina is within one tournament of representing her country in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
In December, the 20-year-old Medina lost a split decision to Lupe Gutierrez at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing, and 4-1 to Iulia Tsyplakova (Ukraine) last month at the Strandja Tournament in Bulgaria. The Chula Vista, California boxer was recently named to USA Boxing's Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Boxing Qualification Team.
"Placing second at the trials only made me more eager to get that Olympic Qualification spot," Medina said. "I just wanted to show USA Boxing that I was the one to represent at 57 kilograms. I am only going to get better and I cannot wait to show the world everything that I got.
"For it (Strandja) being my first ever international tournament, I was very proud of how far I got in the tournament and getting that silver medal. I was very happy with all my performances and I am excited to get back to work on things I need to improve on. Aside from all that, going to a different country was awesome and I can't wait to travel more doing what I love the most."
Medina and her Team USA stablemates are currently training in Colorado Springs at the state-of-the-art United States Olympic and Paralympic Training Center. To qualify for participation in this year's Olympic Games, Medina needs to finish among the top three in the 57-kilogram (125 lbs.) division at the America's Qualification Tournament, March 26-April 3, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One final opportunity at the World Qualifier in Paris, France, in which she could qualify for the Olympics by placing among the top five.
"It means the world to me to be on the USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team," Medina added. "It is everything I have been working for since I started competing at eight years old and I cannot believe the Olympic Games are only in a few months. Making history in San Diego by being the first person to make the Olympic Team for boxing is a big deal for my family, my city and myself. I cannot express how excited I am to have come this far, but there is still so much to do, and I am ready.
"I feel that I work better under pressure and I truly believe that I will qualify for Tokyo, whether it be in Argentina or France, but my main goal, right now, is to train hard to get that gold in Argentina."
Medina believes her major strength inside the ring is her ability to adjust during a fight. She prefers fighting on the outside, but she can brawl if needed, because she enjoys throwing a lot of power punches.
Medina also realizes that she's in a prime place regarding the rising popularity of female boxing, following in the USA Boxing footsteps of two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields and Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, along with past USA Olympians such as Queen Underwood and Mikaela Mayer.
"Female boxing is only going to get bigger," Medina predicted. "Being a female fighter today means a lot to me, because I have been doing this for 15 years now, and seeing it grow year after year only shows how strong females are and what we can accomplish. I predict that, in the future, boxing will not be seen as a man's sport, but will be neutral for both men and women."
Competing at the Olympics has been a life-long dream for Medina, but she also has plans for her immediate future.
"Reaching the Olympics has been my main goal throughout my boxing career," Andrea remarked, "so now that it is so close makes me want to work even harder. Other goals of mine are to graduate from college and get my own condominium, which I will do after all this is over.
"I plan on turning pro after the Olympics, most likely at the beginning or middle of 2021, so I can finish school and give my body some rest and recovery."
Andrea Medina is so close to being an Olympian and everything associated with that accomplishment that she can practically reach out and feel it. Just one more step, whether in Buenos Aires or Paris, and it'll be mission accomplished for her.
ABOUT USA BOXING: To promote and grow Olympic-style amateur boxing in the United States and to inspire the tireless pursuit of Olympic gold and enable athletes and coaches to achieve sustained competitive excellence. Additionally, USA Boxing endeavors to teach all participants the character, confidence and focus they need to become resilient and diverse champions, both in and out of the ring. USA Boxing is one team, one nation, going for gold!
USA Boxing Announces
2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Qualification Team!
(January 30th) USA Boxing announced today the 13 boxers who will represent Team USA at the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo Boxing Qualification Events, as well as the 13 alternates. A full list can be seen below.
The team was announced following the two-stage qualification process that began in December at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing in Lake Charles and concluded at the recent 2020 Strandja Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria. To see the full athlete selection procedure (click here).
"First of all, this was a very difficult decision," stated USA Boxing Head Coach Billy Walsh. "Some of these boxers were neck and neck between training camp and the 2020 Standja Tournament."
"We feel the 13 boxers that earned their place on the Olympic Qualification Team will be the best team to represent Team USA at the upcoming qualifiers, as well as have the best opportunity to qualify a full team to the 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo."
All 13 boxers will have two chances to punch their ticket to Tokyo. The first will take place at the America's Qualification tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 26 - April 3. Boxers who do not qualify in Argentina will have one final opportunity at the World Qualifier in Paris, France, May 13-24. (Click here) for more information on how boxers qualify.
The boxers, as well as several training partners, will return to the United States Olympics and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Feb. 5 for their next training camp.
USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team
51 kg: Virginia Fuchs, Houston, Texas
52 kg: Anthony Herrera, Los Angeles, Calif.
57 kg: Andrea Medina, San Diego, Calif.
57 kg: Bruce Carrington, Brooklyn, N.Y.
60 kg: Rashida Ellis, Lynn, Mass.
63 kg: Keyshawn Davis, Norfolk, Va.
69 kg: Oshae Jones, Toledo, Ohio
69 kg: Delante Johnson, Cleveland, Ohio
75 kg: Naomi Graham, Fayetteville, N.C.
75 kg: Joseph Hicks, Grand Rapids, Mich.
81 kg: Rahim Gonzales, Las Vegas, Nev.
91 kg: Darius Fulghum, Houston, Texas
91+ kg: Richard Torrez Jr., Tulare, Calf.
USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team Alternates
51 kg: Christina Cruz, Hell's Kitchen, N.Y.
52 kg: Abraham Perez, Albuquerque, N.M.
57 kg: Lupe Gutierrez, Sacramento, Calif.
57 kg: David Navarro, Los Angeles, Calif.
60 kg: Amelia Moore, Alexandria, Va.
63 kg: Ernesto Mercado, Pomona, Calif.
69 kg: Briana Che, Madison, Wisc.
69 kg: Freudis Rojas Jr., Dallas, Texas
75 kg: Morelle McCane, Cleveland, Ohio
75 kg: Javier Martinez, Milwaukee, Wisc.
81 kg: Atif Oberlton, Philadelphia, Pa.
91 kg: Jamar Talley, Camden, N.J.
91+ kg: Antonio Mireles, Des Moines, Iowa
USA Boxing Alumni Association
Hall of Fame Reception Another KO!
(December 19th) The Class of 2019 was inducted into the USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame this past Friday night at Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The HOF reception was held in conjunction with the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing and 2019 National Championships. Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Bernstein from Showtime Sports served once again as the event's emcee.
Olympic gold-medalists Mark Breland and "Smokin'" Joe Frazier along with decorated coach Al Mitchell and famed cut-man Ray Rodgers, were inducted during the 3rd annual USA Boxing Alumni Association HOF reception.
Sen. John McCain was posthumously presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award. His daughter, Megan McCain, sent an acceptance video on behalf of her family that was played for the audience.
"We are extremely thankful for the hundreds of USA Boxing Alumni who showed up to support this year's Hall of Fame class and enjoy an incredible evening of reflection, camaraderie, and joy," said USA Boxing Alumni Association Director Chris Cugliari. "Unfortunately, George Foreman was unable to attend the event, so we will be sure to honor him at a later date. However, the legacies of Ray Rodgers, Al Mitchell, Joe Frazier, Mark Breland, and Senator John McCain were celebrated with passion and gratitude. It was an evening to remember, and we look forward to a strong 2020 for the USA Boxing Alumni Association."
The ceremony was well attended, with over 200 traveling to Lake Charles in celebration of this year's class. 1988 Eastern Olympic Qualifier Champion John "Iceman" Scully, 1972 Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales, 1984 Olympic gold medalist Frank Tate, former middleweight and light heavyweight champion "Sweet" Reggie Johnson, and 1992 Olympian Raul Marquez celebrated amongst peers from their amateur days.
To watch the entire ceremony, go HERE
Below are quotes from the inductees, or those representing inductees, with pictures:
CLASS OF 2019
Mark Breland: "I enjoy boxing, it's a lot of fun. I'm glad to be here because I've seen a lot of fighters I grew up with in the amateurs. I enjoy boxing because it kept me off the streets. I wasn't a street guy., My father would have beaten me up if I had gotten into trouble in the streets. Boxing kept me off the streets, kept me in the gym. I guess I was good at it. I had a fight with a bully when I was 14 and I beat him up. I went to the gym the same day and my coach asked me what happened. My knuckles were shredded with blood. I told him I had a fight in the street. He said you can't fight in the street. Then I realized boxing and street fighting are two different things.
Shelly Finkel (his manager), when he came into my life, changed a lot of things. Things changed a lot. I focused more on boxing, focused on the Olympic Games, and won championships. Every tournament I went into, I won, but it was a lot of fun. I wanted to inspire youths. I hope I can inspire some amateurs coming up. To keep going, stay off the streets, and do something that can change your life in a good way., Eddie Futch for life!"
Marvis Frazier(Joe's son, pictured): "It is so good today to speak about my father, what he meant to me, and Joe Frazier always said to me, 'There's no right way to do wrong, no wrong way to do right.' He said, if you don't do right, you're going to smell this, putting his left fist right to my nose. When it was time for me to do bad, it wasn't me, wasn't Marvis Frazier. So, today, I'm still smelling it even if he's not here.
"I just love to talk boxing. As an amateur I was 46-1 and then when I turned pro, I beat the guy who had knocked me out. I love my father. He was a good guy and a champion. I know everybody know Muhammad Ali and I know everybody know 'Smokin' Joe Frazier."
Al Mitchell: "I got rid of anybody over 16 who didn't want to go to school. I've been doing this the longest time and I want to thank the coaches. I had three or four who didn't care about boxing, but they wanted their kids to get an education. Izzy Acosta is one. I got a perfect record at Marquette High, they've all graduated. I have four kids with master's degrees, I've got 14 who have degrees, and four guys who are policemen and no way they should be policemen. I'm blessed.
"Old coaches would tell one you're only as good as your memories. It's crazy with kids 14, 14, 15. I had a kid named Vernon Forrest, a four-time world champion., It's not just about boxing. It's getting an education and after ten years they have a good life. I want to thank you all for putting me in the Hall of Fame."
Michael Rodgers (Ray's son, pictured): "First, I want to apologize for my father for not being here. He hurt his back over the weekend working a boxing match, believe it or not, and he apologizes for not being here.
"I want to thank USA Boxing and the Alumni Association for recognizing my father for this award. And when he heard about this, he said he didn't do any of these things during the 72 years he's been in the sport for awards. He just did what he did for the love this sport and he did what needed to be done."
USA BOXING ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
Mike McAtee, Executive Director, USA Boxing (pictured): "On behalf of the Board of Directors, President Tyson Lee, I can only say thank you, thank you, and thank you. Tonight, is a culmination of work between our members, our alumni association, but I have to recognize a couple of people. This great event wouldn't be done without Chris Cugliari, Al Valenti and Nicole Anderson, our Alumni Association Coordinator.
"I have the honor of talking about boxing and obviously we have passion. When Marvis Frazier said this was a brotherhood, a sisterhood, and none of us, quite frankly, who've stepped in the ring - I include myself in that - we're not right. Takes a special person to climb in the ropes. You all can give yourselves a hand for not being right.
"USA Boxing is proud of our history, but more proud of our future, and I can tell you the young men and women battling at the elite levels, we started at 104 and that will be taken down to 13 by Sunday evening. But, more importantly, we're going to be breeding the next generation of champions, because this is closing the chapter of 2020, but starting the chapter of 2024, and ultimately, when the Olympic Games comeback here in 2028. This is a special time."
Chris Cugliari, Executive Director, USA Boxing Alumni Association: "Three years ago a group of us sat around a table in Kansas City at the National Championships and this idea was hatched: John Brown, Al Valenti, John Scully, Christy Halbert, Mike McAtee and a few others. So, it's something I'm very proud of and an organization I'm proud to lead with the support of all of you.
"A quick update of the Alumni Association, we're at about 1200 members right now and this is our third year. We had events across the country the past year, honoring Micky Ward and Vinny Pazianza in the New England area. We gathered in Chicago. We honored Izzy Acosta at the Junior Olympics in Wisconsin, as well as Buster Douglas and coach Mike Stafford at the Ohio Legends celebration, and here we are today honoring our third Hall of Fame class. We've come a long way. Our theme in 2020 is two missions: First, we want to take this down to the grassroots level, second is supporting our athletes and their families as they travel to the 2020 Olympic Games."
Al Valenti, Special Projects Consultant for USA Boxing: "USA Boxing is the one fundamental difference that makes a difference in a young person's life. The path to self-confidence, the path to self-respect, discipline, victory, and how to accept defeat all comes through amateur boxing.
"Tonight, the story will be told. Tonight, we will take you on a path, of amateur boxing in the United States that rivals no other nation. Gold medalists, silver medalists, coaches, officials, doctors...they're all here. It's like Woodstock for boxing; everybody's here!"
Al Bernstein, Master of Ceremonies: "I'm delighted to be back here for my third year at USA Boxing's Alumni Association Hall of Fame. I hosted a lot of events, MC'd a lot of events, and this is the final event because it's in the end of December. It's definitely my favorite."
HOW TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE USA BOXING ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
Created to champion a lifelong, mutually beneficial relations between USA Boxing and its alumni, --boxers, officials, coaches and boxing fans -- The Alumni Association connects generations of champions, inspiring and giving back to USA Boxing's future boxing champions, in and out of the ring.
The USA Boxing Alumni Association is open to anyone who has a love for boxing and would like to stay connected with amateur boxing. Members are granted access to a wide variety of special events host by the Alumni Association, including the USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame reception.
To join the Alumni Association, simply register at email@example.com for a $40.00 per year membership fee. New members will receive a T-shirt, keychain and e-wallet.
CLASS OF 2017: The charter class was headed by Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield, in addition to veteran coaches Roosevelt Sanders and Tom Coulter.
CLASS OF 2018: U.S. Olympic Team medalists and world (professional) champions Roy Jones, Jr., Andre Ward and Claressa Shields, as well as former USA Boxing National Director of Coaching Emanuel Steward and veteran USA Boxing official Tom Cleary.