2012 Summer Olympic Games Preview - Boxing
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Boxing Writer
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - At last count, he's still got weeks.
And assuming all goes well for him between now and Aug. 12, it'll be on a summer Sunday in the ExCel Exhibition Centre that put-up or shut-up time will arrive for Dominic Breazeale.
Or, to be more precise, tear-up or clam-up time.
While the super heavyweight hopeful, who won Olympic entry with a second- place finish at the AIBA Americas qualifier in Brazil, claims to still not know how exactly he'll react upon hearing "The Star Spangled Banner" from a podium-top perch in London, it's a decision he won't mind making.
"I've got a pretty good drive, about 45 minutes, from my house to the gym and I probably think about it five or 10 times each way," the 26-year-old Californian said. "Every day when I'm in the shower I'm thinking about the Olympics. Every time I see red, white and blue.
"I'm not usually an emotional guy, but sure it's a really emotional situation and I can't say that I won't shed a tear. I'd love to look back and see my expression when they put the medal around my neck.
"Either way, if I'm standing on the podium with the flag waving and the best anthem in the world playing it'll be a dream come true."
A dream he couldn't have imagined just a few years ago in helmets and pads.
Back then and back there, the hulking Breazeale -- who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs in at 260 pounds -- was a quarterback pining for an NFL chance after two junior college seasons at Mt. San Antonio in suburban Los Angeles and two more Division II years with the University of Northern Colorado.
In the final two years with the Bears, though they won just three times in 23 games, Breazeale completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 2,468 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 106.7 QB rating.
His pro prospects faded after he was neither chosen in the 2008 draft nor signed as a free agent, so, while initially hesitant upon recruitment by All- American Heavyweights -- a training entity founded by "Wheel of Fortune" TV syndicator Michael King -- he eventually bought into the mission of bringing premier athletes from all sports together to groom boxing's next great big man.
"At first I was determined and I told the guy, 'You're crazy, I'm a football player,' but a few weeks later I came in and did the workout and it was a lot better than I anticipated," he said.
Several weeks in, upon getting tagged for the first time in a sparring session, Breazeale's transformation from signal-caller to prize fighter was complete.
"It takes a different breed of man to be a boxer," he said. "I took a good shot and I knew right then it was either quit, or bite down and go to work. I didn't think at all about football. It came down right then to fight or flight and the instinct kicked in. How it got there, I have no idea. But it was there."
Once the instinct was confirmed, the affection kicked in.
"When did I know it? Probably when I landed the first flush right hand," he said. "When I landed it and I knew that it landed, I saw the guy's eyes roll back in his head.
"I was damned sure I loved it at that point."
His fast-track climb through the amateur ranks included a few dozen fights and culminated with a runner-up slot in Rio de Janeiro, where he defeated Venezuela's Jose Payares, Brazil's Gidelson Silva and Puerto Rico's Gerardo Bisbal before falling to Ecuador's Italo Perea in the super heavy finals.
Competition in London begins on Aug. 1.
The field narrows to eight on Aug. 6, with semifinals and finals set for Aug. 10 and 12, respectively.
The last U.S. gold medalist in the super heavyweight class was Tyrell Biggs in 1984.
Since Biggs, the six gold winners have included Lennox Lewis (1988), Wladimir Klitschko (1996) and Alexander Povetkin (2004), each of whom went on to win professional championships.
The last U.S gold medalist in any class was light heavyweight Andre Ward in 2004, now the consensus No. 1 pro at 168 pounds.
Breazeale has similar post-Olympic aspirations.
"The gold medal itself is the best title you can hold at that moment, but my eyes are definitely set on going pro," he said. "Winning at the Olympics would signify me being the best in the world in my division and achieving my goal.
"But no matter what, I will be a pro this summer. I'm going to give it my all and try to have success, medal or no medal. I've definitely got my mind on going pro."
Joining Breazeale in London will be 11 other members -- nine males, two females -- of a U.S. team hoping to erase memories of the 2008 Games in Beijing, where heavyweight Deontay Wilder's bronze at was its only medal.
The U.S. has won 109 boxing medals, more than any country, but in the last five Olympiads -- from 1992 in Barcelona through 2008 -- it's captured just three golds, one silver and 10 bronzes.
In the three previous Olympiads in which it competed (1976 in Montreal, 1984 in Los Angeles and 1988 in Seoul), it won 17 golds, five silvers and four bronzes.
The U.S. qualified in nine of 10 men's weight classes for London -- second only to Australia's 10 -- missing only at light flyweight (108 pounds).
Flyweight Rau'Shee Warren, 25, is the unquestioned veteran of the team after previous Olympic appearances in 2004 and 2008, which both ended in first-round losses. The Cincinnati native was the world amateur champion in 2007 and world bronze medalist in 2005 and 2011.
Just 19 years old, Joseph Diaz Jr. makes his Olympic debut as the two-time reigning national champion at bantamweight. He has been boxing since age 10 and claims his greatest ring strength is "maintaining my composure and always being in charge of the match."
Lightweight Jose Ramirez is another two-time national champion making his Olympic debut. He began boxing 12 years ago, was a Junior Olympic champion in both 2008 and 2009 and plans to turn professional after the games and later pursue a career in computer engineering.
Light welterweight Jamel Herring is the team's oldest member at age 26 and has been boxing since 2001. The father of three served two tours in Iraq with the Marines and was a 2010 World Military Games champion.
Errol Spence will represent the team in the welterweight class and heads to London after three consecutive national championship titles. He has been boxing since 2005 and was a childhood fan of former U.S. gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya.
Middleweight Terrell Gausha won his first national title in 2009 and picked up another this spring before qualifying for the Olympics with a win at the AIBA tournament in Brazil. The 24-year-old has been boxing since age 10.
Marcus Browne heads to his first Olympics after winning a 2012 national light heavyweight championship. He was a national Police Athletic League champion in 2010, seven years after he took up the sport at the urging of a friend who later died in a car accident.
Heavyweight Michael Hunter is a former two-time national champion at super heavyweight who narrowly missed qualifying for the 2008 Olympics. He is the son of former pro heavyweight Mike "The Bounty" Hunter and has sparred with consensus No. 1 pro heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko.
WOMEN AT THE OLYMPICS
The women's competition, making its Olympic debut, includes three weight classes.
Houston resident Marlen Esparza became the first U.S. female to qualify in May when she defeated Vietnam's Luu Thi Duyen in round two of the women's world championship tournament in Qinhuangdao, China. She'll compete in London at 112 pounds.
Claressa Shields, a 17-year-old from Flint, Mich., was the 2012 Olympic Trials champion and was named that event's most outstanding boxer. She was beaten at the world championships, but was one of four invitees for London at 165 pounds.
The U.S. failed to qualify a female boxer at 132 pounds.
The international men's favorites by weight class in London include: Light flyweight (26 boxers) - Zou Shiming (China), three-time world champion and defending Olympic champion; Flyweight (26 boxers) - Misha Aloyan (Russia), 2011 world champion; Bantamweight (28 boxers) - Lazaro Alvarez (Cuba), 2011 world champion; Lightweight (28 boxers) - Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine), two-time world champion and defending Olympic champion; Light Welterweight (28 boxers) - Everton Lopes (Brazil), 2011 world champion; Welterweight (28 boxers) - Taras Shelestyuk (Ukraine), 2011 world champion; Middleweight (28 boxers) - Evhen Khytrov (Ukraine), 2011 world champion; Light Heavyweight (26 boxers) - Julio Cesar la Cruz (Cuba), 2011 world champion; Heavyweight (16 boxers) - Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine), 2011 world champion; and Super Heavyweight (16 boxers) - Magomedrasul Majidov (Azerbaijan), 2011 world champion.
The international women's favorites by weight class include: Flyweight (12 boxers) - Ren Cancan (China), three-time world champion; Lightweight (12 boxers) - Katie Taylor (Ireland), four-time world champion; and Savannah Marshall (Great Britain), 2012 world champion.
07/02 22:23:42 ET