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Golden Gloves Champs Compete Internationally to Bolster Olympic Chances

When Brian Adams was competing for a spot on the 1996 U.S. Olympic boxing team, he felt that he didn’t have enough experience at the elite international level to succeed.

Even though that 1996 team was loaded with some great future pros, including Floyd Mayweather Jr., David Diaz, Antonio Tarver and Fernando Vargas, only one boxer, David Reid, won a gold medal. It demonstrated a lack of proficiency among top-flight U.S. amateurs at the international level.

That is why Adams, the director the Daily News Golden Gloves tournament, is joining amateur trainer Mike Kozlowski and four champions from this year’s tournament on a trip to Russia and Kazakhstan for a week-long international competition beginning Sunday.

“This is one of the most important aspects of amateurs who want to succeed at the Olympics,” Adams said before departing on Friday. “With the elite group they need to start looking at getting that international competition. This tournament is a step ahead of the step that they’ll take once they make the team.”

Kozlowski is taking three boxers that he coached to Golden Glove championships to Russia. Juan Roman, a 114-pound champion who recently won the 2011 National Golden Gloves tournament; Jeremy Fiorentino, a 152-pound open champion; and Yegor Plevako, a heavyweight champion who won the Sugar Ray Robinson award for the most outstanding open boxer in the Golden Gloves. Marcus Brown, a two-time 175-pound champion, is also making the trip. Adams said Brown has the best chance of making the 2012 Olympic Games in London and has already qualified for the Olympic trials.

Roman, Fiorentino and Plevako are hoping to catch the eye of the judges at the USA Boxing nationals in Colorado Springs in June 20-25.

“The USA Boxing committee will be taking a hard look at these guys at the nationals,” Adams said. “If you can show some form of international style they’ll take a closer look at you.”

Once they make it through the USA nationals, they go on to fight in regional tournaments that include boxers from Central America and Canada. And then they will face elite international competition in other tournaments, but they will be doing it as a member of the USA Boxing team. That means added pressure.

That’s why Adams is in favor of the type of tournament that Kozlowski is taking the Golden Gloves winners to in Russia.

“There’s no pressure because they’re competing in a regular show,” Adams said. “They’re getting international experience with knowing that it’s a great learning tool for the future. It’s more pressure when you’re part of an elite team because you don’t want to let the team down.”

Kozlowski, who immigrated to America 12 years ago with one of his pupils, former WBC 154-pound champion Yuri Foreman, has been taking U.S. boxers to the tournament in his hometown of Kazakhstan for the past three years.

Kozlowski, who works out of Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, said he has one goal when he takes boxers to the tournament in the former Soviet Union.

“If they can compete in this international level they can bring back the gold medal in the Olympics to the U.S.,” Kozlowski said. “For one week they compete against fighters from 14 countries, including Cuba, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. It’s A-level competition.”

The U.S. amateur boxing program has fallen on hard times. It hasn’t produced multiple Olympic gold-medal winners since 1988. That was also the last year that a New York City boxer won an Olympic medal (Riddick Bowe, silver). Sadam Ali broke a 20-year NYC drought when he made the 2008 U.S. Olympic boxing team.

Adams and Kozlowski agree the U.S. amateur boxing program is in decline. They think the U.S. has to look beyond its borders for the remedy.

“I think Mike might be onto something by continuing to take groups of boxers over to Russia every year,” Adams said. “Internationally they appreciate the growth of amateur boxers, which is why they reached out to Mike to bring the best from New York to Russia. Until America catches up to that appreciation, nothing is going to change.”

Source: Daily News

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