A few days have elapsed since Freddie Roach arrived at the USA Boxing headquarters in Colorado Springs with the help of a few of his friends to help this year’s crop of Olympic Trials winners. So far, the pleasure has been mutual.
“It’s inspiring just watching them work so hard toward that goal of making the Olympics,” said undefeated middleweight Peter Quillin. “I only had a few amateur fights, but I can still learn a lot from their style.
Quillin, one of a handful of pros selected by Roach—the newly minted Team USA consultant—initially expected to solely spar with the budding amateur stars. Not so.
“They do everything we do,” said junior welterweight Olympic hopeful Jamel Herring. “That’s why we look up to these guys. They run with us. They train with us. We all eat together. We all work together. These guys are my family now.”
Herring is no stranger to an isolated environment in his second life as a Marine corporal from Camp Lejeune, N.C. Still, even he admits that the hellacious pace of training can stack up with anything he’s seen as a leatherneck.
“I thought boot camp was tough, but there’s almost nothing like the workouts we have here,” he said. “You should see the facial expressions change in [junior welterweight] Lamont Peterson and [junior lightweight] Adrien Broner when they tell us that we’re doing conditioning next. There’s no mercy, no breaks, no complaints. But again, seeing those guys running sprints alongside you makes you want to work harder.”
Herring’s teammate, two-time national champion lightweight Jose Ramirez, agrees.
“The pros take us under their wing and treat us like one of them,” Ramirez, a student at Fresno State University, said. “It’s an honor when they hang out with us after training or give me advice. These guys don’t have to be here, but they are, and we all really appreciate it.”
Camaraderie-building aside, the lessons the American amateurs learn in the ring are just as impactful.
“It’s been rough but at the same time they’ve been a really big help, especially Lamont,” Herring said of Barry Hunter’s prized pupil, the only fighter who doesn’t train at Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club. “He talks to me inside the ring during our sparring sessions. I had problems with my jab, so he said that I shouldn’t just stick my jab about there, and to turn it into a power jab to make your opponent respect you. Then after that, he works with me on my footwork.”
“I’ve been sparring Jorge Linares and Adrien Broner,” Ramirez added. “One day I want to be where they are. Adrien’s a slick guy, really fast. He really keeps me on my toes, and Linares has already won two world titles, so I know I’m getting the best sparring possible.”
Likewise, the pros are just as complimentary of their amateur counterparts. In addition to Quillin, Peterson, Broner, and Linares, cruiserweight Lateef Kayode, junior middleweight Shawn Porter, and welterweight Wale “Lucky Boy” Omotoso are among those who have traveled to Colorado Springs to impart their share of physical and mental tidbits.
“Right now I’ve been working with [light heavyweight] Marcus Browne, who I think is going to be a good pro,” said Quillin. “He’s a little bigger than me, but I know a good puncher when I see one, and he can really hit. I’m looking forward to sparring with [middleweight] Jesse Hart next.”
Hopefully, this pro-am partnership will bear ripe fruit for USA Boxing this month at the AIBA World Championships in Azerbaijan. A big misconception is that the current members of Team USA have locked up their spots for next summer’s Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, the rules have changed; heavyweight Michael Hunter and super heavyweight Lenroy “Cam” Thompson must finish sixth or higher at worlds, while everyone else can go no lower than tenth to actually qualify for London. If not, the fighter’s spot opens up once more for another USA Boxing qualifying tournament in the spring.
“It’s been bugging me a little bit,” Herring said. “You can argue that it’s not fair because everyone had their chance to qualify at Trials. In reality, though, I’m not stressed because I’ve been confident in my abilities to get me through Trials, and to get me through here.”
Overall, chemistry seems to be the term du jour for the current composition of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team.
“Everyone’s saying it’s different from 2008 where people had their cliques,” Herring said. “We’ve been priding ourselves in giving each other energy outside the ring, too. Last Saturday we all gathered together to watch [2008 Olympian] Gary Russell’s fight to support him. Now we have that same goal he did—to qualify for the Olympics. I feel like we can go to London and bring America back on top.”
Source: Ryan Maquiñana, Boxing Scene