It is as if the fates conspired to push 22-year-old
Wilder grew up as a basketball player in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He was in his freshman year playing at Shelton Community College when his girlfriend became pregnant. It wasn't by design. An early ultrasound showed that Wilder's daughter would be born with spina bifida.
"Our hearts dropped," Wilder said. "Doctors gave us the choice to terminate the pregnancy, but after a while I just said, it really doesn't matter, this is my little girl."
Wilder dropped out of school and found work at Red Lobster and driving a Budweiser truck so he could support his daughter and shuttle her to doctors and hospitals to fix her clubbed feet. But there was a hole in his heart where basketball had been, and with team sports out of the question, boxing was something that offered a flexible schedule. Thus, 3-year-old
For the first time in 20 years, USA Boxing established a residence program and required Olympic boxers to live in Colorado Springs beginning last September, a response to America's dearth of boxing gold in recent Olympics after a gilded history. Wilder, with his coach's blessing, seized the opportunity to "play catch up," he says, with intensive training.
But other team members resented being plucked from their long-time coaches.
It didn't help that some of the coaches were loath to part with their prized pupils, and many continued to exert influence from afar by email and phone. Wilder's coach,
In the broader view, though, Egan had a point about experience. This U.S. team was extremely young, with an average age just older than 20, and only one returning Olympian, world champion flyweight
Wilder could use more amateur bouts to hone his skills, but his punishing power -- in a test prior to the Olympics, his jab measured stronger than all but one other U.S. boxer's power punch -- may ensure this is his last Olympics. Wilder said he's already gotten calls from promoters. In other countries, so-called amateurs enjoy great financial support.
"International boxers, like Cubans, they get paid to stay amateur; we don't get paid to stay," said Ali, the first Olympic team member since
To the detriment of both amateur and professional boxing.