5 US Olympic boxers making pro debuts together
INDIO, Calif. (AP) -- Rau'shee Warren has no regrets. He waited through a decade in amateur boxing and a U.S.-record three Olympics to fight for a gold medal, only to lose his first fights in Athens, Beijing and London.
Although he has finally accepted he'll never get that gold, Warren is hoping for even more lucrative rewards as a professional fighter.
"I just want to get started,'' Warren said while relaxing in the empty arena where he'll fight Puerto Rico's Luis Rivera in his pro debut. "It's been a long time coming, and I've got goals I want to reach. It's grind time now.''
Warren is among five fighters from the least successful U.S. men's boxing team in Olympic history who will make their debuts together at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino outside Palm Springs, Calif., on a card headlined by Gary Russell Jr., a 2008 Olympic team member and promising pro.
Warren, Terrell Gausha, Marcus Browne, Errol Spence Jr. and Dominic Breazeale all intend to prove they've got futures beyond those dismal Olympics, where they became the first American team to win no medals.
"It was definitely a disappointment for everybody, but we can't go back and change anything,'' said Gausha, who dramatically stopped his first London opponent. "I really don't have any complaints about amateur boxing. I had a lot of success, and I got to see the world. I feel like I left everything in the ring for USA Boxing, and now I'm ready for what comes next.''
Despite the collective London flop, the cachet of these five fighters' Olympic pedigree still attracted famed manager Al Haymon. The mastermind behind Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s rise signed the quintet and put them on Showtime for their debuts, beginning the process of bolstering their pro records.
"I was definitely flattered when I heard from (Haymon), but I didn't want to jump into anything,'' said Browne, who plans to fight as a light heavyweight after debuting at 180 pounds Friday. "I got excited when I heard we were all going to have our debuts on the same night. It's great to keep that teamwork and togetherness for a little longer.''
Browne is dedicating his first fight to his fellow natives of Staten Island, where he said he rode out Superstorm Sandy last week by retreating from his own house to relatives' homes "in the projects, because they're bigger.''
"I'm just hoping I can give people a little good news if I win,'' Browne said. "It's been rough, but I've had to focus on taking care of my business. There's always going to be distractions as a fighter. You've got to be a professional, because that's what it's about now.''
The Olympics were a disappointment for every American man, but all five fighters on the desert show are grateful for the opportunities they created. Gausha got to meet President Barack Obama, while Spence still can't get over the fact people regularly recognize him on the streets in his native Dallas.
Breazeale took up boxing just 4 1/2 years ago, but the former Northern Colorado quarterback with a wife and two kids rose quickly in the amateur sport. The Southern California native figures the only way to erase the sting of his loss in his Olympic debut is to fight early and often as a pro: He wants to be 10-0 by next summer, fighting every month.
"It still lingers with me a bit, because I wanted to do so much,'' said Breazeale, who wears Team USA gear while he works out in the empty events center. "I really wanted to get past that first day, get all the jitterbugs out, and go from there. It's probably going to hurt forever, but now I want that feeling reversed.''
They're all heavily favored in their pro debuts, but they all realize their performances over the next two years will determine how far they can rise as prizefighters - and how quickly they'll get the chance to fulfill their professional dreams.
Warren has been training with fellow Cincinnati native Adrien Broner for years, and he's hoping to follow in the footsteps of his friend - as well as Andre Ward, Russell and the other pros who were his teammates over the last decade.
"I feel like I'm not in a hurry,'' Warren said. "I've got time to accomplish my goals. I just want to get out to a good start. I've been getting ready for this for a long time.''