U.S. boxer Rau'shee Warren made history at the world championships this week, becoming the first athlete to qualify for three U.S. Olympic boxing teams. The 24-year-old from Cincinnati locked up an Olympic spot for the U.S. in the 114-pound flyweight division this week by winning his third-round bout at the world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. After beating Shawn Simpson in the finals of the U.S. trials in Mobile in August, Warren needed to finish among the top 10 at worlds to secure his third Olympic berth. He outpointed Rey Saludar of the Philippines, 22-12, to guarantee a top-10 finish in his weight class and, therefore, a U.S. slot in that class.
Like many trajectories of boxing careers, Warren's began at the bottom and stalled many times. When he began organized boxing as an 8-year-old the Cincinnati suburbs, Warren was so small he couldn't find any foes his age and size. His coach, Mike Stafford, kept putting him in the ring against older and stronger opponents and Warren kept winning until his unlikely triumph at the U.S. trials and Olympic box-offs in 2004.
In 2004, Warren, then 17, was the country's youngest male Olympian in any sport, when he lost his first fight to China's Xou Shimin, the eventual gold medalist. He had no illusions about being ready to turn pro then. He stayed with his mother, Paulette, in Cincinnati and still credits her with keeping him away from many of the neighborhood dangers. Michael Evans, a U.S. boxing team captain and one of Warren's training partners, was sentenced to four years for selling crack in 2005, days after winning the Golden Gloves.
Warren won the world title in 2007 and entered the Beijing Games a year later as a favorite, already the first U.S. athlete to box in two Olympics since Davey Armstrong in 1972 and 1976. But in the closing seconds of his opening Olympic bout against South Korea's Lee Ok-sung, Warren felt he was sufficiently ahead on points to dance away from Lee rather than engage him and take a chance on getting knocked out. For 30 seconds, Warren threw only token long jabs that missed, then raised his fist in victory, assuming the decision would be his. He was crushed when judges scored the bout 9-8 in favor of Lee.
Uncertain as to how to proceed with his career after the loss, Warren found few promoters willing to take a chance on an Olympian without a medal on his résumé. Those from the amateur ranks are usually a gamble anyway, since the transition from one scoring style to another can be tricky, and established veterans often shy away from taking bouts against unknown commodities as much as promoters are leery of signing them to large paydays. It was Paulette who again convinced him to return for a third try. "She tells me what I can do," Warren once told SI. "That's the voice I listen to, because the others told me what I can't do. Why should I listen to them?"
And Warren may some day have a chance to go pursue a fourth Olympic berth, even though he wants to turn professional after the 2012 Olympics. CK Wu, the President of AIBA, boxing's international governing body, says that he would favor opening the sport up to professionals, as other sports have done over the years. With eligibility left largely up to the international sports governing bodies, boxing has remained a rare holdout, limiting participation to non-pros between ages 17 and 33. But Wu wants to see that changed, and IOC President Jacques Rogge says he would support such a move if AIBA recommended it. The change could come as soon as the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Count Dick Pound among those who believe FIFA's attempts to reform its scandal-plagued organization are not sincere. The Canadian IOC member and former committee vice president has often been a blunt and controversial voice among the IOC's membership, and he has taken frequent aim at soccer's world governing body over allegations of vote buying for the rights to host the World Cups in 2018 and 2022. At a German conference this week, Pound said of FIFA, "It has fallen far short of a credible demonstration that it recognizes the many problems it faces, that it has the will to solve them ... that it is willing to be transparent about what it is doing and what it finds, and that its conduct in the future will be such that the public can be confident in the governance of the sport."
German swimmers Thomas Lurz and Angela Maurer wrapped up strong seasons as the top finishers in the open-water World Cup standings. Lurz, an Olympian in the 1,500-meter freestyle in 2004, transitioned from the pool to the seas after the open-water event joined the Olympic program in 2008. He barely edged countryman Christian Reichert to take first in the final race of the year in Lausanne, guaranteeing the top place. Maurer took the season title, even though Emily Brunemann of the U.S. won the final race in Lausanne. Brunemann has been making steady improvements since serving a six-month suspension in 2009 for inadvertent diuretic use while attending Michigan.
With the future of the NBA season still uncertain, a nightmare scenario looms for USA basketball. What if the negotiations drag and the league cancels its season, as the NHL did for the 2004-05 campaign? It's unsure whether the league would try to prevent NBA players from participating in the London Olympics, but it's doubtful that three key members of the team's brain trust with NBA ties -- USA basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and assistant coaches Mike D'Antoni and Nate McMillan -- would be free to fulfill the duties of their posts without a labor settlement. Granted this would not affect two of the team's coaches -- head coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and assistant Jim Boeheim of Syracuse -- but neither would be sure of having an NBA roster to work with.