There is no professional boxing in Russia or Poland, which means there are no astrakhan-collared Carbos manipulating in Leningrad hotel rooms or lingering over glasses of tea with Muscovite Norrises. It also means, however, that the fighters whom Russia and Poland send to Melbourne are the finest in their countries and considerably more experienced than their American counterparts. Most of them have had well over 100 fights, roughly twice as many as the U.S. boxers. Moreover, they are grounded in the fussy international rules which regard the sport of boxing as the Manly Art of Self Defense. A feeble jab, for instance, merely by penetrating an opponent's guard, counts as much as a good clout on the jaw. Other Olympic rules antithetical to American tradition are: no holding and hitting or being held and hitting, which practically eliminates infighting; no bending below the waist by either bobbing or weaving (√† la Marciano); no punching with an open glove (√† la Hurricane Jackson). By stubbornly ignoring these regulations, two Americans were tossed out of the ring in 1948 and one was so heavily penalized that he lost.
The American team this year is not nearly as strong as the one which won five gold medals at Helsinki. Perhaps the most accomplished member is Joe Shaw (right), a stringy, imperturbable 18-year-old St. Louisan who is a light welter or 140-pounder. Shaw is both an eminently skillful boxer and a powerful puncher, and has the assured and easy moves of an old pro. Another excellent U.S. boxer is Harry Smith, a 21-year-old airman from New York City. Smith, a featherweight veteran of inter-service, Golden Gloves and AAU competition, is a southpaw with class and a good looping right hand. The two collegians on the team are both rated high: Middleweight Roger Rouse, an Idaho State student out of the Montana mining town of Opportunity, is a tireless, awkward battler of the Marciano mold; Choken Maekawa, the bantamweight Michigan State graduate, is orthodox and conservative.
Poland and Russia, however, should be considered as the teams for the U.S. to beat. The best of the Poles are Bantamweight Jerry Adamski, a 19-year-old engineering student; Lightweight Henryk Niednwiedzki, an army officer, and the sturdy Lower Silesian welterweight Tadeusz Wallasek.
The Russians are, for the most part, straight-up fighters and in perfect condition. They tend to throw their hooks high and keep their hands high. They can't block a punch, but take one admirably. Among the most expert are Flyweight Vladimir Stolnikov, Middleweight Boris Stepanov, Middleweight Gennady Shatkov and Light Welterweight Vladimir Yengibaryan.
The Russians, incidentally, claim to have invented, centuries ago, "an original form of pugilism" called stenka, in which two ranks of pugilists battled on icebound rivers. Since the Russians have taken boxing off the ice and into the gym they have emphasized skill rather than strength, considering the latter "a vulgarization," and "not corresponding to the main purpose of any sport—improvement of people's health."