Believe it or not but the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro begins in a little over 6 months. August 5th through the 21st to be exact. Seems like a long way away for those who are in the middle of bitter cold and snow in some parts of the country.
The US Boxing team is set and ready to hopefully bring home some medals come August. However most people are not aware of who some of these talented athletes are and have most likely never heard of them. In this article I’d like to focus on three of these athletes who are considered contenders and help you get to know them a bit better.
Antonio Vargas will represent the US in the Flyweight division (114 lbs) after having won the Olympic trials championship at that weight class in December 2015 in Reno, Nevada. Vargas was a heavy favorite going into the trials but suffered a defeat to Brent Venegas in the winner’s bracket finals which caused him to have to fight his way back to get to the championship. He faced Venegas again and won that bout setting up the winner take all final with Venegas. In the final, Vargas won a unanimous decision to claim the championship.
Vargas will turn 20 years old on August 15th and can hopefully celebrate with an Olympic medal. He is originally from Houston, Texas but now resides in Kissimmee, Florida. He is the reigning 2015 Pan American Games Champion and was also named the 2015 USA Boxing Male Athlete of the Year.
Gary Antuanne Russell is a Light Welterweight/141 lbs who hails from Capital Heights, Maryland. Russell won the Olympic Trial Championship in his weight class after losing in his opening day match to Jaron Ennis. This forced him to win the remainder of his matches to become champion and that’s exactly what he did beating Ennis in the finals. Russell’s older brother (2008 Olympian Gary Russell, Jr.) did the exact same thing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics after losing his opening match.
Russell is one of four brothers who boxed and all of them won National Golden Gloves championships. His brothers and his father were in his corner urging him on and providing guidance as he won his remaining matches to win the Light Welterweight title at the Olympic Trials.
Interestingly, all of his brothers have the same name (Gary Russell).
Cam Awesome (previously known as Lenroy “Cameron” Thompson) boxes in the Heavyweight/201 lbs class and won that weight class without losing at the Olympic trials in December. He won the championship with a unanimous 3 - 0 win over DeRae Crain in the final.
Originally from Uniondale, Long Island, New York Cam currently resides in Lenexa, Kansas. He is a bit older than most of the US boxing team as he will turn 28 during the Rio games.
Awesome’s accomplishments in the ring include a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American games, a Four-Time USA Boxing National Champion and a Four-Time National Golden Gloves Champion.
Cam is also a unique character. He is a proud vegan and advocate for that lifestyle. He also travels the country doing stand up comedy and in fact did three shows in the two days before the start of the Olympic Trials.
Honorable Mention – Joshua Gaines is an honorable mention because he did not compete in the Olympic trials championship tournament and will most likely miss out on competing in Rio. However, he has impressed many with his skills of late. He was given the nickname “The Natural” by many of the US boxing coaches after sitting out of competition for two years (for personal reasons) to only come back and win two regional tournaments in Texas. Not to mention beating three nationally ranked, future Olympic competitors along the way. He is preparing to compete in the Golden Gloves tournament in a couple months and with the rumors of possibly signing with Top Rank Promotions, he should have more than enough motivation which seems to be what he’s been lacking. Gaines seems to have a bright career ahead of him, if only he were to pursue it.
The 2016 Summer Olympics will be here sooner than we think and the US Boxing Team will be ready to go when the time comes and will hopefully help the US by bringing home some medals.