Four years ago USA Boxing experienced major disappointment in men’s boxing, failing to win a single medal in London. While the United States hasn’t experienced much success over the last six Summer Olympics in the sport, winning a total of 16 medals, 2012 represented the low point for the program. The hope of the USA Boxing roster in Rio is to spark a turnaround, and they’ll begin that quest Saturday morning.
The United States will have two boxers competing on the first day of the tournament, with lightweight Carlos Balderas competing during the morning session and light flyweight Nico Hernandez fighting during the evening session. Balderas qualified for the Olympic team through his performances at last year’s World Series of Boxing, becoming the first American boxer to qualify for the Games in that fashion.
Balderas finished tied for fifth in last summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto, and he opens his Olympic tournament against Berik Abdrahkhmanov of Kazakhstan Saturday morning. Abdrahkhmanov won bronze at the 2013 World Championships and gold at the 2013 Asian Championships.
As for Hernandez, he qualified for the Olympics by way of the American Boxing Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Buenos Aires in March, where he finished second in the light flyweight division. Hernandez’s win over Argentina’s Leandro Blanc in the semifinal round punched his ticket to Rio, where he’ll fight Manuel Cappai of Italy Saturday evening. While Hernandez will be making his Olympic debut Saturday, Cappai is making his second appearance. Cappai lost in the first round of the light flyweight tournament in London four years ago.
Saturday the men’s boxing tournaments in the light flyweight, lightweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight classes begin, with the welterweight division’s preliminary bouts scheduled to begin Sunday.