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Boxing Coach Wants Medals, Not Meddling

U.S. boxing coach Dan Campbell called one of his fighters, Luis Yanez, above,
U.S. boxing coach Dan Campbell called one of his fighters, Luis Yanez, above, "one of the biggest liars I've ever met." (By Matt Slocum -- Associated Press)
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"That's the nature of the beast," he said. "That's the nature of this sport we're in. We all want to do things our own way."

Then he laughed.

"They [griped] from Day One but we expected it," he said of the reaction to the Colorado Springs program, which was launched after last August's Olympic trials in Houston.

Everyone realized that the U.S. program needed to change. Once a giant in the event, storming through the 1976, 1984 and 1988 Olympics with 15 total gold medals, the U.S. team fell apart in the 1990s, a result of the chaos of the sport in general. In the four Olympics since 1988, the Americans have won three golds and 15 medals overall.

Last summer, USA Boxing named Jim Millman, the head of a Connecticut sports marketing company, as its chief executive, in hopes that Millman could fix the fractured organization and restore some of the lost luster. Campbell was named the national coach and the year-long training program in Colorado Springs was initiated.

"We can't lose sight of the fact that this is an individual sport," Millman said, not long before the team left for China.

But he also believes the team was in desperate need of organization and while some of the fighters' personal coaches might be very good, not all are. The idea of having a group of fighters working with different coaches and then coming together under a single national coach a few days before the Olympics didn't appeal to him.

Campbell said he consulted several previous Olympic coaches and received the same message: Bring the fighters together for several months at a time.

"I don't know of an Olympic sport that doesn't have Olympic coaches," Millman said. "What is the logic of working with one coach for a year and then change in 60 days? I think there is a logic of working with someone all the way through."

Despite the complaints of the personal coaches, Millman and Campbell both insist many of the fighters were not in good condition when they arrived in Colorado. They said they sent them to some of the best trainers and doctors. Campbell said several medical conditions were identified that probably would not have been diagnosed if the fighters had continued to live at home. Surgeries were performed, injuries were healed.

"We're healthy now," he proclaimed.

And some fighters have welcomed the Colorado Springs program. The two trainers who worked with heavyweight Deontay Wilder -- who took up boxing only a year before the August 2007 trials -- were delighted with the idea he could go someplace where he could work with a coaching staff and improve. Featherweight Raynell Williams said this week that Campbell has taught him several international methods, including trying to stay away from one spot and using angles to cut off the blows from opposing fighters.

Millman said he loves the idea that the boxing team has become a team rather than a collection of fighters from around the country. He wants to see the program continue, most likely with Campbell.

Ultimately, though, the decision will be made inside the Beijing Workers' Gymnasium, where the results will reveal if sending a group of fighters to the mountains paid off.

"It's all about the medals," said Robert Martin of Washington, the punching coach on the U.S. team. "If we win a lot of gold medals, it's going to be a popular program."

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