Boxing Preview

After a 2000 Olympic Team that left Sydney with four medals, none of them gold, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team plans to step back on top of the medals podium. The 2004 version is a young team with athletes ranging in age from a 17-year-old high school sophomore to a 24-year-old father of four. The nine-man squad is loaded with talent, speed and high expectations.

A stellar coaching staff including 2000 technical assistant Basheer Abdullah as head coach, two talented assistant coaches in 2001 World Championships head coach Anthony Bradley and Goodwill Games coach Joe Zanders in addition to 1996 Olympic head coach Al Mitchell as technical assistant will have the young squad primed and ready for Olympic success.

Top medal hopes include the first ever U.S. super heavyweight and non-Cuban to win Pan American Games gold, Jason Estrada of Providence, R.I. Estrada, who hasn't suffered a loss in the United States since 2000 and saw success internationally in 2003 as well with his Pan Am gold, hopes to see the same result in Athens. 2001 World Championships bronze medalist Ron Siler ( Covington , Ky. ) is looking for flyweight gold and as one of the most experienced boxers on the U.S. squad, he has the whole package necessary for Olympic success.

Light heavyweight Andre Ward of Oakland , Calif. , doesn't have the international experience of Siler and Estrada but the speedy light heavyweight currently boasts a winning streak that reaches back to 1998 and his quick hands, fundamental boxing skill and work ethic could lead him to Olympic gold in Athens . Fellow 20-year-old Andre Dirrell (Flint, Mich.) holds five national titles at four different weight class and the now middleweight has spectacular hand speed that if harnessed correctly could win him a medal at the 2004 Games.

Two youngsters, 17-year-old Rau'shee Warren of Cincinnati, Ohio and 18-year-old Vanes Martirosyan of Glendale, Calif., bring pure talent and desire to win to the group. Warren doesn't yet have his driver's license but is a natural in the ring and could surprise the world when he steps into the ring in Athens . Although many expected a different welterweight to represent the U.S. in Greece , Martirosyan is a talented, motivated high school student and he proved he belongs on the team with a gold medal at the 2004 Americas Qualifier and big win over Haiti 's Andre Berto at the event.

Lightweight Vicente Escobedo ( Woodland , Calif. ) could be the sleeper of the group. He peaked at the perfect time, putting on a show at the 2004 Olympic Trials events and Americas Qualifier in Tijuana , and the pure boxer is ready to take Athens by storm. Heavyweight Devin Vargas often wins on pure heart, but the Toledo 22-year-old will give it all in the ring when he reaches his Olympic dream. Light welterweight Rock Allen ( Philadelphia , Pa. ) was the final U.S. athlete to qualify for the Olympic Games, earning his berth at the last Olympic qualifier, but Allen is one of the team's most experienced athletes and his strength and boxing skill could earn him a medal in Athens .