- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 9, 2008

Capitol Heights boxer Gary Russell Jr. is out of the Olympics.

Russell, a two-time national champion expected to contend for a medal, was found unconscious and severely dehydrated early Friday by his roommate Luis Yanez.

Russell was trying to get down to 119 pounds before Friday’s weigh-in. Although he wasn’t hospitalized after medical personnel rehydrated him, Russell missed the weigh-in, which is required for all competitors.

A bantamweight, Russell was slated to make his first Olympic appearance.

“We became alarmed a couple of days ago when we saw he wasn’t sweating like he should,” U.S. coach Dan Campbell said after Friday’s draw. “When these kids try to make weight, sometimes they cut corners. What we believe is he did not increase his fluid intake after we told him to.”

Russell tried to compete at 119 pounds for the first time since last fall. He has weighed 125 pounds or more in every event since but decided with Campbell to try and drop down a weight class.

A USA Boxing spokesperson said Russell was not available for an interview Friday.

Missing the Olympics meant a disheartening twist - and likely an end - to a lifelong dream held by both Russell and his father, Gary Russell Sr., who began grooming his son to contend for gold when he was 2 years old.

Gary Russell Sr., who is in Beijing, could not be reached for comment.

After nine years of dominating the nation’s junior ranks, Gary Jr., began competing in the open division - the highest amateur level - at age 16.

Photo gallery:Epic ceremonies open Olympics

Russell, USA Boxing’s top-ranked bantamweight the past three years, won a bronze at the 2005 world games.

He made the Olympic team last August after rebounding from an opening-round upset at the team box-offs to win four consecutive fights and his division - a feat only Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr., and Floyd Mayweather Jr., accomplished. He then earned his ticket to Beijing by placing among the top five at the world games in Chicago last October.

Since that event, Russell had remained largely inactive, fighting only once while letting a fractured hand and a shoulder issue heal.

Russell, his father and Campbell had no concerns about his ability to get back to 119 pounds by the Beijing weigh-ins.

While the Russell camp was silent Friday, he could scrap his Olympic dreams rather than wait four years. They have rebuffed professional contract offers the past three years so Gary Jr. could remain an amateur and focus on the Olympics.

During an interview in late June, Russell said he planned to turn pro this fall.

“I’m already looking forward to the next step in my career,” he said. “This is my dream - the Olympics - but it’s a stepping stone.”

The withdrawal from the Olympics caps a sour experience for Russell. Since making the team, he and several teammates have clashed with Campbell because of the coach’s attitude, which Team Russell describes as “power hungry.”

Russell Sr. has long questioned Campbell’s competence as an Olympic team coach because he has never produced a national champion. The Russells said Campbell has tried to change Russell Jr.’s style for no good reason but Campbell said Russell needed to change in order to succeed at the international level.

The Russells also criticized Campbell’s training program, which they said isn’t as demanding and doesn’t have the proper amount of conditioning to prepare Olympic boxers.

Campbell claimed Russell has an attitude problem and has fined him repeatedly for what the coach classified as a team-rule violation. The Russells insisted that was blown out of proportion.



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