The nightmare that has been U.S. men's boxing in the 2012 London Olympics is breaking the heart of the man who once was the face of the original dream team.
"It makes me sick," Sugar Ray Leonard said of the American struggles in Olympic boxing. "And it's getting worse and worse."
For a few hours Friday, it appeared U.S. boxing was assured of not winning a medal at the Olympics for the first time.
But the American team won a last-ditch protest of welterweight Errol Spence's loss. Amateur boxing's governing body decided his opponent Friday, Indian Krishan Vikas, committed numerous holding fouls in a 13-11 decision that should have resulted in enough penalty points for a loss.
Spence remains the only U.S. boxer in medal contention as he faces Russian Andrey Zamkovoy in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
Even if Spence wins, it has been a dramatic fall since the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where Leonard was one of five American gold-medal winners. The others were the two Spinks brothers, Leon and Michael; Howard Davis Jr.; and Leo Randolph.
The 1984 team won more gold medals -- nine -- in Los Angeles. But that accomplishment was tainted by the fact that the top competition from Russia, Eastern Europe and Cuba boycotted the games.
Leonard, who grew up as an amateur in Palmer Park, and his fellow 1976 dream team members dominated the best of the best, and he's disappointed in the current American effort.
"Our amateur program has deteriorated," he said. "It's not like it used to be when our boxers got more amateur experience fighting boxers from Russia, Cuba and Germany. It hurts to see these kids go in there when they are so optimistic and yet be so unprepared for what they are going to face.
"You can't compete against the best amateur fighters in the world unless you have more experience than these kids have," Leonard said.
Leonard, who went on to become a welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight champion and one of the most popular fighters ever to set foot in the ring, had an outstanding amateur career, finishing 145-5.
Some of those bouts were shown on network television, raising the profile of the sport and the competition as well.
"You would hear their names or see them on CBS or 'Wide World of Sports' and know about these kids," Leonard said. "They had personalities."
Leonard said he wants to help revive the American Olympic boxing program.
"We have to help ourselves, and I'll help in a heartbeat," he said.
American Olympic boxing could use the heart of Sugar Ray Leonard.
Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.