You probably didn’t know it, but the United States used to literally kick the world’s ass in boxing. We knocked Soviets and Cubans and Europeans (and anybody else who dared step into the ring with us) out cold. In stories of historic boxing matches by old-time sportswriters, Olympic fights were one-on-one wars. The reputation of our entire country weighed in the balance—every uppercut a blow against communism; every right cross a direct hit against Castro. Those days are over. Somewhere along the way, many of our best athletes turned to more popular sports, like football, basketball and even MMA, for a quicker path to a paycheck. Boxing lost its lure. The result? USA boxing fell on hard times. We haven’t produced an Olympic heavyweight gold medalist since 1988. Worst yet, there’s nobody in the pipeline.
Rather than dwell on the dreary boxing present, Men’s Fitness decided to revisit our storied glory days. We won’t list all 48 American Olympic boxing champions (yeah, there’ve been that many). But we will give you our top 10 recent American boxing superstars. These guys won a gold medal even before they wore a championship belt.