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In an Olympics filled with television success, boxing has been a notable failure.
NBC Sports covered the last two days of the tournament with its two announcers, Bob Papa and Teddy Atlas, not even in London’s ExCel Center. International boxing officials asked them to move back from their announcing positions because they were bothering judges; Papa and Atlas decided to leave instead and call the fights off video feeds elsewhere.
Not that anyone probably noticed. The U.S. men’s boxing team was already done, its first Olympics without a medal. The sport that created memorable American heroes with gold medalists Cassius Clay (before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali), Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard is now virtually invisible as an Olympic event in the U.S.
NBC Sports confines its boxing coverage to CNBC and if you don’t actively seek it out, you won’t see a punch thrown. The one American boxing hero of London, the country’s first woman gold medalist Claressa Shields, merited only one mention on NBC at 11:30 p.m. the night she won. Her picture wasn’t shown. The boxing phenomenon of Katie Taylor, a national hero in Ireland, is a complete mystery to U.S. viewers who didn’t watch CNBC.
Keen observations by Tim Hutchings, NBC’s marathon analyst, on the burst of speed by Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich in the 23rd mile that broke him from the pack and led him to a gold medal in the men’s marathon. He saw how Kiprotich suddenly pulled away going into a curve, a move particularly tough for his opponents to combat. “You don’t see surges as vicious as that in major marathons,” Hutchings said.
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