- Last Updated: 2:45 AM, July 8, 2012
- Posted: 11:35 PM, July 7, 2012
If it weren’t for N’Wachi Hartley, Marcus Browne wouldn’t be headed to London next month to represent the United States in the upcoming Olympic Games.
Browne followed his friend into the boxing gym when he was 13 and instantly became hooked on the sport. After three Golden Gloves championships and a 2012 U.S. national championship, Browne has his sights on winning an Olympic gold medal in boxing’s light heavyweight division.
“I followed my friend N’Wachi Hartley to the gym, and I’ve been there ever since,” said Browne, 21. “He passed away in 2008, but his memory still motivates me to this day.”
Browne is a native of Staten Island and the first Olympian produced by the Park Hill Gym and the Cops ’N Kids program funded by the Theodore Atlas Foundation. His personal coach is Gary Stark Sr. His road to the Olympics was not easy.
Though he won the Olympic trials last August, Browne failed to solidify his spot on the Olympic team by not finishing in the top 10 at the World Championships. But he went 5-0 at the Americas Qualifier in Brazil to earn his place on the 2012 U.S. squad.
“It was a journey that could either make you or break you,” Browne said. “It made me the man I am today.”
He has a decent shot at earning a medal. At 6-foot-2,
he has range and enough skill to be a threat. His division is home to the last gold medal won by an American at the Olympics. That was by Andre Ward in 2004. In 2008, the U.S. did not have a light heavyweight representative, as Christopher Downs failed to qualify.
Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) is now the WBC/WBA super middleweight champion and winner of the recent Super Six Boxing Classic. But he still calls winning the gold medal his greatest achievement.
“Regardless of what I do as a pro, no matter how much money I make and whatever I accomplish, nothing will surpass that,” he told the Post. “It wasn’t about the money back then. It’s about the love of the sport. It’s about accomplishing a goal I had 10 years prior and living it out and representing my country.”
Winning a gold medal doesn’t have the immediate economic impact it once did. Sugar Ray Leonard, Mark Breland and Oscar De La Hoya all signed nice contracts and enjoyed immediate television exposure once they turned pro. Yet, if Browne is able to win a gold, it will offer him better opportunities once he turns professional, as it did Ward.
“It obviously afforded me to come through the front door in the sport of professional boxing versus someone who had to come through the backdoor,” Ward said. “It carries weight. But it adds a lot of pressure because every fight was a championship fight. I had a bull’s-eye from Day 1, but it got me accustomed to wearing that bull’s-eye. It gave me the confidence to know I’m not just a fighter, I’m an Olympic gold medalist.”
Ward is rooting for Browne and the other U.S. Olympians to succeed in London and return the boxing program to its glory days, after capturing just one medal, a bronze, in the 2008 Olympics.
“Any program that’s not thriving there’s more than one problem,” Ward said. “What those problems are I don’t exactly know. But I do know that in the United States of America we have some of the best athletes in the world. At one time our boxing program was feared world-wide. As of late that hasn’t been the case, and my desire is for us to get back to that point.”
Browne contemplated turning pro when he failed to qualify for the Olympics at the World Championships. But now he has a chance for glory. He plans to make the most of it.
“I just want to thank all the people who stood behind me through thick and thin,” he said. “I can’t wait to get focused on winning the gold in London.”