PBC fighters reflect on their Olympic experiences

Competing for one’s country at the Olympics is one of the greatest honors an athlete can achieve. With the Rio Summer Games getting underway this weekend, some of PBC’s Olympic veterans shared their own memories and offered advice to this year’s athletes.

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PBC Olympians wish good luck

ARTUR BETERBIEV, 175-POUND TITLE CONTENDER AND TWO-TIME RUSSIAN OLYMPIAN

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

I took part in the Olympic Games twice—in 2008 in Beijing and in 2012 in London—and the most vivid memory I had was a feeling that my childhood dream had come true. When I was a kid, I used to go to sleep and wake up with a dream to participate in the Olympics. And just imagine my feelings when I was selected to represent Russia at the Olympics! On the other hand, I also have a negative memory of both Olympics, I mean biased and unfair judgment. You hit hard and get the points, but the judges give a victory to your adversary. Unfortunately, it has also happened in the past. So it is a kind of a lottery, and not everything depends on you.

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

I would advise the athletes to go over their limits and capacities. They must remember that they represent their nations and are facing the best opponents in the world. So they must do their best today not to have the slightest regret tomorrow by thinking: ‘I could have done more.’

Would you change anything about your Olympic experiences?

If I could go back in time, I would have trained harder in all aspects, not only physically. However, I benefit from my past experience now, including the Olympic one, so everything in life happens for a reason.

Artur Beterbiev

Russian slugger Artur Beterbiev (left) competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics before beginning his pursuit of a 175-pound world title.

SAKIO BIKA, FORMER 168-POUND WORLD CHAMPION AND 2000 CAMEROONIAN OLYMPIAN

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

It would have to be when I became the All-African champion, which helped me qualify for the Olympics. I was nervous leading up to the fight as a young amateur as I really wanted to be on the world stage. Once I won the championship and qualified for the Olympics it was a dream that came to life and the memory is still with me to today. I still remember being the only qualifier from Cameroon in Egypt, where the finals were held.

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

My advice is for them to keep focus, have good preparation, have self-belief and lastly to make sure they keep positive. Working hard, eating healthy and resting to recuperate for the next day is always mandatory. Fear no one, never fear where they come from, never listen to the hype, believe in yourself and give 110 percent when you step in the ring.

Would you change anything about your Olympic experience?

I was happy with what happened in the 2000 Olympics. It was a dream come true to represent my country. Everything happens for a reason and this helps build courage and motivation to take it to the next level. Winning isn't everything. Sometimes you learn to stand stronger after the times you fall. I am blessed to have fought the best from around the world, and I feel everything that happened has led me to where I am as a man and a world champion.

Sakio Bika

Sakio Bika earned a 168-pound world title in 2013 after competing for Cameroon at the 2000 Olympics.

MARCUS BROWNE, 175-POUND TITLE CONTENDER AND 2012 U.S. OLYMPIAN

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

Just actually putting on your USA uniform, getting ready to go compete. Being in the tunnel, ready to walk out, that was dope. Just knowing and understanding that you’re representing your country. And being around the top athletes from the United States, knowing you’re in that group. It’s such an amazing feeling.

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

I would tell them don’t let anybody steal your dreams from you, fight hard, give it everything you’ve got and just fight smart. And just understand that we’re not the most liked country around the world, so you’ve got to go in with that mindset and understand that you’ve got to fight twice as hard.

Would you change anything about your Olympic experience?

I would have fought harder in the last round [of my loss to Australian Damien Hooper]. I was actually up going into the last round and I just gave it up when I should have held on a little bit longer, a little bit tighter, and I would have been advancing to the next round. But it is what it is and everything happens for a reason. I’m just happy to have represented my country in the Olympics.

Marcus Browne and Errol Spence Jr.

Errol Spence Jr. (left) and Marcus Browne model their outfits for the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.

ANDRE DIRRELL, TWO-TIME 168-POUND TITLE CHALLENGER AND 2004 U.S. OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALIST

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

“It definitely would be watching the opening ceremony from the Olympic Village. I had to fight the very next day, so I wasn’t able to attend, but as I was watching the torch preparing to be lit I just remember being very excited to be performing on such a big stage and there was a shock running through my body. It was a life-changing experience I will never forget.”

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

For the American boxers, my advice would be to live in the moment and appreciate every day that you have to represent your country and represent it well!

Andre Dirrell

Andre Dirrell earned the bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics, losing only to current 160-pound world champion Gennady Golovkin.

JAMEL HERRING, 135-POUND TITLE CONTENDER AND 2012 U.S. OLYMPIAN

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

My best memory would actually be the opening ceremony. A lot of people don’t know, but the day of the opening ceremony was the 3-year anniversary of my daughter passing. Even though I’d been through a lot of tragedies in my life, I’d made it to somewhere a lot of people dream of. That’s what I thought of that whole night.

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

I would just tell them, just like I told the guys in 2012, to stick together, remain together as a unit. I know people say boxing is an individual sport, but it’s not in terms of the Olympic atmosphere. When you represent Team USA, you represent your country. Just go out there and put on the best performance you can.

Would you change anything about your Olympic experience?

For me, I honestly wouldn’t change anything. Those days and moments during the Olympic Games basically helped me to where I’m at now, not just as an athlete but also as a person. Going through those rough patches during the games made us mold together even stronger. We felt like we had to stick together because we felt like our backs were against the wall, I’m still close to those guys and I was honored to be a captain of that team. I wouldn’t change anything, because even to this day I’m close to every individual from that team.

JOHN JACKSON, 154-POUND TITLE CONTENDER AND 2008 U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS OLYMPIAN

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

The most vivid memory I would say was the opening and closing ceremonies. They were spectacular and I also got to walk my flag out for the closing ceremony. That was an honor to do that.

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

I would tell all the Olympians to stay focused because it can be very distracting in that setting, and just do their best and have fun doing what you love.

Would you change anything about your Olympic experience?

No. God doesn’t make mistakes, so win, lose or draw it was meant to be. Everything happens for a reason.

John Jackson

John Jackson and his brother Julius both competed for the U.S. Virgin Islands at the 2008 Olympics before launching their professional careers the following year. (Suzanne Teresa/Premier Boxing Champions)

JULIUS JACKSON, 168-POUND PROSPECT AND 2008 U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS OLYMPIAN

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

I would say walking out for the opening ceremony. With the stadium full and all the best athletes in the world representing their countries and flags in front of them. And walking in right behind LeBron, Kobe and Carmelo. There is nothing like it!

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

I have a younger [stepbrother] named Clayton Laurent Jr. who is competing in this year’s Olympics as a super heavyweight. And I told him ‘fight hard and have fun!’ And I would tell that to all the athletes: Go hard in the competition but also enjoy the experience. Go to other events, talk to strangers! Say hi to the big stars!

Would you change anything about your Olympic experience?

Only thing I would change about my experience is to that I would have ventured out more. I was a pretty shy kid at that time and didn't meet as many people as I could have. That's the only thing I would change.

ABNER MARES, FORMER THREE-DIVISION WORLD CHAMPION AND 2004 MEXICAN OLYMPIAN

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

The Parade of Nations on the very first day of the Olympics. It’s just amazing. You’re representing your country; you see all these other countries and the athletes around you. At the Athens Games, Mexico was right behind the U.S. and the USA basketball team walked right in front of us. I was very excited to meet them—they were the famous ones in the Olympics. It was amazing just walking in with my Mexican boxing teammates and seeing everyone.

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

Well, in boxing everything has changed. Now there is no headgear, they changed the scoring systems to be like the pros. My advice would be for these men and women to just go out and do what they do: Be amazing athletes. Don’t worry about the pressures of representing your country—be the athlete that you are.

Would you change anything about your Olympic experience?

If anything I would have demanded more justice for the scoring in my match. I regret not pursuing it more, but things happen for a reason. I took the decision like a champ. I don’t have regrets, but I do picture how it would have felt if I had medaled, as it’s been years since a Mexican fighter medaled in boxing. I would have liked to do that for my country.

Abner Mares

Since competing for Mexico at the 2004 Olympics, Abner Mares has won world titles at 118, 122 and 126 pounds.

ERROL SPENCE JR., 147-POUND TITLE CONTENDER AND 2012 U.S. OLYMPIAN

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

The most vivid memory I had was just meeting all the athletes, especially the athletes I grew up watching: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, the Williams sisters, Usain Bolt. Just being around all those guys, taking pictures with them, talking to them. Just being around those guys, I’m like “Man, I’m an Olympian just like them.” That was a big moment for me, just to see them, them recognize me and talk to me, say they were going to go watch me fight. That was big for me.

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

If I talked to the Olympians today, I’d tell them to stay focused. Work with what got you here, listen to your coaches, stay focused, stay 100 percent dedicated. You got this far, so why slack now? I wish them the best of luck, and I think we have a lot of gold medal hopefuls like Shakur Stevenson, definitely Claressa Shields. I’m just looking for them to bring home gold medals, and it’s going to be big for the USA.

Would you change anything about your Olympic experience?

I feel like everything happens for a reason. If I go back and change something, it might change something in my future, and my future’s going great right now. I’m one of the top fighters in boxing. Everything that happened in the Olympics led me to here. Just fighting in the Olympics and getting that experience, fighting on a world stage, people are like “Are you nervous fighting on TV in a 10-round fight?” No, I’m not nervous. I fought on the biggest stage you can fight on at the Olympics, fighting in front of the whole world. It got me ready for where I’m at today.

#tbt me & the #blackmamba coolin at the Olympic village #teamusa #london #olympians

A photo posted by Errol Spence Jr (@errolspencejr) on

RAU’SHEE WARREN, 118-POUND WORLD CHAMPION AND THREE-TIME U.S. OLYMPIAN (2004, 2008, 2012)

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

In 2008 in China, I’m never going to forget how cheap everything was, when we went to buy clothes and everything. When we went to get manicures, pedicures—you know, a man’s gotta take care of his feet, too—I had one girl on one hand, one girl on the other, one girl on one foot, one on the other. China was the most fun I had overall because it’s very different over there, their culture and everything. We took the time to learn a lot about what was going on over there, and I’d love to go back.

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

Don’t get into the politics. It could affect your performance, and you could go into the fight not really thinking about your fight. At the end of the day, it’s really about having fun and trying to get the title, but a lot of athletes in the Olympics put a lot of pressure on themselves because they don’t want to lose. They want to come out on top, perform at their best and not look bad in front of the world—that’s a lot of pressure.

DEONTAY WILDER, HEAVYWEIGHT WORLD CHAMPION AND 2008 U.S. OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALIST

What advice do you have for the 2016 Olympians?

I would just tell them to train hard, make sure you’re dedicated to your craft and stay focused. Most of all, stay focused, especially when you get to the Olympic Village and all the festivities that come along with the Olympics, like the parties, the women. There’s gonna be a lot of things that can knock you off focus and make you forget the real reason you’re there. When your time comes, do what you do best and what got you there in the first place. But most of all, have fun, enjoy the experience and live it up, because you’ll never get it back.

What’s your most vivid Olympic memory?

My favorite memory was when the USA was getting announced and we were coming down the tunnel where all the countries go through. Everybody sees who all is on the team from all of the sports. That was my favorite moment because it made me feel like I made it, representing my country. I was ready to go to battle with any country in the world that night, just to show how proud I am to be where I’m from. Even though I medaled, that will always be my favorite moment.

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