Team USA's Mikaela Mayer Starts Her
Olympic Journey While Olympic Bronze Medalist Nico Hernandez and
Carlos Balderas Reach the End of Their Road in Rio
by Julie Goldsticker/USA Boxing
August 13, 2016
(AUG 13) RIO DE JANEIRO,
BRAZIL (dated August 11)- Olympic village roommates Nico
Hernandez (Wichita, Kansas) and Carlos Balderas (Santa Maria,
Calif.) got their U.S. team off to a strong start in the Rio
Olympics but the run ended on Friday afternoon in Rio de
Janeiro. Hernandez clinched a bronze medal with his third
victory of the tournament on Wednesday but lost in his semifinal
bout to Uzbekistan's Hasanboy Dusmatov this morning. Balderas
enjoyed two Olympic victories early in the week to move on
today's quarterfinal match-up with Cuban Olympic bronze medalist
Lazaro Alvarez and he put on an impressive showing in today's
action but dropped a decision on the judges scorecards. Female
lightweight Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles, Calif.) made her long
awaited debut a victorious one in Wednesday evening competition.
Twenty-year-old Hernandez clinched the first medal of the 2016
Olympic Games with his third victory of the tournament on
Wednesday but he couldn't extend his winning streak on Friday.
Hernandez has lost the first round in all four of his matches at
the Olympics and today's semifinal bout with Dusmatov told the
same tale. Hernandez looked to find openings and pick his shots
early in the bout and managed to connect with some accurate
punches but fell behind after the opening round. He picked up
his work rate in the second round but caught a head butt from
the shorter Dusmatov that opened a cut over his eye. Although a
trickle of blood dripped down his face, Hernandez wasn't
discouraged. The American corner stopped the bleeding and
Hernandez came out firing in the third, looking to try and make
up the two round deficit he faced. The doctor stopped the bout
for a brief minute to check the cut but allowed Hernandez to
continue. He finished the bout strongly but dropped a unanimous
decision in the semifinal contest. Despite the loss, Hernandez
wins a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympic Games following an
impressive run through the tournament.
"I didn't stay on the outside and move enough. I fought his
fight instead of my own. I let him come in and make the fight
too wild and that's how I lost. I think I started doing it
(throwing body shots) way too late in the fight, not until the
last round. I waited too long. I definitely knew it was close. I
thought I lost the first round, I thought the second round was
really close. The third round I thought I pulled it off,"
Hernandez said. "The corner after the first round told me it's
way too close, you have to feint more and move around and pick
your shots. Don't let him get on the inside and make it rough. I
tried, I just let him come on the inside and made it a great
Hernandez has previous experience with cuts in fights that
helped him deal with the one he sustained on Friday. "When I got
cut, my vision went a little blurry. I couldn't really see that
well. After they cleaned it up (in the corner), it got better,"
he said. "It didn't really affect me too much. I felt a little
bit of blood leak down. It didn't really hurt. I'm pretty sure
it will be sore later."
Although he certainly wanted the top spot on the podium,
Hernandez certainly understands the importance of securing a
medal. "It's definitely disappointing because I wanted to go
home with the gold medal. I'm leaving with the bronze but I know
USA Boxing is proud of me. All of my supporters back home are
proud of me so I'm just blessed to be here. It ended the drought
of medaling. It was definitely a great feeling to be the first
one in eight years but I didn't want to go home with the bronze
medal. I'm definitely proud that I made it to this level. I'm
definitely blessed. I know everyone back at home is proud of me
win or lose."
Now that Hernandez is done competing, he looks forward to seeing
his teammates compete to join him on the medal stand. "We are
just a young, hungry team, staying focused and pushing each
other to become better and go out there and be victorious. We
definitely love pushing each other at practice and in fights.
Since we were little, we've always said that when we get there,
we're going to medal and we'll push each other until we do that
and now we are finally here," he said.
While he doesn't have a concrete plan for what's next for him,
Hernandez certainly gained a lot from his Olympic experience.
"This is definitely a whole nother level of experience, the
highest level I've ever been on. I learned to just focus on your
opponent and not what's around you or in the stands. I'm going
to take a little break after this. Talk to my father about it
and see what we come up with," Hernandez said.
He will receive his bronze medal on Sunday following the light
flyweight gold medal bout. Hernandez will appear on NBC's The
Today Show tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m.
Balderas stepped in to the ring just as Hernandez exited for his
quarterfinal showdown with a top rated Cuban foe. The American
refused to be intimidated by his more experienced opponent and
went right at Alvarez. He enjoyed a strong first round but the
judges scored the opening three minutes for the Cuban boxer. He
continued his strong work in the second stanza as Alvarez looked
out outbox Balderas in the second. The American entered the
third down two rounds on the judges' scorecards and couldn't
overcome his deficit. Balderas lost a 3-0 decision in their
quarterfinal contest to eliminate him from the competition.
He felt that the quick turnaround from his previous fight
impacted him in the bout. "My previous fight was very, very
rough, very tough. That fight took a lot out of me and those two
days of rest that they gave me, it wasn't enough for me to
recover fully. The fight against Japan was very tough. I even
felt it yesterday at night. It wouldn't wake up. My body just
felt very beat and tired. I did the most that I could. Things
happen for a reason, only God knows why," Balderas said.
He knew that Alvarez had an experience advantage in the
match-up, particularly in the Olympic Games. "He was very long,
he had a lot of experience, he knew what he was doing. He was
just tapping from a distance, waiting for me to get in. I
believe I was putting up a good fight. He knew exactly what he
was doing. He was managing the distance, he was tapping away and
I wasted a lot of energy chasing him down and trying to catch
him with one shot. I just fell a little short," he added.
Balderas opened the Olympic Games in impressive fashion for his
U.S. squad and he's pleased with what he was able to do in his
first Olympics. "It (the Olympics) was an amazing experience.
I'm happy with how far I've gotten. I know I could have done
better but I'm just going to keep going forward. I'm going to go
home, take a little break, talk with my family and we'll see
what the future holds for me."
Now that he and his roommate are done competing, they will turn
their attention to the five U.S. boxers remaining in the
tournament. "We started off very strong, the team started very
strong. Me and my roommate (Nico Hernandez) got victories and we
still have more victories to come. I'm looking forward to
watching my teammates fight as well. I think my team will do
very good. I did as much as I could. My teammates are very
focused. They are very hungry. I know they are very anxious,
they've been talking about it in the room and they just say they
want to go out there and put on a show to prove everybody
The day Mikaela Mayer has been waiting for for nearly 10 years
finally came on Friday Riocentro Pavilion 6 as she walked to the
ring for her first Olympic bout. Mayer competed in the first day
of competition for the women's bracket in Friday's evening
action. She took on the Federated States of Micronesia's
Jennifer Chieng, a New York native,in her tournament opener.
Mayer wasted no time getting started in the bout, exerting her
dominance early in the contest. She caught Chieng with clean
shots in combination over the first two rounds, even taking the
second stanza by a 10-8 margin on two of the judges' scorecards.
Mayer continued to dominate over the final two rounds, mixing in
thudding body shots with her skillful movement and accurate
straight shots. She rolled through to the end of the fourth
round to take a wide, unanimous decision in her first Olympic
"I think I dominated all four rounds, obviously there's always
something to work on. It was my first fight. You've got to get
your timing, your space, all that stuff down, get the nerves out
of the way. I know I'm going to get sharper as the days go by.
Billy's big on using your distance so since I've been working
with him, that's something he's really been stressing. Really
getting my full reach out because I do have these long arms so I
should use them to my advantage so if I'm not using them, it's
not worth anything," Mayer said.
"My nerves have been pretty good. You always have nerves no
matter how long you've been doing this. You're always going to
have nerves. They weren't more than any other fight. I took a
second to realize that I'm about to walk out and compete in the
Olympic Games. I took that in for a few seconds, not long. It's
an amazing feeling. It's a dream come true for me."
Mayer fell just short of making the Olympic team in 2012 but she
feels that the extra four years have given her a whole different
perspective on the accomplishment. "I came close in 2012 but I
really hadn't been boxing that long. I was only four years in.
It means so much more now. It's been eight, nine years. I really
put the time in. I really had time for this dream to flourish in
my brain and it's really just become who I am. I am this dream
so it means so much more now, it really does. The competition
has just shot through the roof. the A lot of these girls are
experienced. They are coming in with Olympic medals. A lot of
these girls are previous Olympians, multiple world champions,"
She believes that the success she's had despite her late start
in the sport should encourage others to chase their own dreams.
"I did start boxing kind of late. I think it's just proof that
it's never too late to start something new. I've poured
everything I had in to this from day one. I'm going to put
everything I have in to this and see where it takes me. This is
where it took me so it's just proof that it's never too late,"
Mayer will return for her quarterfinal bout with Russia's
Anastasiia Beliakova at 5 p.m. Brazil time (4 p.m. ET) on
Monday, August 15. If she is victorious in her quarterfinal
bout, she will clinch at least a bronze medal.
American flyweight Antonio Vargas (Kissimmee, Fla.) will step in
to the ring for the first time at Riocentro Pavilion 6 at 11:30
a.m. Brazil time (10:30 a.m. ET) against Brazil's Juliao Neto.
For full tournament brackets and schedule information, click
108 lbs/49 kg: Hasanboy Dusmatov, UZB, dec. Nico Hernandez,
Wichita, Kansas/USA, 3-0
132 lbs/60 kg/male: Lazaro Alvarez, CUB, dec. Carlos Balderas,
Santa Maria, Calif./USA, 3-0
132 lbs/60 kg/female: Mikaela Mayer, Los Angeles, Calif./USA dec.
Jennifer Chieng, FSM, 3-0