- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The U.S. men's boxing team came up empty at the London Olympics this past summer. No medals. Nothing. It's the first time that has ever happened. But now it's on to the pro game, where there is no headgear, smaller gloves, longer fights and where knockdowns mean something.
Five members of the team -- who are all represented by manager Al Haymon and working with Golden Boy Promotions -- make their professional debuts on the "Night Of The Olympians" card on Friday night (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif.
Heavyweight Dominic Breazeale, light heavyweight Marcus Browne, super middleweight Terrell Gausha, junior middleweight Errol Spence and bantamweight Rau'Shee Warren all will be aiming to make a bigger impact in the pro game than they did in the Olympics. Some of these fighters are likely to be among the top prospects in boxing as they develop over the next few years. Some might make it big and win titles and make fans. Some might fade away quickly. But the journey starts Friday.
Breazeale faces Curtis Tate (4-3, 4 KOs), Browne faces Codale Ford (2-0, 0 KOs), Gausha meets Dustin Caplinger (2-3, 1 KO), Spence fights Jonathan Garcia (3-3, 1 KO) and Warren boxes Luis Rivera (1-2). The fights are unlikely to be competitive, because that's usually the deal with pro debuts of Olympians.
In the main event, 2008 U.S. Olympian and 2011 ESPN.com prospect of the year Gary Russell Jr. (20-0, 12 KOs) faces Roberto Castaneda (20-2-1, 15 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round featherweight fight. Although Russell is the headliner, fighting for just the second time in what has been a lost year because of injuries and fights falling out, the debuts of the Olympians are the story of the show.
Since you are likely to see the Olympians on televised undercards as they develop, might as well get to know them sooner than later.
Courtesy of Swanson Communications, which is handling PR for the show, here is what I would call a "fun fact" about each of the pro debuters:
• Breazeale: As a college quarterback at the University of Northern Colorado, he could throw a 72-yard pass. Also likes working with troubled youths.
• Browne He's secure enough in his manhood to admit he loves getting manicures and pedicures. He also did a Sesame Street webisode scene with Elmo.
• Gausha During the Olympics there was a billboard of him in downtown Cleveland, his hometown.
• Spence He was featured in US Weekly's "Hot Bodies" issue.
• Warren The only American three-time Olympic boxer owns more than 300 pairs of shoes and wears size 4½.
Each Olympian also answered a few questions:
What do you think will be your greatest strengths as a pro?
• Breazeale: "My strengths as a professional will be my presence in the ring. I'll be the bigger, stronger, faster boxer. I also have developed a strong controlling jab."
• Browne: "My greatest strength will be my power and professional style of boxing."
• Gausha: "I think my greatest attributes as a pro will be my ability to think and keep a level head in pressure situations."
• Spence: "My combination punches, defense, my composure and ability to adjust in the ring."
• Warren: "My hand speed and my footwork because speed equals power."
Since starting to train for your pro debut, what has been the biggest surprise or adjustment you've had to make?
• Breazeale: "There hasn't really been much of a surprise or adjustment. The only thing that changed is that training got that much harder."
• Browne: "The biggest adjustment is just sticking to the game plan and executing no matter what happens during the course of a match."
• Gausha: "Nothing has really surprised me because I have been working with pros for a while now, but I think an adjustment that I definitely have to make is the pace."
• Spence: "I think I had a pro style in the amateurs, so really just picking my shots better and taking off the headgear."
• Warren: "The biggest adjustments will be just staying patient, calming down, taking my time and picking my shots."
Is there more pressure on you on the eve of your pro debut than when you were fighting as an amateur?
• Breazeale: "Of course, there is more pressure on the eve of my professional debut, but I think it will help me more then it could harm me. The pressure will keep me on my toes, aware and alert."
• Browne: "No not at all. I've been on the world stage at the Olympic Games so that experience was very helpful. I'm just going to have fun and not worry about what others think."
• Gausha: "I really don't think it's more pressure. This is what we have been working our whole careers for, to reach this point. I'm doing what I love to do and having fun doing it. No pressure."
• Spence: "There's a bit more pressure, it being my pro debut and all, but it's nothing I can't handle. The goal has always been to win."
• Warren: "No, not at all. I feel more relaxed and more confident this time around. I feel like I should have done this a while ago, but I always had a dream of going to the Olympics and winning a medal. Now I have to focus on a new dream of becoming a world champion."
Have you ever had a fight without headgear? What do you think it will feel like when you don't wear it as a pro?
• Breazeale: "No, this is my first fight without headgear. I think the feeling will be great. I never really liked wearing headgear."
• Browne: "No, I haven't had a fight without headgear and that just means I have to work on my defense and not get hit, but in boxing when will you not get hit?"
• Gausha: "I've had seven fights without headgear while competing in the World Series of Boxing and I honestly feel that it better suits me. I can see better and move more freely."
• Spence: "I've never fought without headgear. That and the smaller gloves will be the only adjustment that I will have to make. I'll probably feel the punches more and be more vulnerable to cuts and head butts."
• Warren: "I had eight fights in the World Series of Boxing so fighting without headgear won't be new. In the WSB, there were a lot of things that were different: no shirt, a bigger cup and no headgear. It was really different at first, but now I feel like it's going to be easier because I know what to expect. I know how to go in the ring and be comfortable. All those little things count.
Can you tell us something about yourself that no one really knows -- habits, hobbies, superstitions, etc.?
• Breazeale: "I love the look and sound of a saxophone and one day I'm going to teach myself how to play it like a pro. It's always been a passion of mine and I just don't understand why."
• Browne: "I love shopping, buying and listening to music."
• Gausha: "I always watch Sugar Ray Leonard and Andre Ward before my fights. I take bits and pieces of their style and add it to my own. They are two of my favorite fighters."
• Spence: "I'm a laid-back conservative guy, but I do like to dance and play video games."
• Warren: "Sometimes I like to dance a little to warm up, especially if [good pal and former junior lightweight titlist] Adrien Broner is with me so you might see a few dance moves before I walk to the ring."
What will you do with your first professional boxing paycheck?
• Breazeale: "My first paycheck will go straight to bills and whatever is left will go in savings. Remember, I'm a family man. I have big responsibilities. Family first.”
• Browne: "Of course, I have to pay rent to my mom and I'll put some money into my 401K, as well as my life insurance policy. I'm not planning in leaving anytime soon, though."
• Gausha: "The first thing I want to do with the money I receive from my first pro fight is put some aside for my daughter's college fund."
• Spence: "It's going straight to the bank! I'm the cheap one on the team."
• Warren: "I haven't decided, but I know Christmas is coming up. I have two little boys and a daughter coming, so I have to get ready for that. I have kids to feed."
If there is one special material possession you could get from your success, what would it be?
• Breazeale: "I would love to be debt free for my wife, my kids, their kids and myself. As far as a special material possession, it would be the belt, or should I say belts."
• Browne: "It would be a great fan base and a great way of living -- meaning wealth, health and happiness."
• Gausha: "I honestly want to own a house."
• Spence: "My boxing shoes and ring attire from the Olympics. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience in my life fighting in front of the world and representing my country with the world's best athletes."
• Warren: "Material possessions aren't important to me, but I would like a Lamborghini -- a red one."