2008 Olympians moving into pro ranks

The 2008 U.S. Olympic boxing team in Beijing had a historically poor finish, claiming just a single bronze medal. It was the worst finish for a U.S. Olympic team ever. The only other team to win just a single medal was in 1948, but at least it was a silver.

The nine members from Beijing are slowly, but surely, trying to put that embarrassing finish behind them as they begin to enter the pro ranks.

Hopefully, they'll be a lot better as professionals than they were in Beijing, where the amateur scoring did a disservice to so many talented fighters (and not just the Americans).

Three of the U.S. team members have already turned pro, bronze-medal winning heavyweight Deontay Wilder (1-0), junior middleweight Demetrius Andrade (2-0) and middleweight Shawn Estrada (2-0).

Now, three more Olympians are set to join them, Gary Russell Jr., Sadam Ali and Luis Yanez.

Russell, of Capitol Heights, Md., debuts Friday night against Antonio Reyes (3-2) in a four-round featherweight bout; he'll receive outstanding exposure because his fight will be televised as the opener on Showtime's "ShoBox" telecast (11 p.m. ET/PT) in Tulsa, Okla.

Although Russell, 20, was a decorated amateur, he didn't make it to the ring in Beijing because he passed out attempting to make the bantamweight limit the night before the first weigh-in and was disqualified from the competition. Turning pro, he hopes, will help him bury that unfortunate incident.

"My dream was to become an Olympian, but that is not the same as not competing," Russell said. "Turning pro will definitely help. I am really looking forward to fighting on Showtime and appreciate the opportunity. I have a lot of family, friends and fans who've supported and followed my career a long time. I really want to make it up to them."

Ali, a 20-year-old featherweight from New York who fought at lightweight in the Olympics, will turn pro Saturday night on the undercard of the Andre Berto-Luis Collazo HBO fight in Biloxi, Miss., although his bout won't be televised. Ali, of New York, faces Tampa's Ricky Thompson in a four-rounder.

"Sadam Ali is an excellent prospect, and I believe he will have a long and distinguished career," promoter Lou DiBella said in announcing Ali's fight. "We look forward to his pro debut."

Yanez, 20, of Duncanville, Texas, was a light flyweight in the Olympics but will fight as a professional flyweight. He makes his pro debut Feb. 20 in a six-rounder that will headline a six-bout card being put on by the Mendelson Entertainment Group at the American Airlines Center in Dallas and that will be televised on Fox Sports Net Southwest. His opponent is to be determined.

Yanez, who calls himself the "Latin Legend," hopes to live up to that billing.

"That's my goal -- to be a 'Latin Legend' in this sport, like Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya and so many others," Yanez said. "I'm just starting out my pro career and I know I have a long ways to go, but my nickname will be a daily reminder of the hard work I have to put in to become a great champion."

Three others from the Olympic team haven't turned professional: flyweight Rau'shee Warren, featherweight Raynell Williams and light welterweight Javier Molina. Warren intends to remain an amateur and attempt to become the first three-time U.S. Olympic boxer when he shoots for a spot on the 2012 team that will compete in London.