KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Lenroy "Cam" Thompson of Lenexa is among ten boxers on the USA national team now overseas to compete next week for the chance to reach the 2012 Olympics.
Thompson fights in the super heavyweight division. He's ranked seventh in the world, but he needs to do just a little bit better than that to make it to the Olympics. He needs to come in at least sixth in the world championships.
Thompson's chances of punching a ticket to London may be determined by the draw.
Experience counts in international boxing competition, according to long-time trainer John Brown, who runs the Turner Boxing Club in Kansas City, Kansas.
The draw to determine the match-ups at the world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, takes place Sunday. If Cam Thompson draws an internationally seasoned boxer, Brown says it could signal trouble.
"We're not as familiar with the international scoring system as all the Europeans and the Eastern bloc countries. They all have more experience with that. The Chinese are really coming on strong. Those are all government-backed programs, so they've got plenty of money. They can travel. They do all that. We don't have any of that," said Brown
For the Americans, Brown said it will be like boys fighting against men.
Thompson, however, is entering the competition with confidence.
Thompson's international experience is limited, but he says a bout against Roberto Cammerelle, the 2008 gold medalist from Italy, was a good measuring stick.
"I fought him in Reno, Nevada, and I only lost by two points, which was a very close margin. I was within punches of winning the fight. It showed me where I was. It ranked me number seven in the world," said Thompson.
Brown admits he has always been guarded in his optimism toward Thompson.
That dates to back to three years ago when Thompson, a raw 19-year old kid barely weighing more than 200 pounds, took up an offer from Brown to move to Lenexa from Florida. Thompson went to work for Brown, who also owns Ringside, a retail outlet for boxing equipment, and trained under him.
Thompson didn't overwhelm Brown with his abilities in the ring.
"Quite frankly, I didn't see much potential because he boxed for a couple years for some place. Either they didn't teach him solid fundamentals or he was unable to adapt those fundamentals," said Brown.
Brown has since learned not to be surprised by Thompson's accomplishments.
Now listed at 219 pounds, Thompson twice has won the National Golden Gloves championship. Brown said that Thompson, now 22, has the mind of a 35-year old.
"Sometimes the coaching went the other way. He would tell me things that were illuminating and enlightening because he's that kind of kid, the most pleasure I've ever had working with an elite boxer in 45 years," said Brown.
This is Thompson's second shot at the Olympics. Three years ago, Thompson said, he was in over his head. This time, he feels, will be different.
"It'll be really exciting to represent our country in London. I was thinking about it the other day. I do a lot of thinking when I run. No matter what happens, I'll be the Olympian the rest of my life," said Thompson.
If Thompson does not finish in the top six at the world championships next week, he'll have a last-chance bout next May in Rio de Janeiro.