Semajay Thomas got a second chance in life when he was acquitted of a first-degree murder charge in November, 2010.
Now the 18-year-old Chicago boxer gets a second chance at the 2012 Olympics after squandering his first in a fit of pique at the U.S. trials in August.
After Olympic trials light welterweight winner Jamel Herring lost his opening bout Friday at the World Boxing Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, it meant there will be at least one spot available for another U.S. boxer in that weight class (141 pounds) at the 2012 Summer Games.
"We're getting ready now," Thomas said Friday in a text message.
But the road to London will be more circuitous and difficult than it would have been had reigning U.S. champ Thomas won the Olympic trials, from which he was disqualified for not making weight.
The results of the preliminary rounds at worlds, which end this week, will determine whether a second spot opens up for the Americas. The place or places then would be contested at a continental qualifying tournament next April or May.
That tournament now will include a boxer from Cuba, the traditional boxing power of the Americas, because the Cuban 141-pound entry at worlds also lost his first bout.
To reach the continental qualifier, Thomas will have to win the U.S. title again early next spring.
A victory at the Olympic trials would have meant Thomas needed just a top-10 finish at worlds to earn a place in London.
But he reacted to a controversial defeat in the semifinals at the trials by deciding to withdraw, gorging on pizza, then changing his mind when it was too late to lose the pounds gained from the binge in time for the weigh-in before his first losers' bracket bout in the double-elimination tournament.
After first saying he was going to turn pro, Thomas decided to wait for results of worlds in the hope he could still have a shot at the Olympics.
He had won the U.S. title and earned the top seed in the trials just seven months after being released from juvenile detention. Thomas spent 15 months in the Cook County Temporary Detention Center after being falsely accused of a 2009 murder that occurred in front of his near west side apartment.Copyright © 2015, RedEye