washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > Olympics > 2004 > Sport-by-Sport > Boxing

U.S. Boxers Triumph In Six of First Seven Bouts

Vargas, Estrada Impressive in Olympic Debuts

By Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 19, 2004; Page D10

ATHENS, Aug. 18 -- It's been difficult to get excited about the U.S. Olympic boxing prospects in the heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions, given that no American has won either division since 1988. But Toledo's Devin Vargas and Jason Estrada of Providence, R.I., raised some hope for U.S. boxing with lopsided victories Wednesday in their debut bouts.

Estrada, the first U.S. super heavyweight to win the Pan American Games, outscored Ma'afu Hawke of Tonga, 30-11, in the final bout of the night. U.S. Coach Basheer Abdullah promised before the games that while Estrada might be less imposing than the other top super heavies his hands are fast enough to enable him to contend. And Estrada completely smothered the Tongan with punches, swinging like a light heavyweight instead of a man who appears to weigh in excess of 250 pounds.

American Rau'Shee Warren battles with China's Zou Shiming during the light flyweight preliminaries. Warren's loss made him the first U.S. boxer eliminated from the Games. (Rick Bowmer - AP)

_____ Day 6 _____
Paul Hamm wins the men's gymnastics individual all-around.
The U.S. women's relay team breaks a 17-year-old record.
Shot putters compete on the site of the original Games.
Venus Williams and Andy Roddick both lose in the third round of the tennis tournament.
American cyclist Tyler Hamilton wins the gold medal, while Dede Barry takes silver in the road time trials.
U.S. boxers triumph in six of their first seven bouts.
The U.S. softball team posts its fifth straight shutout with a 7-0 win over Canada.
U.S. shot putter Adam Nelson settles for silver after five fouls.
Japan's Kosuke Kitajima completes a sweep of Olympic breastsroke events by winning the 200.
The Canadian water polo team pulls off a stunning comeback to beat the United States.
American shooter Kim Rhode rallies to win the gold medal in double trap.
The U.S. double scull of Aquil Abdullah and Henry Nuzum advances in a photo finish.
Greek sprinters withdraw from Games after missing a drug test.
Phelps, Coughlin and Peirsol advance in swimming heats.

_____ More From The Post _____
Michael Wilbon: Of the 72 countries that sent boxers to Athens, 13 are coached by Cuba.
For China, the future is both now and later.
In water polo, the brutality is just beneath the surface.

_____ On Our Site _____
Athens Snippets: A scoring controversy? At the Olympics?
Graphic: The dangers of the spin technique in the shot put.
Graphic: China has more golds than any country so far.

___ Wednesday's Medals Results ___
Women's individual
Men's shot put
Women's shot put
Cycling (Road)
Women's time trial
Men's time trial
Men's single slalom
Women's single slalom
Individual eventing
Team eventing
Women's individual foil
Gymnastics (Artistic)
Men's individual all-around
Men's 90kg
Women's 70kg
Women's double trap
Men's 100 freestyle
Men's 200 breaststroke
Women's 200 butterfly
Women's 4 x 200 freestyle relay
Women's 63kg
Men's 69kg

_____ Multimedia _____
Audio: U.S. women break record.
Audio: The journey to Olympia.

_____ Photos _____
Day 6
Photo galleries page

_____Free E-mail Newsletters_____
• Redskins
• News Headlines
• News Alert

Earlier Wednesday, Vargas ran up a 27-7 score against Moroccan Rachid Haddak, which automatically stopped the heavyweight fight and gave the victory to the American.

The U.S. team has won six of seven bouts, with only Rau'Shee Warren losing Wednesday to China's Zou Shiming, the light flyweight silver medalist at the 2003 world championships and the favorite to win the 106-pound division.

Warren, a 17-year-old from Cincinnati, was in over his head against an experienced opponent, the likes of which he hadn't seen in his short career. Zou put on a boxing clinic in his 22-9 victory, darting about the ring while throwing punches, particularly counterpunches. "We knew the Chinese boxer has great legs and knows how to move," Abdullah said. "You have to get a lead on him and make him come to you. But we fell behind [on points] and couldn't do that. That style Rau'Shee saw today, you don't see in the States. The Asian boxers are awkward for us; they don't punch from the same angles we see in the States."

Warren said afterward: "It was a good experience for me to do this, be here as young as I am. I haven't seen too many fighters like that."

Vargas had no such issues against his Moroccan opponent, even though he is doing his best to concentrate on boxing and scoring here and stay away from instinctive brawling. "A couple of times in the first round he caught me with a shot and I wanted to go right in there," Vargas said. "But I could hear the coaches saying, 'Calm down.' So I just thought to myself, 'Back up and take a deep breath.' "

Once he did, Vargas said he noticed, "The way he was throwing punches, he kinda looked like a novice."

Ray Mercer, in 1988, is the last U.S. heavyweight to win gold. Cuba's Felix Savon, now coaching his countrymen, won gold in 1992, 1996 and 2000. In fact, Cubans (Savon and Teofilo Stevenson) have won the heavyweight competition six of the last seven times Cuba has competed in the Olympics. Meanwhile, the super heavyweight division has been won by Britan's Audley Harrison, the Ukraine's Wladimir Klitchko, Cuba's Roberto Balado and Canada's Lennox Lewis. The only U.S. super heavyweight gold medal was won by Tyrell Biggs in 1984, a year that Russia and Cuba did not compete.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company