INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 19 -- Three members of the U.S. boxing team advanced to the gold-medal round of the Pan American Games tonight, but two crowd pleasers were not among them. Middleweight Andrew Maynard was eliminated by an ankle injury as he seemed on the verge of victory over Cuban world champion Pablo Romero, and super heavyweight Riddick Bowe was decisioned by Cuban veteran Jorge Gonzales.
That put a damper on an otherwise successful evening for the U.S. team. Light flyweight Michael Carbajal of Phoenix executed his battle plan perfectly and upset world champion Juan Torres of Cuba in a unanimous decision that set the tone for the rest of the night's semifinal victories.
Chiefly, world champion featherweight Kelcie Banks won a sloppy 3-2 decision over Esteban Flores of Puerto Rico, despite a taking first-round knockdown, a third-round eight-count and some boos. And world champion welterweight Kenneth Gould survived a streetfight-like tussle with Puero Rico's Rey Rivera for a unanimous decision to advance.
"In a word, it was excellent," Coach Roosevelt Sanders said of the U.S. performance, which was something of a relief after the team had lost three consecutive quarterfinal bouts to Cuba Monday night. "I saw determination, heart, conditioning, and mentally, everything was on target."
The winners of tonight's bouts return Saturday and Sunday. The losers were assured of bronze medals, since Games officials have decided to award two bronzes instead of holding consolation box-offs.
Maynard will get his bronze, but the elimination of the U.S. Army product from Cheverly was a considerable disappointment to the U.S. team. The 22-year-old has become a favorite among crowds and boxers here, and is considered a lively, promising young talent who was capable of upsetting Romero. By contrast, the Cuban became exceedingly unpopular here when he was involved in a brawl in the stands with anti-Castro demonstrators last week.
Maynard won the first round on the cards of all five judges in what was a spectacularly bitter bout before he twisted his right ankle with 1:15 elapsed in the second round and could not continue. It was ruled that the referree stoped the conest for medical reasons, and Maynard, who was believed to have suffered ligament damage, was taken to a hospital for X-rays.
Maynard started slowly against Romero, the defending Pan Am champion who counts Evander Holyfield among his conquests. Romero carries a long right hand and a bolo-style uppercut that is a Cuban trademark, and that he used in the stands Friday night.
But Maynard collected himself halfway through the round and worked his way inside. It was pandemonium when he landed two solid lefts to the head to start the crowd chanting, and then pinned the Cuban to the ropes with a series of combinations. Romero counterpunched, but Maynard finished with a collection of brutal long-distance blows to earn the round.
The second round looked to be going Maynard's way, if slightly, as he and Romero traded fierce combinations. But the end of the fight came almost midway through the round, as Maynard released a left-right series to Romero's head in a corner and the Cuban countered with uppercuts.
Maynard suddenly plummeted to the canvas as he was turning to chase Romero, who did not land any blows that caused the fall. Maynard got up as quickly as he fell, but could not stand on his right ankle. He retired to his corner, where he floundered on his stool in pain and frustration.
"Andrew either stepped on the other man's foot, or a hole, or a rising in the ring," Sanders said.
Bowe, the super heavyweight from Brooklyn who has discussed his plans of turning pro and beating world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, fell to Cuba's 19-year-old Gonzales in another bout remarkable for its devastating punches. Bowe took two knockdowns in the first round and and then traded eight-counts with Gonzales in the third before losing the decision, 3-2.
There is no question Carbajal's victory was a crucial one for the United States. When the team lost three bouts Monday night, including Angel Espinosa's knockout of world champion Darin Allen, the Cubans were talking about winning gold medals for all of their 11 remaining boxers, and they held a 4-1 head-to-head margin over the United States.
Carbajal, however, fought a textbook bout as he moved in close to Torres, to whom he lost a 3-2 decision last December. From the outset Carbajal battered the world champion with rapid blows to the body, which set up hard punches to the head. Torres lost all three rounds on points.
Banks' victory was not nearly as obvious. When the world champion from Chicago raised his arms in the middle of the ring, it was to a smattering of boos from those who thought Flores had won the bout. Flores' knockdown in the first round came about midway through, as the result of a solid right to Banks' jaw. The second round was a jabbing affair, and in the third Banks again worked from the outside, until Flores caught him with a solid right to the head for a standing eight-count.
But in amateur boxing knockdowns and eight-counts are only good for a third of a point, and Banks felt he had scored enough clean jabs to win.
In the finals, Carbajal meets Jesus Herrera of the Dominican Republic and Banks meets another Dominican, Emilio Villegas. Gould meets Cuba's world champion Juan Lemus.