INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 22 -- The U.S. boxing team lost three straight gold medal decisions today. Judging by the reactions of the Indianapolis Convention Center crowd, one loss was clear, one was arguable and one was outrageous. But that didn't change the overall outcome, which was five gold medals for Cuba, none for the United States.
That two of the three U.S. defeats came to archrival Cubans did nothing to soothe the seething U.S. camp. Michael Carbajal of Phoenix lost the light flyweight gold medal bout on a 5-0 decision to Puerto Rico's Luis Rolon. Michael Collins of LaPorte, Tex., lost his bantamweight fight on a debatable 4-1 split decision to Cuba's Manuel Martinez. And then welterweight world champion Kenneth Gould of Rockford, Ill., was defeated by Cuba's Juan Lemus on a 4-1 decision that the U.S. team considered inexplicable and that drew prolonged boos from the crowd of 6,675.
"I am baffled," U.S. Coach Roosevelt Sanders said. "I really am."
The three losses gave the United States three silver medals, four bronze and a 2-9 record against Cuba. The United States has two more chances for gold medals Sunday, when world featherweight champion Kelcie Banks of Chicago meets Emilio Vegas of the Dominican Republic and light welterweight Todd Foster of Great Falls, Mont., meets Cuba's Candelario Duvergel in the last showdown between the two countries.
Cuba swept its gold medal bouts today, winning five of the six fights on the card. In addition to wins by Martinez and Lemus, Julio Gonzales took a unanimous decision over Jose Perez of Venezuela for the lightweight gold, Angel Espinsa won a unanimous verdict over Otis Grant of Canada in the middleweight division and 19-year-old heavyweight Felix Savon flattened Juan Diaz Neives of Argentina with a straight right hand with 2:48 elapsed in the second round.
Regardless of what anyone thought of the Collins and Gould decisions, it is clear that Cuba has dominated this event, its fighters appearing fresher and better conditioned. Carbajal and Collins faded in the third round, and there was considerable discussion in the U.S. camp afterward about changing training methods. In addition to its five golds today, Cuba has five more medal fights Sunday and a chance to capture 10 of the available 12 golds.
Most everyone in the arena thought Gould dominated Lemus by throwing more punches, the chief criteria for victory in the sometimes confusing world of amateur boxing. And most thought Gould was needlessly interfered with by referee Rafael Rodriguez Vega of Costa Rica, who probably cost Gould the first round by penalizing him for ducking and then delivering a mysterious standing eight-count.
It was Gould's third defeat in three fights against Lemus, but the first time he thought he had won.
"The fight was going for me," he said. "I thought I won, I should have won, I knew I won. My coach knew I won, my corner knew I won."
Gould lost the first round on all five judges' cards. He lost the second round on three cards, despite tying up Lemus consistently and landing numerous combinations to the head and body from the inside. He won the third round on four cards with constant flurrying, but by then the fight was decided.
Lemus had not gone the full three rounds in a fight here, using a devastating long right hand to end his previous bouts. Gould said he knew what to do to nullify Lemus' strength and did it brilliantly, keeping close to the Cuban and tying up Lemus' rangy right. The judges weren't available for comment on their decision.
But Gould said the eight-count in the first round "came out of nowhere". No apparent blow was struck by Lemus, and Gould said he merely slipped a right hand by Lemus, then lunged backward when Rodriguez Vega started counting.
"He was on me for any call he could get," Gould said of the referee. "He had me on his mind every second."
"My conscience is clear," Rodriguez Vegas replied. "Boos don't bother me." He said he called the eight-count on Gould because "his legs were wobbly."
Collins' 4-1 loss also was disputed by Sanders. Martinez won a close first round, probably with a couple of extra combinations. Collins won the second by getting the better of a slugfest, knocking Martinez backward with a good straight left. Then he ran, dancing in and out and peppering the Cuban with jabs.
That brought it down to the third round. Collins lost it on all five cards as his legs tired and Martinez fired combinations.
"I was flat in the third round," Collins said. "It was just one fight when I ran out of gas."
A silver medal was a good accomplishment for Carbajal, who came in as something of an unknown. He qualified for the Games by winning the Olympic Festival and a decision in a Pan Am box-off. Rolon, the silver medalist at the 1986 world championships, was favored to win, even though Carbajal had upset Cuban world champion Juan Torres in the quarterfinals.
"I got tired after the first round," Carbajal said. "That wasn't the real me. It just wasn't my day."
Ditto for the U.S. team.
"The judges are seeing the bouts the way they feel is correct, and they aren't going our way many times," Sanders said. "Not today, that's for sure."