INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 23 -- Cuba won a record 10 boxing gold medals at the Pan American Games to one lonesome gold for the U.S. team. That hung from the fragile, featherweight neck of Chicago's Kelcie Banks, and was cause for some serious reevaluation of the United States' chances in the 1988 Olympics.
The Cuban national anthem played so often it could have made the Top 40, as the team won five more bouts today to take the gold in 10 of the 12 weight classes. That broke the record for most boxing gold medals set in 1951, when Argentina swept all eight weight classes in Buenos Aires, and Eva Peron kissed every Argentine boxer going both in and out of the ring.
Banks' gold medal prevented the first shutout for the United States since 1951, when its total was four bronzes. U.S. boxers have won at least two gold medals ever since, including the 1983 Games in Caracas, when Cuba won eight with the benefit of more than eight classes.
"I did not envision 10 golds for Cuba and one for us," U.S. Coach Roosevelt Sanders said. "No way in the world would I have envisioned the way it came out."
In gold medal bouts today for the Cubans, Adalberto Regalado unanimously decisioned Venezuela's David Grimas at flyweight, Orestes Solano unanimously decisioned Puerto Rico's Freddy Sanchez at light middleweight, world champion light heavyweight Pablo Romero knocked out Puerto Rico's Nelson Adams in the third round and super heavyweight Jorse Gonzalez got an unpopular 4-1 decision over Canada's Lennox Lewis.
World featherweight champion Banks interrupted the parade briefly by unanimously decisioning Emilio Villegas of the Dominican Republic. But then Candelario Duvergel of Cuba decisioned light welterweight Todd Foster of Great Falls, Mont., 4-1. That last confrontation gave the Americans a 2-10 record against Cuba here.
"The fact that they won just one medal is not ultimately conclusive," Cuban coach Alcides Sagarra said. "The thing it proves is that the Cubans were a little better."
Even Banks' gold lacked conviction. It came after he suffered two knockdowns in preliminary bouts and won a controversial 3-2 split decision in the quarterfinals over Cuba's Arnaldo Mesa.
Today, Banks, 6 feet, easily defeated a 5-foot-8, 18-year-old who lacked size, reach and experience. Banks' jab scored points, and he seemed almost abashed at accepting the only gold.
"It feels all right," he said. "But it sort of puts more pressure on me. It's not like all of our boxers lost because of their skills. Some lost because of bad breaks."
That was partly true. The U.S boxers were probably affected here by the blind draw instead of a usual seeding system, which meant they met Cubans in early rounds and made speedy exits. Those who did not win medals because of early losses included world champion heavyweight Darin Allen of Columbus, Ohio, who was knocked out by Cuba's eventual gold medalist Angel Espinosa; flyweight Arthur Johnson of Minneapolis, who narrowly lost to eventual gold medalist Regalado; and lightweight Patrick Byrd of Flint, Mich., losing to Cuban gold medalist Julio Gonzales in Byrd's first international bout.
The bronze medalists: light heavyweight Andrew Maynard of Cheverly, who lost to Romero when he sprained his right foot in the second round (he was ahead); heavyweight Michael Bent of Queens, N.Y., convincingly defeated by Cuban gold medalist Felix Savon; impressive super heavyweight Riddick Bowe of Brooklyn, who lost a decision to Cuban gold medalist Jorge Gonzales, and light middleweight Frank Liles of Syracuse, who lost on a decision to gold medalist Solano.
Foster's silver medal was one of four. In Saturday's finals, light flyweight Michael Carbajal of Phoenix was decisioned by Puerto Rico's Luis Rolon, bantamweight Michael Collins of LaPorte, Tex., was decisioned by Cuba's Manuel Martinez, and welterweight Kenneth Gould lost a bitterly controversial decision to Cuba's Juan Lemus.
A silver for Foster was something of an accomplishment, considering that he made the team by upsetting national champion Nick Kakouris in the Pan Am box-off. He was largely unknown until this tournament, and he did well to get a 4-1 decision in a fight world champion Duvergel dominated with his long right jab.
"It's my fault," said Foster, cut twice under his right eye. "I let him establish the jab in the first round, when I was planning to take it away. I did some dumb things."
The Cuban success, and some apparent fatigue by U.S. boxers, has caused considerable debate over whether the U.S. schedule in the last month was too heavy. The boxers had to compete in the Olympic Festival and a Pan Am box-off tournament to get here, making this their third major competition in a month. Some boxers were considering skipping the North American championships beginning Aug. 29. Collins has a sore throat, and on Saturday said of the schedule: "I don't think it's good for the boxer, I don't know if they're thinking of them or us."
Sanders supported the selection process, calling it a "fallacy" to say the schedule had caused some of the defeats. His point of contention was the weight training. The Cubans clearly had more upper body strength and endurance, and Sanders has clamored for a better weight program. He has gotten support of federation officials. "All you have to do is look at the Cubans," said Jim Fox, executive director of the U.S. Boxing Federation.