Seven months ago, Vanes Martirosyan was America's 14th-ranked amateur welterweight -- not a typical starting point for an Olympic boxer. Martirosyan has turned out to be a whole lot better than almost anybody expected. With a few more wins, the same might soon be said about the entire U.S. boxing team.

Martirosyan erased any doubts about the legitimacy of his spot in Athens, battering Algeria's Benamar Meskine in a 45-20 victory to move on to a second-round match with Cuba's Lorenzo Aragon.

"I finished like a champion," said Martirosyan, an Armenian-born 18-year-old from Glendale, Calif. "I could have won another four rounds, to tell you the truth. I felt so good out there."

Martirosyan dictated the pace with a stiff jab and opportunistic combinations. He also counterpunched effectively while landing more shots to the head than almost any competitor so far.

Martirosyan was cheered at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall by his father, Norik, a former amateur fighter who moved his family to California when Vanes was 4; his younger brother, Vatche; his uncle and his cousin -- and a bunch of fans from Glendale waving Armenian and American flags.

Aragon, whose victory over Greece's Theodoros Kotakos was stopped on points in the third round, will be a stiff test for Martirosyan on Thursday. The 1996 Olympic featherweight is a two-time world champion as a welterweight, and he beat Martirosyan in the Athens Test Event in May.

Vanes Martirosyan, right, connects against Algeria's Benamar Meskine.