Sat, Jul 12, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Sour grapes as US crashes out of boxing championship

REUTERS , BANGKOK

The only US boxer to survive the preliminary rounds of the world amateur boxing championships, Andre Berto, was eliminated on Friday at the semifinal stage by Cuba's Lorenzo Aragon Armenteros.

World junior champion Berto spared the US the embarrassment of leaving Bangkok empty handed by taking home the bronze medal after his 25-15 defeat in the welterweight division.

The 10 other US fighters were all eliminated in the preliminary rounds of the competition and openly blamed poor judging.

"I'm not happy with that because the Cuban didn't really impress me that much," Berto said.

"I should've beaten him but he just outsmarted me today," he said. "A lot of our team got real bad decisions early on and that motivated me to work hard and go and win the competition. The US should be winning gold medals but I guess we'll just have to settle for the bronze."

Formerly one of the world's leading amateur boxing nations, the US failed to win an Olympic gold medal for the first time in 52 years in Sydney 2000 and took no titles at the last world championships two years ago.

The US team that traveled to Thailand was a combination of first and second team fighters. The better boxers were left behind to prepare for next month's Pan-American Games in the Dominican Republic.

But even with the big-hitters back on board, coach Frank Gentile said changes would still need to be made if the US had any hope of medals at next year's Olympic Games in Athens.

"It was a disappointment and we're going to have to go back to the drawing board," Gentile said.

"We have to adjust to fight at this level. We need to box like warriors. That's the way the Cubans and the Russians are fighting and that's why they'll be the ones winning the titles tomorrow."

But Gentile said the US team suffered several injustices at the championships and said something needed to be done to improve the level of judging at international competitions.

"We'll have our critics after this but my feeling all along was we came here in good shape and a lot of our boxers who lost should have won. It wasn't just us, all around there were bad decisions being made," Gentile said.

"There are young guys fighting so well and losing and there's nothing you can do about it," he said.

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