Heavyweight Vargasousted in quarterfinal
XATHENS, Greece -- Instead of leaving the Olympics with a medal around his neck, Devin Vargas had only a towel damp with blood and tears.
A balky knee and a clever opponent kept the U.S. heavyweight one victory shy of a trip to the semifinals. Vargas lost 36-27 to Belarus' Viktar Zuyev Sunday night, leaving just three Americans in the tournament.
Vargas twisted his left knee in the first round as he pivoted to throw a punch. The rest of the fight was a desperate attempt to overcome the pain and his limited mobility, which essentially forced the Toledo native to toss aside his coaches' game plan in favor of a brawl.
"I knew I either had to knock him out or get him DQ'ed," Vargas said.
Vargas took two standing 8-counts while Zuyev picked him apart. Until hurting his knee, Vargas had stuck to a game plan of constant movement.
Vargas was the only American participating on the first day of the quarterfinals at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall. All 12 winners Sunday were guaranteed a medal, since both semifinal losers are awarded bronzes.
U.S. super heavyweight Jason Estrada was to face Cuba's Michel Lopez Nunez today. Light heavyweight Andre Ward and middleweight Andre Dirrell also are still alive for the American team -- but even if all three fighters advance, the U.S. will finish with its lowest medal total since 1992.
"Right now, we don't have any answers," U.S. coach Basheer Abdullah said.
Americans once dominated Olympic boxing, but their power has eroded in recent years. In Sydney, the United States failed to win a gold medal for the first time in 52 years.
The power in amateur boxing has now shifted to Cuba, Russia and the former Soviet republics, who accounted for 42 of the 88 boxers in the quarterfinals.
Three Cuban fighters advanced to the semifinals Sunday, with heavyweight Odlanier Solis leading the way. Solis, a two-time world champion, was typically impressive in a 24-2 thrashing of Venezuela's Wilmer Jose Vasquez.