Ward pulls upset to reach finals
The American defeated Utkirbek Haydarov in the semifinals.
By MAC ENGEL
FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM.
ATHENS -- A team once littered with names such as Clay, De La Hoya, Holyfield, Foreman and Leonard has reduced itself to griping about judges and crossing fingers in hopes not of a gold medal, but any medal of any color.
But the fall of USA Boxing was briefly suspended on Friday when light heavyweight Andre Ward upset Uzbekistan's Utkirbek Haydarov 17-15 in the semifinals to advance to Sunday's gold medal match.
"I have dreamed about this since I was a child, and now I think I will win a gold medal," said Ward, whose victory tempers a Games' worth of bad feelings by a U.S. team that will feature but two medal winners.
Middleweight Andre Dirrell lost 23-18 against Gennadiy Golovkin of Kazakhstan in a semifinals bout that many on the U.S. team felt was scored poorly. Dirrell still earns a bronze medal
"I knew [Dirrell] was [losing] before the match even started," said U.S. assistant coach Anthony Bradley, added he felt the scoring was biased, and the judges missed on several of Dirrell's punches. "That's amateur boxing. You see it over and over."
At least it is for the United States. Going back to the 1992 Games in Barcelona, USA Boxing's superpower stature has -- for various reasons -- been reduced to third-world status.
Coming off an Olympics when the U.S. was shutout in medals for the first time in 52 years, Dirrell and Ward's medals are a big improvement.
Ward will be going for USA's first boxing gold since David Reid's lucky, one-shot knockout in the final round of the light heavyweight final in the '96 Games.
This was a team that until 2000 won an Olympic-leading 106 boxing medals, including 47 golds. Oh where have you gone Cassius Clay, or even Riddick Bowe?
"You go back, and Ray Leonard threw punches," said longtime trainer and former U.S. boxing coach Emanuel Steward said. "These guys threw combinations. But with this computer scoring, a guy's finger isn't fast enough to count all the punches. Boxing is killing the excitement."
The most consistent reason given for this demise is U.S. boxers aren't experienced in the international point scoring system, put in '92.
After Roy Jones was robbed of a gold medal in a controversial decision against Korea's Park Si Hun at the 1988 Games in Seoul was the system changed from a panel of judges to a panel of computer scorers.