Payano upsets Frenchman, while Briton cries foul
BEIJING (AP) Juan Carlos Payano of the Dominican Republic knocked off two-time Olympic flyweight medalist Jerome Thomas on Tuesday, before bantamweight Gu Yu extended China's impressive first-round success with a victory that left Joe Murray of Britain crying foul over the judges' decisions.
World champion flyweight Rau'shee Warren of the U.S. was upset 9-8 by 2005 world champion Lee Ok-sung of South Korea, a stunning end to a four-year wait for the first two-time American boxing Olympian in 30 years.
Payano secured a big Chinese flag secured to the back of his robe like a red cape. The clever stunt immediately thrilled the crowd during his walk to the ring, but the 23-year-old Dominican had more than the fans' support behind him at Workers' Gymnasium as he won 10-6. He was quicker and flashier than his seasoned French opponent, who won a silver medal in Athens, a bronze in Sydney and a world championship in 2001.
Thomas, a remarkable athlete whose left arm is shorter than his right because of a birth defect, finally ran out of tricks in his third Olympics.
"Jerome paid for his lack of physical freshness, which is linked to his struggle to lose weight," French coach Dominique Nato said. "Age was also a factor. It's easier to lose weight when you're 20 than (29). ... He just lacked that little energy and power, because he wasn't fresh enough because of his weight problems."
Murray, the bantamweight on the resurgent British team, left the ring incensed after falling behind early against Gu, the fifth member of China's relatively inexperienced team to win an opening-round bout. Murray won a three-point decision over Gu in the quarterfinals of last year's world championships in Chicago, where Murray went on to win bronze.
"I knew they were going to give him everything he wanted," Murray said of his 17-7 defeat. "I've been watching the scoring here the first four days, and I knew it was bad, so I was expecting it."
Gu also had a winning strategy, repeatedly getting inside on Murray before the British fighter's superior reach could hurt him. Neither fighter landed many clear blows, and American referee James McNally penalized both fighters two points apiece for holding in the second round.
British coach Terry Edwards felt Murray lost the bout, but echoed Murray's belief that Gu got far ahead more quickly than he deserved.
"I thought they were very generous to the Chinese," Murray said. "You expect a slight bias (for the home team), but you come to the Olympic Games and expect a level playing field. Joe didn't box the best I've seen him, but the scoring makes a difference, and the tactics had to be changed because of the scoring. Everything the Chinese guy touched, they pressed the button for him."
In his bout with Lee, Warren barely threw a punch in the last 35 seconds, mistakenly believing his friends and teammates in the stands were telling him he was winning the fight. He apparently ignored the shouted pleas of his ringside coaches to throw punches.
Warren entered the fourth round tied with Lee, but fell behind midway through the round and never scored again.
"It didn't feel real," Warren said, pulling up his red tank top to dry his large tears. "I didn't feel like I lost the fight, because I was fighting hard, doing everything the coaches were telling me. To get this far and then lose, I don't even know what happened."
Warren, who lost his first bout at light flyweight in Athens four years ago, was the top medal favorite for the tumultuous American team along with welterweight Demetrius Andrade, another world champion who barely won his debut fight Sunday in Beijing.
Warren didn't know he had lost until he returned to his corner, where U.S. coach Dan Campbell had been screaming at his fighter to throw punches. When Warren heard the news, he threw his headgear in disgust, though he later apologized for being "unsportsmanlike."
"There was so much going on in the crowd. When I just stood there at the end, I thought I was up. To wait this long, and then to lose after one fight - " he said before breaking into tears again.
"I was confused about why he stopped (punching)," Campbell said. "He said he heard somebody saying to him to move (and avoid Lee). He was looking up in the stands. I don't know what he thought they were saying."
Warren's departure comes on the heels of bantamweight Gary Russell Jr.'s failure to make weight, along with early losses by Sadam Ali and Javier Molina. Just five U.S. boxers remain in the Olympic field.
"For him to lose could be disheartening for some of our other guys," Campbell said. "That's going to be our biggest fear. ... I think they're most definitely going to be psyched out. We have a psychologist around, and we're going to make sure that she talks to this team, because I'm sure all of them are going to be psyched out by this.
The 21-year-old Warren, a Cincinnati native, was the youngest boxer at the Athens Games and the youngest male athlete on the entire U.S. Olympic contingent in Greece. While his teammates all turned pro, Warren decided to stay in the amateur ranks, moving up to flyweight for another shot at an Olympic medal.
"He did what we would like to hope that other young boxers do," Warren said. "He stayed around for four more years, and ... he worked so hard in our program."
No American fighter had been on two straight Olympic teams since Davey Lee Armstrong in 1972 and 1976. While Cuba, Russia and other nations send their best amateur fighters to multiple Olympics, most Americans don't wait around with pro riches beckoning.