USA Boxing

US favorite Warren upset by Lee at Beijing Games

Aug. 12, 2008, 2:38 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) While Lee Ok-sung got his glove fixed with 35 seconds left, Rau'shee Warren turned in his neutral corner and searched for a clear voice in the cacophony of shouted advice.

Warren swore he heard somebody in the stands yelling "Move! Move!", meaning the world champion flyweight had the lead and should simply avoid getting punched to win. His coaches were screaming the opposite message from their ringside seats, because Warren actually trailed 9-8 and needed to attack.

In a painfully perfect illustration of what might be the U.S. boxing team's biggest problem, Warren listened to what he thought his friends, family or teammates were telling him. It cost him a chance at the medal he waited four years to hang around his mother's neck.

Warren spent the final moments of his second Olympics with his gloves at his waist Tuesday night, dancing in a pointless circle around the South Korean former world champion.

The stunning loss - and the head-scratching way it ended - crushed the first two-time American boxing Olympian in 30 years.

"It doesn't feel real," Warren said, pulling up his red tank top to dry his 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."

After losing his first fight in Athens as a raw 17-year-old light flyweight, Warren declined pro boxing's riches and stuck around the amateur game solely for a trip to Beijing and his desire to present gold to his mother, Paulette. Instead, he got eight minutes of action capped by 35 seconds of awful confusion.

Warren didn't even know he had lost until he heard the news from U.S. coach Dan Campbell. He threw his headgear in disgust before the tears rolled, though he later apologized for being "unsportsmanlike."

"There was so much going on in the crowd," Warren said. "When I just stood there at the end, I thought I was up. To wait this long, and then to lose after one fight ..."

Warren broke into sobs 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."

Earlier at Workers' Gymnasium, Juan Carlos Payano of the Dominican Republic upset two-time Olympic medalist Jerome Thomas of France. A few hours later, China sent its fifth fighter through to the next round with bantamweight Gu Yu's win over Joe Murray of Britain, who angrily blamed it on a judging bias toward the hometown fighters.

Russian bantamweight Sergey Vodopyanov also advanced - but Warren, a fellow world champion, won't be joining him.

Warren was a medal favorite for the tumultuous American team, along with welterweight Demetrius Andrade, another world champion who barely won his debut fight Sunday in Beijing.

USA Boxing instituted a strict training program and revolutionary coaching methods in an attempt to return to prominence, but Campbell's staff has been battered by complaints from the fighters' parents and local coaches. Most of the boxers thought the residency program in Colorado Springs, Colo., was onerous, and some discounted Campbell's coaching abilities.

The results of all that dissension might be showing up in Beijing: Warren's loss follows bantamweight contender 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, and Campbell described himself as "close to speechless."

"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."

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.

No American fighter had been on two straight Olympic teams since Davey Lee Armstrong in 1972 and 1976. Although Cuba, Russia and other nations send their best amateur fighters to multiple Olympics, most Americans don't wait.

"He did what we would like to hope that other young boxers do," Campbell said. "He stayed around for four more years, and ... he worked so hard in our program."

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