BOXING: A Trio of U.S. Boxers Earn Quarterfinal Victories at the Americas Qualifier in Trinidad
(PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD)-Lightweight Sadam Ali (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and middleweight Shawn Estrada (Commerce, Calif.) both made their event debuts at the Americas Olympic Qualifier on Saturday, and enjoyed victorious premieres on Saturday at the Jean Pierre Complex on Saturday in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Heavyweight Deontay Wilder (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) recorded his second victory of the tournament, pulling out a double tiebreaker win over Ecuador's Jorge Quinonez Tenorio of Ecuador. Ali took the ring to face Venezuela's Jesus Cuadro, and claimed an 11-5 victory while Estrada recorded a 9-7 win over home-country boxer Andrew Fermin of Trinidad. Wilder closed the afternoon session winning his 9-9 tiebreaker bout on a 4-1 judges' poll. Stepping into the squared circle for the first time since the Olympic Test Event in November, Ali was slightly tentative through the first round and trailed by a 3-0 margin at the end of two minutes. He opened up more in the second stanza, finding the mark with clean punches and movement to pull the bout to a 5-3 margin."When I was down by three and two (after the first and second round), I was thinking about it in the corner. I have to qualify; there's no way I can let myself lose,"Ali said."I have to go back to New York, and everyone out there wants me to win. I've been working hard with the coaches and I have to work."Ali definitely put in work in the third round; he continued to land a crisp, strong hook, tiring his Venezuelan opponent and giving him a standing eight count. He grabbed his first lead in the third round, holding Cuadro scoreless to take a 7-5 advantage into the final round of the contest. Ali stood prepared to make his final stand as the bell rang for the fourth round and he accomplished his mission. He evaded the oncoming Cuadro, and added three points to his advantage to win an 11-5 final decision."I was down three after the first round. I decided to keep boxing after the first round, and then I was still down two so I realized that boxing wasn't working so I said let me change my game plan, I'm going to take it to him with my hands up and work,"Ali said."When I did that, I took the lead and scored a lot more points and that's how I fought for the rest of the bout."Ali will face off with Argentina's Juan Nicolas Cuellar in semifinal round competition on Monday, and stands only win away from an Olympic berth. Estrada climbed through the ropes following a similar lay-off to Ali's and it showed in a sloppy contest with Fermin. There was little action in the first two minutes of the bout and Estrada held a slim 1-0 lead after the opening round. The pace quickened in the second with Estrada moving out to a two-point lead early in the round, but the chaotic southpaw, Fermin, pulled the bout to a 4-4 tie at the halfway mark of the bout. The third round told a similar tale with Estrada looking to silence a supportive Trinidadian crowd. The American middleweight went into the fourth round of boxing with a 6-5 lead, but Fermin looked to eliminate his slim deficit, and he did so. Fermin pulled the bout to a 7-7 midway through the final round to the delight of his fans in attendance. Yet Estrada refused to back down, scoring the final two points of the bout to win a 9-7 final decision. His victory advances Estrada to a semifinal contest with Ecuador's Carlos Mercado Gongora."I was trying to keep my hand in there and box the guy. I was just trying to score points,"Estrada said."It's a lot of pressure. I don't want to go back to the States saying that I'm not qualified so I have to get qualified. I'm only one fight away so I'm just trying to get the job done Monday and put all my cards on the table that day."For the second straight bout, Wilder's bout featured a comeback and a last minute finish with the 22-year-old heavyweight emerging victorious. Wilder opened the bout looking to establish his jab and exploit his large height advantage, but trailed by a 2-1 score at the end of the first round. Both boxers doubled their output in the second, and Wilder faced a 4-2 deficit at the halfway mark of the bout. Tenorio began to tire in the third as Wilder increased the pressure, but couldn't dent Tenorio's advantage. Wilder faced a two-point as the final round began, but the deficit didn't deter the towering heavyweight. He applied pressure from the start of the round despite Tenorio's constant holding. Due to Tenorio's constant holding, the referee took a point early in the fourth round, tying the bout for the first time. Wilder jumped out to a 9-8 advantage late in the round, but Tenorio managed to tie up the score with only seconds remaining in the contest. The two boxers remained dead-locked at nine as the final bell rang, forcing the bout to a tiebreaker."I thought it was exciting. It was exciting for me, my teammates, my coaches as well as my friends. It was a slow start and a fast finish but there's going to be a few adjustments,"Wilder said. With the accepted score tiebreaker locked at 20, the decision went to a judges' poll and Wilder was named the victor on a 4-1 judges poll with Cuba the only dissenting judge. Wilder was forced to stand in the ring to await his fate, but he attempted to use the precious time to sway the deciding judges."I was thinking, 'Come on judges, I just brought it out in the fourth round. I busted this guy up, at least give me something for coming and not stopping. I was grinning at the judges, thinking of anything I could do. I'm jumping around and showing them that I'm not tired and I can still go three or four more rounds. You want a tiebreaker, I want us to go two or three more rounds, I'm ready. I just want to qualify."Wilder needs only one more victory to qualify and will face Brazil's Rafael Lima in semifinal match-up. Two U.S. boxers will compete in Saturday's evening action with light welterweight Javier Molina (Commerce, Calif.) battling Barbados' Matthew Robinson and super heavyweight Michael Hunter (Las Vegas, Nev.) closing the day with a contest with Oscar Rivas Torres of Colombia. Sadam Ali Quotes "I didn't know how he fights so I was trying to figure out what my game plan was going to be. I was trying to decide how to fight-should I box or should I brawl. So I decided to do what I do best which is box, but that didn't seem to work.""I saw the hook work the first time I landed a good one. I was just trying to hit him with anything and let my hands go and the hook was working and I kept throwing it.""I've been sparring a little bit so I don't think it was ring rust, but it's the first fight of the tournament so I felt little rusty and that happens to almost everyone so I should be better the next fight.""He (Argentina's Nicolas Cuellar) doesn't really have a set style; he's kind of sloppy. I think I'll have to box him more and keep my hands up.""It worked and I did it and I'll just have to sharpen it up next time."Shawn Estrada Quotes "He pulled me into his style of boxing a little bit. I haven't boxed since China so I was a little sloppy today. I had to get the ring rust off day and concentrate on the qualifying match on Monday. Hopefully I will come back looking better than I did today on Monday."Deontay Wilder Quotes "Both of my bouts have been close bouts, heart-stopping bouts so I have been thinking about why I have slow starts and fast finishes. I am going to come out in the first round, trying to read my man and finding my distance and in the second, third and fourth, pace myself and that's when I'm going to let loose and bring the dog out.""I'm not getting tired in the ring. I'm starting out too slow, my speed is going up gradually throughout the bout. I'm going to start a new method, in the second round-I'm bringing it. In the third round-I'm bringing it and in the fourth round-I'm really bringing it. This is the qualifying round and we're here to qualify so that's going to be the main thing."I was looking them in the eyes like come on, man. My opponent over here had his hands on his hips, all busted up. I wasn't scared though. I definitely don't go to Guatemala so I was just thinking, give it to me judges.' If it didn't go my way, I was going to be man and step up and say there were things I need to adjust.