BOXING: Deontay Wilder Earns an Olympic Berth with a Heartstopping Fourth Round Finish

March 17, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
(PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD)-Heavyweight Deontay Wilder (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) punched his ticket for Beijing with his third straight fourth round comeback, recording a 6-5 decision over Rafael Lima of Brazil. Light welterweight Javier Molina (Commerce, Calif.) suffered his first loss at the Americas Qualifier in Port of Spain, Trinidad on Monday evening, dropping a 10-4 decision to Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo of Cuba on Monday. Despite the defeat, he will still have an opportunity to qualify through a semifinalist box-off on Tuesday, facing Canada's Kevin Bizier. Middleweight Shawn Estrada (E. Los Angeles, Calif.) fell to Carlos Mercado Gongora of Ecuador, 13-3, eliminating him from the tournament. In true Wilder fashion, the towering heavyweight fell behind early in the bout, suffering a slow start to trail by a 3-1 margin after the opening round. His deficit grew in the second as Lima doubled his lead to take a 5-3 edge into the second half of the bout. Yet those were the final points that Lima would score. Wilder began to mount his comeback in the third, holding Lima scoreless while scoring one point to pull the bout to a 5-3 margin at the beginning of the fourth. Once again, the fourth round belonged to Wilder. After Lima had a point taken for holding, the bout was tied at five and Wilder pounced on the exhausted Lima."I had a game plan but I penetrated it a little bit. I still started out with a slow start,"he said."The dog came out in the fourth quarter."He scored the winning point in the final minute of the contest and held on to win the 6-5 decision and an Olympic berth."It feels good. This is a qualifying competition, and I qualified,"Wilder said. In the words of my little girl, Naieya, 'look I did it.' This is what we're here for."Wilder will face Cuba's Osmai Acosta Duarte in final round competition on Tuesday. Molina's bout was close and defensive throughout with both boxers looking to counterpunch and time their opponent. He trailed by a 3-1 margin at the end of the first round, and came out in the second looking to dent his deficit. The second round ticked off in the same manner as the first round with the Cuban looking to time Molina's movement and find openings in his defense. Sotolongo enjoyed a 5-2 lead as the contest moved into the final four minutes. Molina pressed the action in the third round, looking to break Sotolongo's rhythm and establish one of his own, but he wasn't able to crack the code and trailed by a 6-3 margin as the fourth round began. The 18-year-old began the fourth round by once again stepping to Sotolongo, but wasn't able to dent his lead and lost a 10-4 final decision. Estrada's bout got off to a slow start as well with neither boxer looking to engage early on, but both got on the board late in the round with Gongora holding a slim 2-1 lead after two minutes. The two boxers increased the tempo in the second round, but Estrada couldn't establish the pace he was looking for and fell behind 5-3. The third period of action didn't improve for Estrada with Gongora nearly doubling his point total to take a 9-3 lead into the fourth. Estrada was held scoreless in the fourth round and fell by a 13-3 margin to Gongora. He will have another opportunity to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games at the second Americas Qualifier, April 23-30 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Five U.S. boxers will compete in Tuesday's competition with light welterweight Javier Molina (Commerce, Calif.), light heavyweight Christopher Downs (Fort Carson, Colo.), and super heavyweight Michael Hunter (Las Vegas, Nev.) all having to win to claim Olympic berths. Lightweight Sadam Ali (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and heavyweight Deontay Wilder (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) will both vie for gold but have claimed Olympic berths. Tuesday's action will kick off at 6 p.m. EST. Deontay Wilder Quotes "All the hard work of my coaches paid off. Even my coach back home and my girlfriend came out to support me and that means a lot to me too. We have the best coaching staff in the world. They stay on us; when we're down, they're picking us up. When we're lazy, they're coming to get us up. Whatever they say, that's how it's going to go. I couldn't be more happy to be on the USA team; it's a privilege and a pleasure to be here.""Here in Trinidad, we're having fun because it's like home. All this hot weather; I'm loving it."
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