BOXING: Team USA Advances Two Boxers to Final Round Action While Christopher Downs Drops Semifinal Bout at Americas Qualifier

March 17, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
(PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD)-Lightweight Sadam Ali (Brooklyn, N.Y.) officially qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games with a masterful third round stoppage of Juan Nicolas Cuellar of Argentina at the Americas Qualifier on Monday in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Super heavyweight Michael Hunter (Las Vegas, Nev.) advanced to final round action with a 25-5 win over the U.S. Virgin Islands' Clayton Laurent while light heavyweight Christopher Downs (Fort Carson, Colo.) dropped his semifinal bout to Venezuela's Luis Gonzalez on a second round stoppage. Ali made sure to jump out to a quick start in the bout, testing his opponent early before opening up with crisp, straight shots. Once he found his mark, Ali never backed off, boxing his way to a 6-1 lead after the first."I had in my head right before the bell rang (to get off to a fast start) because when I'm down in a fight, it's the worst position I can be in because I know that I have to comeback to win,"Ali said. The 19-year-old's success continued into the second as he backed Cuellar into the corner, firing away with strong, fast combinations. He dug to the body with punishing body shots and came back upstairs with furious punches to build a convincing 16-1 advantage after four minutes of boxing. Ali stepped to the quickly fading Cuellar in the third, working his way out to a 22-2 lead at the :38 mark of the third round to win the mandatory stoppage victory."It was too easy to score and I knew that they way he was fighting, there was no way he could catch back up,"he said."None of his punches were hurting me; I didn't really feel him hit me. I can't really tell you how strong he is. I said I've got heart, let me just end it now."The semifinal win officially qualifies Ali for the 2008 Olympic Games, a fact that Ali hopes will encourage the rest of his teammates."I feel good, I started the qualification off for my team, and I'm just ready for everyone else to get qualified because I know we can all do it,"he said. Ali will face Cuba's Yordanis Hernadez in the final round on Tuesday. Hunter was in control of his bout with Laurent from the opening second, utilizing his superior speed and movement rarely seen in a super heavyweight to land at will. He opened the bout by picking his shots and landing clean hooks to claim a 6-1 lead after the opening round. His pace slowed slightly in the second round, but he held Laurent scoreless for the two minute period to take a 9-1 lead into the second half of the bout. Hunter returned to form in the third stanza, peppering Laurent with quick punches while stopping Laurent from landing a single scoring blow in the third. Hunter took a 15-4 lead into the fourth, but his lead continued to grow over the final two minutes. The 19-year-old put on a show, landing when he pleased and moving out of the way before Laurent could return fire. He scored 10 points in the fourth round to win a 25-5 final decision and advance to the championship bout."He kept a good guard up, but I was too quick for him so I was able to score when I wanted to,"he said."I was relaxed, the guy was a lot bigger than me, but to me, that means a lot slower so I just tried not to get too tense because I have to fight tomorrow."Hunter will face Cuba's Robert Alfonso Acea in the championship bout on Tuesday. He must win gold in order to qualify a spot in the Olympic Games. Downs suffered the first loss for the United States team, losing a second round stoppage. He failed to get going in his bout with Gonzalez and fell behind by a 20-point margin at the 1:59 mark of the second round to cause the mandatory stoppage."I went back after the first round down by seven and the corner told me to box and have him come to me, but he wasn't coming to me so I felt I had to go and make up some points, but it backfired and turned into a fight,"Downs said. He will face Brazil's Washington Silva in the semifinalist box-off on Tuesday with the winner earning a berth in the Olympic Games. Light welterweight Javier Molina (Commerce, Calif.), middleweight Shawn Estrada (Commerce, Calif.) and heavyweight Deontay Wilder (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) will all compete in the evening action with all three qualifying with a victory on Monday night. Sadam Ali Quotes "Boxing actually worked until I decided to go get him so I can 20-point him. That's the only reason I switched my style from boxing to going to get him. He was right there for me to hit him.""I didn't realize it (that he qualified) until I got to the corner and then I thought oh, I qualified. So I just gave the coaches a hug. I knew I could do it and that I just had to fight like I was supposed to and I did."Christopher Downs Quotes "I just couldn't get started. I never got started. I'm really disappointed in myself. I felt that he got the better of the exchanges. He was the quicker guy today, I just didn't show up at all today and that's what happens, you have to show up everyday.""I'm going to try to do a lot better than I did today (tomorrow). I still have a chance to qualify this time around, and I'm going to give it the best I've got and leave it all in the ring. Michael Hunter Quotes "I always try to have fun.""I've just got to go get it tomorrow."