BADALONA, Spain — Tim Austin, a spidery flyweight from Cincinnati, was the only American among four to survive the final round of quarterfinal bouts Tuesday at the Olympic boxing tournament.
Austin scored a 19-8 victory over Tanzania's Benjamin Mwangata, but Americans Larry Donald, Raul Marquez and Montell Griffin lost.
Even Cuba had a bad day. First, Faustino Reyes of Spain scored a 17-7 decision over Cuban featherweight Eddy Suarez, ending Cuba's winning streak at 20 bouts. Then Cuban light-heavyweight Angel Espinosa lost to Wojciech Bartnick of Poland, 9-7.
Super-heavyweight Donald lost to Cuba's Roberto Balado, 10-4; light-middleweight Marquez lost, 16-12, to Orhan Delibas of the Netherlands; and light-heavyweight Griffin, who is 5 feet 7, lost, 6-4, to world amateur champion Torsten May of Germany, who is 6-1 and left-handed.
Only three of the 12 American boxers who arrived here June 18 are left in the medal chase. The United States will have its smallest medal harvest in Olympic boxing since the 1956 team won two golds and a silver. Today is a day off, then semifinal matches are scheduled Thursday and Friday.
Austin, lightweight Oscar De La Hoya of East Los Angeles and middleweight Chris Byrd of Flint, Mich., are guaranteed at least bronze medals, because both semifinal losers in each weight class receive them.
Joe Byrd, the U.S. coach and father of Chris Byrd, looks at it another way.
"We could get three golds, too," he said.
Cuba has nine boxers in the semifinals, despite what is considered the strongest Olympic tournament since 1976.
Two Americans, Donald and Marquez, took their defeats Tuesday without much complaint. But Griffin had some support when he complained about the decision in his bout; the referee, Osvaldo Bisbal of Argentina; and the ring doctor assigned to his bout, Oscar Ramirez of Cuba.
Griffin and May spent most of the bout in one another's arms, neither able to overcome the other's style, but Griffin lost the bout on a warning by Bisbal.
He was cautioned twice for ducking too low--amateur boxing prohibits ducking the head below the opponent's belt line--and when he got a third warning, with 64 seconds remaining, it cost him the bout.
In amateur boxing's new computer scoring system, a warning after two cautions adds three points to the opponent's total.
But the way Griffin and his coach saw it, the bout should have been over before the warning was issued.
With 2:06 remaining and May bleeding profusely from a cut over his right eye, Bisbal called time out and asked Ramirez to look at the injury.
Suddenly, Griffin's and May's Olympic future was in the hands of a doctor. This was the 293rd bout of the Olympics, and May's cut was the worst one yet. Blood was flowing to his chest.
Ramirez spent a long time wiping the cut clean, then allowed the bout to continue, May bleeding all the while.
Both Byrd and Griffin were furious that the bout wasn't stopped, implying that Ramirez's motives weren't necessarily medical.
"Anyone in this room, if they'd had a good look at that cut, would have stopped it," Griffin said.
"It was an inch long and there was a lot of blood. Any referee in a pro fight would have stopped it."
Ramirez is one of 12 International Amateur Boxing Assn. physicians working the tournament. The only American on the medical panel, Robert Voy, faulted the referee's work but not Ramirez's.
"I've worked with Oscar at boxing tournaments for 10 years, and I've never known him to make a biased call in a medical situation," Voy said.
"However, I do think the referee should have taken May back to Oscar for a second look, because it was a bad cut. If he had done that, I think the bout would have been stopped."
It wasn't, though, and May held on for his victory, thanks to Griffin's violation.
Griffin got no sympathy from the crowd of about 2,000 when the decision was announced. In his previous bout, he had shown up a South Korean opponent by doing a victory dance with five seconds left in a 16-1 decision.
This time, Griffin fled the ring. According to protocol, the loser shakes hands with the winner and his corner men. But Griffin slipped through the ropes, ran off the arena floor and into a tunnel--to a chorus of boos.
Austin has had the easiest time of the three Americans who have reached the medal round.
He was the only one of the 31 flyweights to draw a first-round bye. He finally boxed Sunday and easily defeated Julian Strogov of Bulgaria, 19-7.
But on Friday, Austin will confront Cuba's Raul Gonzales, who has defeated three consecutive opponents easily.
Donald, considered a strong gold-medal contender, went meekly against the far more aggressive Balado.
So the U.S. team goes into the semifinals without its two top medal candidates. The other, light-flyweight Eric Griffin, was a 6-5 loser in the preliminaries.
Donald had beaten Balado, 16-14, at the World Championships Challenge matches in Tampa, Fla., in March.
Donald has an excellent left jab, good foot speed and likes to use the entire ring. But Balado took the smoothness out of Donald's game by attacking him.
He charged straight at the Cincinnati fighter, roughed him up inside and landed enough solid right hands to win. It also helped that Donald doesn't have much of a right hand.
Balado had a 2-1 lead after one round, 8-3 after two.
Not once did Donald land a punch with anything suggesting anger. His disappointing performance reminded many of super-heavyweight Riddick Bowe at the Seoul Olympics. Bowe also went lamely, against Lennox Lewis of Canada, in the gold-medal bout.
Spain's second big splash--the first was Rafael Lozano's upset of Eric Griffin in the preliminaries--was Reyes' decision over the Cuban, Suarez.
Reyes had an 8-5 lead after two rounds, then closed fast for the 17-7 decision.