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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | BOXING

U.S. Takes Another Hit as Navarro Loses

September 27, 2000|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — Flyweight Jose Navarro's Olympic dream ended today in the quarterfinal round. But the boxing journey may be just starting for the ambitious and gregarious teenager from South Central.

Navarro, a graduate of Manual Arts High, said after his loss to Jerome Thomas of France that he will turn pro, like his older brother Carlos before him. Navarro kept his match with the harder-punching Thomas close until the fourth round, when he began to flail and as a result was outpointed, 9-1. Thomas won on points, 23-12.

Navarro had rallied from a 7-6 deficit to win his second-round match against Hicham Mesbahi of Morocco but couldn't repeat that feat against Thomas, the French junior flyweight champion and fifth-place finisher in the 1999 world championships. Navarro's brother, a former U.S. flyweight and bantamweight champion who narrowly missed making the U.S. Olympic team in 1996, and his father, Carlos Sr., yelled instructions to him from the audience at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center, but the younger Navarro was unable to stop the rights the Frenchman repeatedly delivered to his head.

Navarro's loss left four U.S. boxers in the competition, none in the heaviest categories. The U.S. won't match its Atlanta medal total of one gold and five bronze.

"Again, I got myself down, but I couldn't come back," said Navarro, who added he hasn't made plans for his pro career but is sure he will leave the amateur ranks. "I did my best. He outpointed me today and he was better today. I wanted to do my best, and that's what counts. I was tired. I gave it my all in that last round."

Navarro, who has won nine silver medals from various competitions but has never won the top prize, wanted to be aggressive from the outset against Thomas. A left-hander, Navarro scored some early points with his right, but Thomas answered each time. Thomas outpointed him in the first round, 6-4, and in the second round, 5-3.

"He started off from the beginning scoring more, and he just started scoring more and more and I didn't pick it up," Navarro said. "I know I threw a lot [of punches] because I was really tired."

Navarro's quick left helped him win the third round, 4-3, and cut Thomas' points lead to 14-11. "He was following the game plan up until the fourth round," U.S. Coach Tom Mustin said. "I thought he could still win it. He was doing the stuff we had talked about from watching tapes. I thought if he turned it up a notch, he could get those three points."

Because of a discrepancy between the time shown on TV monitors and the official time, the third round appeared to have been cut short by a minute; referee Jae Joon Yoo appeared a bit confused before starting the fourth round and Mustin said he was also unsure of what had happened.

"I thought there was something screwy, that maybe they were calling the 15-point rule," Mustin said. "I looked up and [the clock] said 58 seconds and I don't know what happened."

However, Shilpa Bakre, the press attache for USA Boxing, said the problem occurred only with the monitors and did not affect the official timing of the match, so Navarro wasn't shortchanged.

Nor did Navarro feel as if he had shortchanged himself, acknowledging that Thomas had simply overwhelmed him in the fourth round by counterpunching off his mistakes.

"I'm disappointed, but I did my best," Navarro said. "I won't take a medal back home, but I gave it my all. He was slick. I consider myself a good fighter, and he was better than me."

Many U.S. boxers have experienced the same feeling here. Although some projections had the U.S. winning seven medals, Mustin said he had never anticipated that many. However, he's still hopeful about the chances of 119-pounder Clarence Vinson of Washington, who assured himself of a medal when he outslugged Olteanu George-Criny of Romania to advance to the semifinals. Vinson will face Guillermo Rigondeaux Ortiz of Cuba on Thursday.

Also standing are featherweight Ricardo Juarez of Houston, light welterweight Ricardo Williams of Cincinnati and light middleweight Jermain Taylor of Little Rock, Ark.

"Clarence's win [Tuesday] picked the guys up," Mustin said. "The guy he beat was the world champ, so that was a good win."

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