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A Tough Lefty Proves Too Much for Vinson

Boxing: U.S. gold-medal hopefuls reduced to three as bantamweight settles for bronze.


SYDNEY, Australia — Clarence Vinson joined a not-very-exclusive club here Thursday night. He became one of the legion of boxers who are, have been or will be baffled by left-handers.

In Vinson's case, it cost him a shot at an Olympic gold medal.

The 119-pounder from Washington, D.C., started slowly, trying to figure out the best way to handle a darting, free-swinging Cuban and while he was busy with that, the Cuban, 19-year-old Guillermo Rigondeaux, was busy winning the fight.

In the third round, when Vinson badly needed a rally, he ran into a buzz saw and was knocked down twice as Rigondeaux scored nine points on the way to an 18-6 decision.

Vinson, who had won three bantamweight bouts to gain the semifinals, wound up with a bronze medal but found it small solace.

"I'm never happy," he said. "If I won a gold medal, I'd want a platinum medal."

He wasn't happy with his fight, either.

"I just knew from the first round that my performance was flat and I was just hoping to turn it on," he said. "Unfortunately, I couldn't. . . . I was making a lot of mistakes and he was able to capitalize on them. I was dropping my hands a lot."

While Vinson was doing that, Rigondeaux was stepping in and throwing left-handed bombs.

Vinson came out for the third round, trailing 7-2 and looking as if he meant to do something about that. After a quick flurry, however, he backed off and Rigondeaux seized the opportunity, knocking Vinson down with a left to the body.

Seconds later, Rigondeaux staggered the American with a left to the head, then knocked him down again with a combination, outscoring Vinson in the round, 9-2.

"He was just a better fighter," Vinson said. "All my other bouts were right-handers, and this one was a southpaw. He gave me a little problem."

Actually, he gave Vinson a big problem, and one that wasn't necessarily unexpected.

Said Coach Tom Mustin, "In the bouts [Vinson] won, the guys came to him. This guy stayed away, and Clarence has trouble with left-handers anyway. A moving left-hander really gave him a lot of problems."

Rigondeaux's victory broke a five-bout losing streak by the Cubans and reduced America's gold-medal hopefuls to three.

The Ricardos, featherweight Ricardo Juarez of Houston and light welterweight Ricardo Williams of Cincinnati will join teammate Jermaine Taylor of Little Rock, Ark., in more semifinals tonight.

Juarez will fight Kamil Dzamalutdinov, a Russian lefty who beat Cuban favorite Yosvany Aguilera Zamora in the quarterfinals; Williams will fight Diogenes Luna Martinez of Cuba, and Taylor will box Yermakhan Ibraimov of Kazakhstan, a bronze medalist in the 1996 Games.

Cuba, long dominant in amateur boxing, will have at least four boxers in the finals, led by heavyweight Felix Savon, who is going for his third Olympic gold medal. The 6-foot-6 Savon scored seven points in the second round and went on to beat Sebastian Kober of Germany in their semifinal, 14-8.

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