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ATHENS 2004

There's Simply No Agony in Defeat for This Boxer

U.S. heavyweight Estrada loses handily in a rematch with Cuba's Lopez but blames everyone but himself in its aftermath.

August 24, 2004|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — A year ago, at 228 pounds, U.S. super-heavyweight Jason Estrada defeated Michel Lopez of Cuba to win a gold medal at the Pan Am Games.

Monday night, at 263 pounds, Estrada, in a rematch against Lopez in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall, proved embarrassingly inept in losing, 21-7.

Was Estrada disgusted afterward, disconsolate, dismayed?

Arrogant would be a better word, arrogant about the judges, about his perceived superiority over Lopez, about his style, about his future.

"The hell with them," said Estrada of the judges.

"This is what I do. I'm an entertainer. If they don't like it, I don't really care. I'm Jason Estrada."

Estrada had been warned by his coach, Basheer Abdullah, before his first match in the Olympic tournament not to showboat because international judges don't look favorably on such behavior.

But the Providence, R.I., boxer ignored that advice as he won a 30-11 decision over Ma'afu Hawke of Tonga. Estrada showed the judges an exaggerated windmill punch and his obvious relish at his easy victory.

Apparently he didn't get the memo advising U.S. athletes to curb their exuberance at this Olympics.

As it turned out, however, it didn't matter if the judges had a negative bias against Estrada going into Monday's match. He did little in the four rounds to merit consideration. Instead, Estrada stood in the middle of the ring as Lopez danced around and stayed out of harm's way while piling up points.

And Estrada never adjusted, never moved forward, instead choosing to stand as if his shoes were nailed to the canvas, serving as a human punching bag.

"I fought the way I thought I should," Estrada said. "There was no point in my going out and chasing him."

Estrada was never in the fight, trailing, 7-1, after one round, 9-4 after two and 13-5 after three. Through the first three minutes of the fight, the judges gave him one point.

"I had a game plan and I was going to follow it," Estrada said. "It wasn't that I wasn't working. I would land three shots and the judges would give [Lopez] six points. He wasn't really hitting me square, just on the shoulder."

A day earlier, Estrada's teammate, heavyweight Devin Vargas, had cried about losing his shot at a gold medal and was forced to stop and compose himself as he talked to reporters.

Estrada, on the other hand, seemed more interested in moving on to a pro career than reflecting on his amateur days.

"I'm not really going to worry about this," he said. "This was just one bout. I'm thinking long term. I've got a long way to go."

Estrada said he will go home and field offers to turn pro. He feels confident his dismal performance Monday night won't cause his stock to drop.

"The pro game is really for me," he said. "There are some fighters out there who didn't even go to the Olympics and made big money. I'll be all right."

Estrada's stock dropped with Abdullah.

"It disturbs me that one of my fighters has that type of attitude," the coach said. "The money is our biggest enemy. It blinds the fighters to reality. [Promoters] give a fighter six figures as opposed to our asking them to take pride in their country. Come on, we are going to lose that battle every time."

*

Only two U.S. boxers remain in medal contention. Andre Ward (178 pounds) fights tonight in the quarterfinals against Evgeny Makarenko of Russia, a two-time winner at the world championships.

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