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ATHENS 2004

Andre Slays Giant

One of two American boxers left, Ward defeats two-time world champion from Russia.

August 25, 2004|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Preparing to fight Evgeny Makarenko of Russia in the quarterfinals of the 178-pound division of the Olympic boxing tournament, Andre Ward read the biblical story of David and Goliath.

Like David, Ward was dwarfed by his opponent, who at 6 feet 6 was five inches taller.

And like David, Ward found a way to fell the giant, not with a slingshot but with left and right shots, mounting enough of an attack Tuesday night to win, 23-16.

"I studied how Goliath had gotten all the accolades," Ward said. "He was very tall, big and strong, and he was supposed to beat David. I am the 21st century David."

Makarenko had earned his accolades. He won the light-heavyweight title twice at the world championships and had not lost in a major international tournament since 1999.

Ward, however, can go him one better. He hasn't lost since 1998, a span of more than 100 amateur bouts.

"I felt some anxiety before the fight," Ward said, "but I kept telling myself, 'This is my time.' "

Ward moves on to fight Utkirbek Haydarov of Uzbekistan in the semifinals Friday.

Seven of the nine U.S. boxers had been eliminated, but Ward's victory guarantees the U.S. a boxing medal. Two bronzes are awarded in each division.

With 165-pounder Andre Dirrell still to box in tonight's quarterfinals against Cuba's Yordani Despaigne, the U.S. can do no worse than tie its record for fewest boxing medals in one Olympics. In the 1948 Games, 148-pounder Horace Herring was the only U.S. boxing medalist, winning silver.

"I was bleeding," said Basheer Abdullah, the U.S. coach, describing his agony at watching U.S. boxers outpointed night after night. "I felt the pain. Andre gave me a little relief."

Undaunted by a crowd heavily in favor of Makarenko, Ward connected in the first round with a left hook and never lost the lead.

*

Twenty-four hours after U.S. heavyweight Jason Estrada had been eliminated and then scoffed at the judging and minimized the importance of his Olympic participation, Abdullah was still seething over Estrada's remarks.

"He didn't show any class, any pride, any respect," Abdullah said. "He embarrassed his country, the national governing body and the USOC. I hope I don't have to go through anything like that again."

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