Semajay Thomas' road to the 2012 U.S. Olympic team got longer and more difficult Monday.
A controversial defeat in Monday's semifinals of the double-elimination U.S. Olympic trials at Mobile, Ala., means the Chicago light welterweight now must win the challengers bracket and then defeat the winner of the champions bracket twice.
In what an impartial observer described as a "very unpopular decision in the building,'' Thomas lost 20-18 to 2010 national champion Pedro Sosa of New York, even though the referee gave Sosa a standing 8-count in the first round.
"Semajay clearly won the fight,'' said Nate Jones, Thomas' coach. ``Semajay should have won by at least five points. He was robbed."
Two other Chicago fighters, Shawn Simpson (114 pounds) and Kenneth Sims (132), had semifinal bouts Monday night.
Simpson beat Oscar Cantu 16-12 of Kingsville, Texas to move into the finals of the champions bracket. Sims lost 23-22 to Jorge Ramirez of Avenal, Calif. and goes into the challengers bracket.
Simpson, 17, also is coached by Jones. He made it into the trials through the Last Chance Qualifier tournament.
A fourth Chicagoan, heavyweight Robert Jekabson, stopped Charles Blackwell in the first round of their challengers bracket fight, keeping himself alive in the tournament.
Thomas was so discouraged his initial reaction was to say by telephone that he did not feel like continuing in the tournament. He is scheduled to meet Duran Caferro in the challengers bracket of the 141-pound class Tuesday night.
"He's really hurting (emotionally)," Jones said. "I've got to get his mind right to fight tomorrow."
Angel Villarreal of Milwaukee, USA Boxing's chief of officials, attributed the audience's strong negative reaction to the result to unfamiliarity with rules the judges must follow.
"We're looking at it with two different sets of eyes,'' Villarreal said. "The spectators see punches thrown. We (the five judges) are at ringside looking at the force of the punch, whether it is in the scoring area and whether it is legal.
"This was a very, very close fight. In any close fight, both boxers feel they should have won."
Had he won Monday, Thomas, the reigning U.S. champion, could have earned a potential Olympic team spot with just two more fights.
Now he must fight at least five more times - three in the challengers bracket and the two with the champions bracket winner - to become Olympic trials champion.
Each Olympic trials winner then must earn the United States a place in the 2012 Olympic field in that weight class. That will depend on results at this year's world championships and regional events next year.
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