ATLANTA -- The frustrated U.S. boxing team took a couple more lumps last night when gold-medal hopefuls Antonio Tarver and Floyd Mayweather were defeated in their semifinal bouts, leaving only light middleweight David Reid with a chance to win a gold at the Atlanta Olympiad.
Tarver tired in the third round and was outpointed by Vasilii Jirov of Kazakstan, 15-9, in the 178-pound division, but the American team cried foul -- and accused the judging panel of bias -- when Mayweather came up short in the 125-pound semifinal.
Reid was the only American left standing. He outboxed Karim Tulaganov of Uzbekistan and scored a surprisingly one-sided decision in the 156-pound class to move into a gold-medal match against Cuban Alfredo Duvergel tomorrow. He was the only one of six American semifinalists to advance. Seven Cuban fighters will fight for golds this weekend, but the United States has the same number of potential gold-medal boxers as the tiny country of Tonga (Paea Wolfgramm).
"I'm stunned," Reid said, "because I expected Tarver to be there with me. I'm going to be very lonely, but it's going to make me fight a whole lot harder."
No doubt, Tarver expected to be there, too. He had defeated Jirov at the world championships last year, but appeared to punch himself out in the second round. Jirov came back strong in the third and won decisively.
"I felt I was prepared," Tarver said. "I came here knowing that there are two chances. You can win or lose. I had to be prepared for the second choice, too. I came up a little bit short tonight. . . . I have to face this defeat tonight. I accept it."
Of course, it would not be a night of international amateur boxing if there was not a scoring controversy. Mayweather appeared to give two-time world champion Bulgarian Serafim Todorov all he could handle for three rounds, but the computer had him behind 10-9 when the horn sounded to end the fight.
To make matters worse, the referee mistakenly raised Mayweather's hand after the fight, further confusing the angry crowd, which booed heavily when the score was posted above the ring.
"I was happy with my performance," Mayweather said. "I know, my coaching staff knows and America knows that Floyd Mayweather is the gold-medal winner. They say he was the world champion. Well, you all know who the real world champion is. That's just boxing. I feel I won the fight.
"He wasn't even that tough. That might have been my easiest fight."
The American team has been complaining about the scoring system throughout the Olympic boxing competition, but coach Jesse Ravelo said that the Mayweather loss was the worst injustice.
"That's just the story of our life," Ravelo said. "This is a soap opera and we are always the bad guys. Even the jury was ashamed of the decision. They all had their heads down."
The U.S. team quickly filed a protest, implying that the officiating was biased because head judge Emil Jetchev is from Bulgaria. The American coaching staff claimed that several punches thrown by Mayweather were not counted and at least a couple of points were awarded to Todorov for punches that did not land.
The American team charged that the referee warned Todorov for slapping five times without deducting points, and that some of the Bulgarian fighter's slaps were credited as scoring blows.
"We feel that the officials are intimidated where anyone competing against Mr. Jetchev's fellow countrymen does not have a chance as demonstrated in this bout," wrote U.S. team leader Gerald L. Smith in a letter of protest. "We demand a reversal of this decision under the fairness of sports."
U.S. referee Bell Waickerle also dispatched a letter of protest to Professor Anwar Chowdhry, the president of the AIBA, blasting the decision and resigning his position as an Olympic official.
"We have all looked forward to the Centennial Olympic Games with the hope that our sport could overcome a long history of bad judging and refereeing," he wrote. "It is apparent that the system is not capable of correcting itself with the people currently in charge of selecting and assigning officials."
Of course, there is little chance that the decision will be overturned. Mayweather will have to settle for the bronze medal.
"It was the same in 1988, it was the same in 1992 and we're going to have it again in 2000," Ravelo said. "We have to clean this sport up a little. A different system has to come out."
Tarver also hinted that he had not gotten the full benefit of a second-round flurry that had staggered Jirov, but did not blame the judges for his defeat.
"I'm not putting this on the judges or the scoring system," he said. "I lost tonight. We just have to go on."
Pub Date: 8/03/96