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Williams, Juarez Reach Boxing Finals

September 29, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ In the most exciting, highest-scoring bout of the competition, Ricardo Williams Jr. beat Cuba’s Diogenes Luna 42-41 Friday night for a berth in the 139-pound final.

In the fight before Williams’ stirring victory, Rocky Juarez had a big third round and outpointed Kamil Dzamalutdinov of Russia at 125 pounds and also will be going for gold Sunday afternoon.

The last American semifinalist, Jermain Taylor, couldn’t handle the boxing ability and sharp punching of Yermakhan Ibraimov of Kazakstan in a 156-pound semifinal and lost early in the fourth round on the 15-point rule (29-14) early in the fourth round of a 156-pound bout.

American boxers have not won more than one gold medal since the 1988 Olympics, when they won three.

Williams’ victory was the first for an American in three matches at these games. In six Olympics, Cubans have won 16 of 24 bouts against Americans.

Four Cubans will box in finals, including heavyweight Felix Savon, trying for a third Olympic gold. There will be five finalists from Russia, and also four from Kazakstan.

``I’ve been waiting for this (gold medal) fight for my whole life,″ said Williams, a 19-year-old left-hander from Cincinnati.

``It’s a dream come true,″ said Juarez, a 20-year-old world champion from Houston, who has won 68 straight bouts over two years. ``This game is for who wants it most. I can’t imagine anyone wanting it more than me.″

``I’m a lot disappointed,″ the 22-year-old Taylor said. ``It hurts.″

Williams used crisp counter-punching to offset Luna’s right-handed power in bout marked by toe-to-toe exchanges.

``I withstood the storm,″ said Williams, who will go home with a bronze medal. Clarence Vinson of Washington, D.C., also got a bronze, at 119 pounds.

The four medals are two less than American boxers got in 1996, but one more than they earned in 1992.

Luna led 12-10 after one round and 25-19 after two. Then Williams, throwing flurries, outscored the Cuban 16-8 in the third round for a 35-33 lead.

With a large crowd in the Sydney Exhibition Center roaring, Williams built a 39-35 lead in the final two minutes before Luna stormed back to tie at 40-40. Williams then got into scoring blows in the closing seconds for the victory.

Despite the noise, Williams claimed that in the final seconds, he could hear his father shouting, ``Move. Move.″

Juarez landed jabs, hooks and even right leads to outscore the Russian 9-3 in the third round for a 16-7 lead and was never in danger of losing.

Juarez will box Bekzat Sattarkhanov of Kazakstan in his final.

Williams will box Mahamadkadyz Abdullaev of Uzbekistan.

The power-punching Taylor couldn’t intimidate the left-hand Ibraimov, who scored almost at will with his right hand.

``He was just coming,″ Taylor said. ``He didn’t care about getting hurt or nothing. He just came. I can’t take anything away from him. He’s a great fighter.″

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