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Morel Loses to Cuban in America’s First Boxing Loss

July 23, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Cuba’s Maiko Romero took advantage of a tentative Eric Morel to build up a big lead today and hand the U.S. boxing team its first Olympic loss in seven fights.

The first U.S.-Cuba matchup of the games was no contest as Romero outboxed and outpunched Morel almost from the opening bell to take a 24-12 win in the 112-pound contest.

Romero landed punch after punch in a display of quickness and power that Morel was unable to match. The Cuban led 8-1 after one round, survived a second-round rally by Morel, then poured it on in the third round to seal the win.

``The things I did in the second and third round I should have done in the first round,″ Morel said. ``I started too slow.″

A sold-out crowd at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum had come hoping to see Morel continue the early string of successes by the U.S. boxing team.

But the chants of ``USA, USA″ quickly faded as Romero demonstrated once again that Cuban boxers are the ones to beat at these games.

The only time Morel seemed to be in the fight was in the second round, when he landed a succession of right hands late that forced the Cuban to back up but caused no real damage.

A day earlier, two U.S. boxers used advice from their fathers to score opening round wins.

For Rhoshii Wells, the encouragement came from his father in the stands. For Floyd Mayweather, it was just a memory of the boxing tips offered from his father locked up far away in a Michigan prison.

The result was two more wins for the U.S. boxing team.

``My dad was right there telling me what to do as I fought,″ Wells said after opening his hometown quest for gold Monday night by picking apart an Iranian fighter in a middleweight bout. ``I heard it, I heard it a lot.″

Wells followed his teammate Mayweather by two fights, waiting patiently in a gloving area as Mayweather had a Alexander Memorial Coliseum crowd rocking by stopping Bakhtiyar Tileganov of Kazakstan in the second round of their 125-pound three-round fight.

But while Wells had help from his dad inside the arena, Mayweather had to rely on a message left in training camp from his father telling him to keep moving his head and use his jab.

``I appreciate the help these coaches have been giving me since my dad has been gone,″ Mayweather said. ``But my dad is still giving me pointers while he’s locked up.″

Mayweather’s father, Floyd Sr., has been absent since his son started his bid for a spot on the Olympic team, serving a 66-month sentence in a Milan, Mich., prison for drug trafficking.

Prior to that, he coached his son, much as Frederico Wells has coached his son in the Atlanta suburb of Riverdale.

``I have to thank my dad because without him I wouldn’t be here,″ Mayweather said. ``I think he probably watched the fight.″

Mayweather, the fifth U.S. boxer to see action in the games, used some big right hands to score quick against Tileganov, opening up a 6-1 lead after one round.

In the second round, a right hand forced a standing 8-count and another right started blood flowing from the nose of Tileganov. Finally, the ringside doctor stopped the fight because of the bleeding with 57 seconds left in the second round.

``I was so pumped up and ready to go,″ Mayweather said. ``I wanted to tear the guy’s head off, to tell the truth. I was just ready to go.″

Wells was just as ready, following two fights later on the evening card with a dominating 24-7 win over Sefed Dashti Mollal of Iran in the 165-pound division.

Wells, thought to have little punch, forced Mollal to take two 8-counts, the final one coming on a flurry of punches with 37 seconds left in the third round.

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