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US Boxer Beat a Cuban

August 1, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ It was only by one point, but featherweight Floyd Mayweather Jr. beat a Cuban on Wednesday night.

Repeat: An American beat a Cuban in Olympic boxing.

It’s happened only six times in 18 matchups over the years, and it hadn’t happened for six straight fights since Leon Spinks defeated Sixto Soria in the 178-pound final at the 1976 Montreal Games.

Leading Lorenzo Aragon 12-7 with a little more than a minute remaining, the 19-year-old Mayweather held on to reach the 125-pound semifinals with a 12-11 victory. His taller opponent scored with four rights to the head.

``I’m happy, but I’m not satisfied,″ said Mayweather, of Grand Rapids, Mich. ``I’m here to show I’m the best in the world and win a gold medal.″

Of a U.S. boxer finally beating a Cuban, he said, ``I hope it motivates my teammates.″

Mayweather’s semifinal opponent will be Serafim Todorov of Bulgaria, a quarterfinalist in the 1992 Olympics.

Antonio Tarver and David Reid, a pair of Pan Am Games gold medalists, advanced to the semifinals in the afternoon to assure the U.S. team of six medals, twice the number they won in Barcelona four years ago.

The six U.S. semifinalsits are only one fewer than Cuba will have. Besides Aragon’s loss, the Cubans got another shock when super heavyweight Alexis Rubalcaba was outpointed 17-12 by Paea Wolfgram of Tonga.

The crowd went wild from start to finish after Wolfgram forced the Cuban to take a standing-8 count and also knocked him down with a left hook in the first round.

The final Cuban semifinalist was Alfredo Duvergel, who outpointed Antonio Perugino of Italy 15-8 at 156 pounds.

Tarver stopped Enrique Flores of Puerto Rico at 1:54 of the third round in a 178-pound bout and will next box Vassili Jirov of Kazakstan. Reid outpointed Mohamed Salah Marmouri of Tunisia at 156 pounds and will meet Karim Tulagnov of Uzbekistan.

American semifinalists Thursday night will be Terrance Cauthen of Philadelphia, 132; Rhoshii Wells of Riverdale, Ga., 165, and Nate Jones of Chicago, 201.

Two Cubans won on the afternoon card. Maiko Romero outboxed Elias Recaido of the Philippines 18-3 at 112 pounds, and Hector Vinent, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist, outpointed Edward Zakharov of Russia 15-7 at 139 pounds.

Mayweather built his lead to 10-7 after two rounds and to 12-7 in the third by getting inside the lanky Aragon’s reach. Late in the bout, however, Mayweather started staying away, and that’s when he almost blew it. In the closing second, he grabbed the Cuban and held on.

``I didn’t know I was up on points,″ Mayweather said. ``I was going with gusto.‴

As for the closeness of the bout, he said, ``I was fighting a Cuban and they’re known for people throwing them points. If I was ahead 12-7, Al Mitchell, why didn’t you tell me to run?″

Mitchell, the U.S. head coach, said he didn’t tell Mayweather because he didn’t want the boxer to stay away and give Aragon punching room.

Tarver, also a world 178-pound champion, started slowly and was tied 1-1 before cutting lose and stopping Flores.

``If I don’t know my opponent, I don’t want to find out he had a hard punch by having him land one on my head,″ Tarver, of Orlando, Fla., said of his cautious approach to the first round. ``I try to feel a guy out.″

Tarver was far ahead when his bout was stopped. He built a 5-1 lead early in the second round, then the left-hander let loose with both hands. In a matter of seconds, it was 11-1. When the barrage ended, Flores was given a standing 8-count.

Two lefts to the head by Tarver forced Flores to take a standing-8 with 1:28 left in the third round. Ten seconds later, Tarver landed a left to the jaw, which led to another standing-8. The referee then stopped the fight.

Tarver outpointed his next opponent, Jirov, in a semifinal bout at the world championships last year. Jirov advanced Wednesday by beating Canadian Troy Ross 14-8.

In Reid’s victory, the Philadelphia native benefited from a two-point penalty assessed against Marmouri for throwing a punch while referee Theodore Vidalis of Greece had the action stopped. Reid also gave U.S. fans a scare when he was given a standing 8-count in the third round.

Reid did not appear hurt. He led 11-8 at that point and clinched the win with two scoring rights.

``I was surprised,″ he said. ``I wasn’t hurt at all, but the guy caught me with a good shot. I had to keep my composure and not lose my head.″

Of the penalty assessed against the Tunisian in the second round, Reid said, ``I looked at the referee and he tried to hit me.″

``The referee really interfered,″ Marmouri said of Vidalis, who often stopped the action for various infractions. ``He stopped the fight every time I landed a blow.″

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