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Alafa Advances in US Amateur Boxing

April 6, 2002

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Rock Allen and his father might have some talking to do once the U.S. amateur boxing championships are over.

Allen’s father, Naazim, came with him to the championships with his son’s word he would try and make the 2004 Olympic team. But promoters are trying to sign the 20-year-old long before that.

Allen did nothing to hurt his chances Friday night when he moved into the finals of the 139-pound class with a narrow decision win over Lamont Peterson.

Allen has the kind of style that promoters love, fighting like a pro with big punches and body shots. They’re talking to him, and he might be listening.

``I’m keeping my options open,″ Allen said.

That was news to his father and trainer, who was clearly upset with his son’s possible change of mind.

``I wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t dedicated to 2004,″ Naazim Allen said. ``We’re going to have to have a serious talk about this.″

Allen missed making the Olympic team when he couldn’t make weight at the Olympic trials in 2000, and took a break from the sport to see if he could regain his dedication.

``It was a real big disappointment so I had to take off and regroup,″ the soft-spoken Allen said. ``It was one of my dreams to make the team.″

Allen advanced to one of the finals in 12 different weight classes Saturday night.

Also advancing was Aaron Alafa, whose friends and relatives drove six hours to watch him in the biggest fight of his young career. He wasn’t about to let them down.

The high school senior and aspiring Olympian moved a step closer to a national title at 106 pounds Friday night by easily winning a semifinal fight over Austreberto Juarez.

``It’s been my goal since I was little to make the Olympic team,″ Alafa said. ``I want to get people to pay attention to me.″

The Olympics are two years away, but Alafa showed early on this week that he may be a factor in Athens by beating top-ranked American 106-pounder Rayonta Whitfield in a Thursday quarterfinal bout.

With friends and family cheering him on from ringside at Caesars Palace, the 18-year-old fighter followed that by moving into the Saturday light flyweight final against Rorigo Hernandez with a crisply fought 20-5 win.

``I appreciate them coming from six hours away,″ said Alafa, who attends high school in Visalia, Calif. ``My classmates give me a lot of support and so do my aunts and uncles.″

Alafa, who is missing school this week to compete, used a good right jab and some strong left hands to dominate Juarez from the opening bell. Alafa won all four rounds, and there was no dispute when he was announced the winner.

Alafa’s father, Arturo, said his son’s confidence has been growing since winning a junior Olympic title in 2000 and the PAL championship last year.

``The junior Olympics gave him the understanding of his talent,″ Arturo Alafa said. ``We knew he had talent, but it has really opened up since then.″

Like many boxers in the championships, Alafa is trained by his father, an amateur trainer for 23 years who is the executive director of a nonprofit agency in Visalia.

Unlike many, he’s not all that concerned about a possible pro career. At 106 pounds, his professional options will likely be limited without an Olympic medal.

``I don’t know if I want to pursue it after the Olympics,″ Alafa said. ``But I do want the promoters and everybody to know who I am.″

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