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Cuban Beats American In First Matchup Of Rival Countries

July 23, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ By the time Eric Morel got started against Cuban Maiko Romero on Tuesday, the first defeat for U.S. Olympic boxers bouts was virtually assured.

The three-time Cuban national champion built an 8-1 lead en route to a 24-12 victory at 112 pounds that gave his team an 8-0 record and gave them a 10-5 margin in Olympic matchups with American boxers that began in 1968.

David Reid of Philadelphia then boosted the U.S. record to 7-1 by outpointing Lee Wan-Kyun of South Korea 20-4 at 156 pounds. No other Americans competed Tuesday at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Reid’s bout ended amid a chorus of boos after Lee kneed a crouching Reid with 18 seconds remaining. Lee was penalized two points.

``I had him frustrated and he knew he was losing,″ Reid said of Lee’s action. ``Gold is all that’s on my mind right now.″

Before the decision was announced, Reid said the Korean approached him and said, ``You’re the winner. I thought he wanted to hit me or something.″

Following his defeat, Morel, a 20-year-ld Puerto Rican native living at Madison, Wis., said, ``All the Cubans are the same, they’ve got two legs and two arms.″

This Cuban had strong legs and quick hands, and the counter-punching Morel found himself in a deep hole when he fell behind 8-1 after one round.

``I thought the first round cost me the fight,″ Morel said. ``I just didn’t do my thing. I didn’t follow my coaches’ instructions. The thing I did in the second and third rounds, I should have done in the first round.″

``We know whoever controls the first round, controls the fight,″ said Al Mitchell, head coach of the U.S. team. ``With Eric’s style, he can’t get behind. We told him to go out and jump on him and he didn’t.″

While Morel fought better in the second round and shook Romero with a right hand, the Cuban still won the round 7-6. Trailing 13-2 overall, Morel had landed a four-punch barrage, but Romero came back with two scoring blows at the end of the round.

Morel got closer in the first two minutes of the final round, but Romero responded with four scoring blows near the end for the final margin.

``I thought the Cuban won, but not by 12 points,″ said U.S. assistant coach Jesse Ravello.

The 22-year-old Reid, scoring well with overhand rights, held a 6-2 lead after the first round and built it to 11-2 in the second. In the final round, Reid wobbled Lee with a right to the head and scored with two more rights in a brief exchange in Reid’s corner.

Lee then kicked Reid and the crowd erupted with boos. After the final bell, the Korean hugged Reid.

Reid’s win kept the Philadelphia Three intact. Zahir Raheem, 119, and Terrance Cauthen, 132, advanced to the second round earlier in the competition.

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