ATHENS, Greece Moments after the American boxing team s winning streak ended, Devin Vargas started a new one.
Light flyweight Rau Shee Warren became the first U.S. boxer eliminated from the Olympics, losing a frustrating 22-9 decision today to China s Zou Shiming.
But Vargas joined six teammates in the second round with a 27-7 victory over Morocco heavyweight Rachid El Haddak in the afternoon session. In the evening, American super heavyweight Jason Estrada was scheduled to fight Tonga s Ma afu Hawke in the final bout of the preliminaries.
Vargas, a 22-year-old from a boxing-crazy family in Toledo, impressed the crowd at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall with his dominance of El Haddak. Moving nimbly and surprising the Moroccan with even the simplest jabs, Vargas showed that his work on skill and strategy over the past six months has turned him into much more than a brawler.
I think I m peaking at just the right time, Vargas said. He looked a little nervous, a little scared. It s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I m just trying to enjoy this and have fun.
The fight was stopped 82 seconds into the third round on the 20-point mercy rule.
I have decent power, but I ll save it until someone gets on me and I need it, Vargas said.
That might be Sunday, when Vargas will face Belarus Viktar Zuyev, the runner-up at the European championships earlier this year.
Zuyev s preliminary fight against Italy s Daniel Betti was stopped when Betti hurt his right leg while falling to the canvas in the first round. With only 16 heavyweights competing in Athens, the winner of Sunday s fight will be guaranteed a medal.
The U.S. team won four straight fights before Warren, a 17-year-old from Cincinnati, ran into a clever veteran fighter who finished second in last year s world championships.
Zou thoroughly exploited the inexperience of Warren, the youngest boxer in the tournament, to turn an otherwise close fight into a rout with timely point-scoring punches. After the decision was announced, the disappointed teenager pulled the hood of his robe completely over his head while leaving the ring.
I still don t really know what the scoring was, Warren said. I felt calm, confident. It was a good experience for me to walk into the arena like this. ... I haven t seen too many fighters like this, though.
In the most anticipated fight of the afternoon session, Cuban heavyweight Odlanier Solis duplicated his three-point victory over Russia s Alexander Alexseev in last year s world championships, winning 24-21. Solis, Cuba s successor to three-time gold medalist Felix Savon, is a two-time world champion.
Ron Siler beat Australia s Bradley Hore 32-18 Tuesday night in a one-sided flyweight bout. Andre Dirrell, Vanes Martirosyan and Vicente Escobedo advanced to the second round with earlier victories, while Andre Ward and Rock Allen received byes.
I hope we just keep going the way we go, said Siler, the 24-year-old elder statesman and team captain. We have the talent and the skills. It s all mental now.
Siler, also from Cincinnati, executed his coaches plan perfectly against Hore, who was itching for an undisciplined brawl in his first Olympic fight.
The American fighters have appeared well-coached in Athens, doing their best to adhere to the amateur boxing ideals of speed, plenty of punches and strong defense. Siler chased Hore around the ring for two rounds, scoring when he pleased, then drew Hore into losing battles in every part of the ring in the final two rounds.
He was coming in with some wild shots, Siler said. But I felt he was slower than my sparring partners. I could see his punches after the first round.
Read more in tomorrow's editons of The Blade and toledoblade.com.