Three members of Team USA — bantamweight Joseph Diaz Jr., heavyweight Michael Hunter and super heavyweight Dominic Breazeale — lost on Wednesday, the fifth day of the 2012 Olympic boxing competition in London.
Diaz, Jr., of South El Monte, Calif., fell to Cuban world champion Lazaro Alvarez Estrada; Hunter, of Las Vegas, lost to Russia’s Artur Beterbiev; Breazeale, of Alhambra, Calif., lost to Omarov Magomed, also of Russia.
Diaz battled both his opponent and the Cuban mystique in his bout with Estrada, which was a rematch from the 2011 World Championships. The Cuban was extremely busy during the first round, showcasing the patented Cuban footwork but Diaz also enjoyed bright spots of his own, finding a home for his sharp left hand. Estrada held a 7-6 lead after one but Diaz came out firing in the second. The 19-year-old American looked to enforce his will as the Cuban’s output began to lower and Diaz landed strong, accurate punches. Yet the judges had Estrada up by a 14-10 margin after the second. Diaz refused to be discouraged by the score and continued to be the aggressor in the third round, pushing Estrada around and landing a wide array of punches. Despite Diaz’s efforts, the Cuban was named the victor by a 21-15 final score to eliminate the American bantamweight from the tournament.
“I thought in the second round, I was landing clean shots. I thought it was going to be closer. At least me up by one, tied or me down by one but the judges didn’t see it that way so I just fought my heart out the last round and tried to pull it out but I didn’t get the W,” Diaz said. “He’s a really great counterpuncher. He’s very long so its hard to get in on him but once you get in, he puts his whole body weight on you so either you’ll be tired or you won’t be able to get shots off on him. He’s really smart, he’s a really great fighter and I hope he gets the gold medal.”
Hunter faced off in an ugly match-up with Beterbiev later in the session. The American heavyweight, who finally made it to the Olympic Games following an unsuccessful run in 2008, took the first lead in the bout, holding a 4-3 advantage after one. Much of the second round consisted of the two boxers in a clinch, but they still managed to put four points a piece on the board and Hunter went into the final round up one. The holding continued into the second, but Hunter looked to land shots and extend his lead. Beterbiev was able to pull the bout to a 10-10 tie and won the contest on a tiebreaker decision.
“I think it was a close fight and he was able to put his game plan in more than I was and he was just the better man,” Hunter said. “My game plan was to make it simple and just box and use my legs, which I wasn’t able to do. Make it an easy fight, 1-2-3s and keep turning and stay away from his right hand. He was able to time my jab more than I expected early.”
Per AIBA Technical and Competition Rules, a tiebreaker is determined by the following: The lowest and highest judges total scores for each boxers are thrown out and the remaining three total punch counts are combined for each boxer. The boxer with highest total punch count is named the winner of the bout.
Breazeale drew a tough bracket in his first Olympic Games, battling Magomed. The Russian’s experience showed early as he landed some heavy shots on the game American and Magomed held a 5-0 lead after one. Breazeale was able to get some offense going in the second but couldn’t evade all of Magomed’s punches and faced a 13-4 deficit with one round remaining. He looked to mount a comeback in the third but fell short and Magomed won a 19-8 decision.
“I got behind pretty early. Trying to play the catch up game in amateur boxing is not going to work. I’m learning from this experience and being here at the Olympics,”Breazeale said. “The trainers did a great job, every time I came back to the corner, they said stick to the game plan. I wasn’t sticking to the game plan and in the middle of a bout, you can’t second guess yourself and I was doing a lot of that.”
Two U.S. boxers will look to get America back on the winning track on Thursday as lightweight Jose Ramirez, Avenal, Calif., faces Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov at 9 p.m. London time (4 p.m. ET) and middleweight Terrell Gausha, Cleveland, Ohio, faces India’s Vijender Singh at 9:45 p.m. London time (4:45 p.m. ET).