Defense wins boxing match between USA and Russia.

Posted: Monday, September 18, 2000

SYDNEY-When you're a world champion you know how to win.

American boxer Brian Viloria proved that again Sunday when he narrowly beat a tough Russian fighter in the first round of the 2000 Olympics boxing tournament.

Viloria, the reigning light flyweight world champion, jumped out to an early lead and then used an airtight defense to seal the 8-6 victory over the reigning European champ, Serguei (cq) Kazakov.

"Defense won this fight," said Viloria, who earlier in the week said he adjusts his style to match his opponent. "I train myself for the computerized scoring (used in Olympic boxing). You need to keep your opponent from scoring any clear punches."

Viloria hasn't lost since May, 1999 and is 30-1 over the last 18 months.

After a slow first round in which the fighters played cat and mouse looking for an opening, Viloria showed his quick hands with a flurry of punches that appeared to score. He threw several good rights that got through Kazakov's defense.

Viloria stalked the Russian during the first two rounds, but Kazakov kept the match close by constantly ducking under punches.

"Brian must have missed five or six punches over his head," said U.S. coach Tom Mustin. "We told him to aim for the chest or throat.

"I was expecting Brian to come on in the last round. Instead it was the other way."

Kazakov, sensing that he was behind, came out of the corner with fists flying as the fourth round started. He looked like he might do some damage, but Viloria slowed him with a solid left to the body.

"He's a real good boxer," said Viloria. "He has a long arm reach. The Russian style is to pressure from the outside and I try to go inside. I didn't get a chance to land many punches at the end. I think the difference was that my punches were landing more clearly and that I had a better defense, but I could have stayed busier and been more aggressive."

Viloria said he was inspired by his three teammates who also won their first matches this week: David Jackson, Dante Craig and Clarence Vinson. No U.S. boxer has lost yet during this Olympics.

"I think the pattern I'm seeing with our boxers is they're strong in the third and fourth rounds," said Mustin. "Maybe that has something to do with our altitude training in Colorado Springs."

Kazakov is one of the better fighters in the weight class, so Viloria expects to do better in upcoming fights. "I'm the type of boxer who gets better during the week," he said.

Viloria, 19, was born in Hawaii and now lives in Marquette, Mich., at the U.S. Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University. Elite boxers can continue their education while training for international competition.

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