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USA boxing team is golden

Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2000

SYDNEY-Look out world. The American boxers are having their coming out party at the Olympic Games.

Eight times this week U.S. boxers have stepped into the ring. Eight times they have walked away winners.

The latest were Jose Navarro and Jermain Taylor on Tuesday.

"There's a lot of momentum now," said Taylor, who fights in the 156 pound division. "It makes you nervous, too. Everybody from the States knows everybody's praying for everybody. Let's just keep it like this. Everybody keep winning. It's hard. Yes sir, it's a lot of momentum going."

Taylor delivered some major momentum when he floored Dimitriy{cq} Usagin of Bulgaria in the first round. When Taylor's explosive right hand caught Usagin square in the jaw his knees buckled and he fell face down onto the canvas. He staggered to his feet but was clearly dazed, so the referee stopped the fight.

"It was a good lick," said Taylor, 21, of Little Rock, Ark. "I caught him with another one earlier in the round but I didn't throw all of it into it. So I thought let me try it again. So I threw it again and it caught him right on the button.

"It feels great to get that first bout under my belt. I'm going to feel a lot better going into my second fight. I got the rust out.

"It might not be pretty when I get in there but I'm gonna take care of business. I don't go for all the pretty, fancy, all this stuff. That's not my style, but I get the job done."

When the fight was stopped Taylor thought he had won by a knockout so he shouted something to teammate Jeff Lacy.

"We got a little bet going," explained Taylor. "It's a $5 bet on who can get the most knockouts. He won when the referee stopped the bout, but it wasn't really a knockout so I said we're not going to count that. Tonight I got in there and I said, 'now that's the way you knock somebody out.'"

Unfortunately, the referee didn't call it a knockout.

Coach Tom Mustin marveled at Taylor's power, but he doesn't want his boxers to try for knockouts.

"I know that he had hit him earlier with kind of a right hook and that might have hurt him and it set the tone," said Mustin. "It backed the guy off because I think he felt Jermain's power.

"In amateur boxing you don't see many knockouts.

"I don't like for anybody to go for a knockout. I like when they get the points and if a knockout comes it comes. That's what I tell everybody on the team."

Taylor hopes to use the Olympic tournament as a springboard to a pro career. His powerful punches often leave opponents reeling, and his friendly style out of the ring charms the fans.

He and his teammates are trying to restore respectability to a USA Boxing program that hasn't won more than one gold medal at an Olympics since 1988 in Seoul. In Atlanta the Americans won one gold and five bronze medals.

Though the Cubans have been extremely tough for years, the United States still has twice the number of Olympic boxing medals of any other country.

Four more boxers will fight in the next two days to keep the U.S. record intact. The United States and Cuba are the only countries with a full 12-member team.



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