Welterweight Berto overcomes initial DQ

Updated: February 18, 2004, 3:27 AM ET
Associated Press

TUNICA, Miss. -- The U.S. Olympic Boxing Team trials began Tuesday with the apparent disqualification of a highly regarded welterweight and the initial winner of the bout leaving the ring on a stretcher.

Juan McPherson, a 2003 Pan American Games silver medalist, was declared the winner over Andre Berto from Winter Haven, Fla., with just 27 seconds left in the fourth and final round when the referee disqualified Berto for wrestling.

Being disqualified from the fight meant Berto was disqualified from the trials.

Berto's camp filed a grievance over referee Dennis O'Connell's decision, and, after Berto waited several hours, the USA Boxing Olympic Trials Grievance Committee found in his favor, declaring him the winner of the fight because McPherson could not continue.

A new rule installed by USA Boxing just a few months ago allowed for reviewing a videotape of the fight, and reviewing O'Connell's decision that Berto had pulled down McPherson, who is from Cleveland.

"This rule was passed to cover situations like this," said Spencer Carpenter, USA Boxing's chief of officials .

"I'm happy," Berto said. "I couldn't stand to see my dream slip away like this."

Berto will continue in the winner's bracket, and McPherson, who was treated and released from a Memphis hospital, is expected to fight Wednesday in the loser's bracket.

The biggest upset of the first day came in the 112-pound class when Charles Huerta of Paramount, Calif., defeated top-ranked Raul Martinez of San Antonio 16-14.

Another favorite, light heavyweight Andre Ward of Oakland, Calif., who hasn't lost a fight since 1998, stopped Jacob Garretson of the U.S. Marine Corps in the third round.

Ward is one of America's best hopes to win a medal in Athens next summer should he advance through the trials and the Feb. 27-28 box-offs in Cleveland.

"If they didn't stop it, I was going to keep going hard," Ward said. "I'm just on a higher high right now."

Jason Estrada, of Providence, R.I., favored in the super heavyweight class, won 16-4 over George Garcia of Glendale, Ariz.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press