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Welterweight Berto overcomes initial DQ

2/18/2004

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.