Push gets Berto disqualified

Updated: February 20, 2004, 10:39 PM ET
Associated Press

TUNICA, Miss. -- Top-ranked welterweight Andre Berto was eliminated from the U.S. Olympic Team trials Thursday after a grievance committee decided that a referee made the correct call by disqualifying him the first day of the tournament.

"It's really heartbreaking," Berto said. "But what can you say?"

Berto's odd three days at the trials began Tuesday when he was disqualified in the fourth and final round of his opening bout with Juan McPherson, another highly regarded welterweight.

Berto was disqualified by referee Dennis O'Connell for a flagrant foul after he shoved McPherson to the canvas. McPherson hit his head hard on the ring floor and could not continue the fight.

Berto appeared to be on his way to beating McPherson, who staggered into Berto before being pushed away.

Berto disputed the first ruling and a grievance committee overturned the ref's decision after reviewing video tape. Because McPherson could not have continued the fight, Berto was declared the winner.

Berto won his second fight Wednesday and was preparing to fight Friday in the winner's bracket for the right to advance to the box-offs in Cleveland on Feb. 27-28.

McPherson, who was thrown into the loser's bracket when Bertos' grievance was upheld, failed to gain medical clearance to fight from USA Boxing physicians and lost in a walkover, putting him out of the double-elimination tournament. Thursday's decision doesn't get him back into the tournament, however.

"I'm sure we'll have lawsuits," USA Boxing executive director Eric Parthen said. "And we'll have to defend those."

Tony Morgan, Berto's coach, said they have legal representation and are considering suing. McPherson, from Cleveland, said he would likely be suing, too.

"It's sad this had to happen," McPherson said, "but I'm keeping that hope."

Berto, from Winter Haven, Fla., was No. 1 in the 152-pound division coming into the trials and McPherson was third.

The second, three-person grievance committee ruled the first committee erred in finding a clear violation of USA Boxing rules on the part of the official and McPherson was denied due process.

He did not get to present his case to the first committee.

"There certainly were mistakes made," Parthen said. "I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Those are two great kids."

In the ring, a couple of highly ranked contenders were eliminated from the losers bracket.

Aaron Alafa, of Visalia, Calif., defeated Raul Martinez, of San Antonio, the top-ranked fighter at 112 pounds. Alafa won a 26-22 decision.

Aaron Williams, the third-ranked heavyweight, was bounced from the tournament by friend and fellow Ohioan Robert Jacobs. Jacobs, from Akron, beat Williams, from Cleveland, 12-9.

"I just wanted to counter him a lot because I'm faster," Jacobs said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press