Welterweight bouts on hold until ruling

Updated: February 26, 2004, 2:53 AM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- U.S. Olympic boxing hopeful Juan McPherson hasn't been counted out yet.

The 19-year-old welterweight won another round Wednesday in a court fight that could determine whether he gets a chance to compete in the Athens Games.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Burt W. Griffin granted a restraining order for McPherson, which could lead to him getting back into this week's Olympic team box-offs.

McPherson is trying to be reinstated after he was given a medical disqualification when he was injured during a fight last week in Tunica, Miss., against Andre Berto of Winter Haven, Fla.

Berto, who was disqualified for throwing McPherson to the canvas, is also attempting to rejoin the 152-pound class for bouts Friday and Saturday at the Convocation Center.

Griffin ruled that USA Boxing, which sanctions the U.S. Olympic boxing team, must postpone fights in McPherson's class until an arbitrator rules on the medical disqualification.

Eric Parthan, executive director of Colorado-based USA Boxing, said an arbitrator will hear the appeals Thursday in Cleveland.

If the arbitrator rules to reinstate McPherson, Berto or both boxers, the schedule of bouts will be adjusted. This week's winners will represent the U.S. team at the summer Olympics in Greece this August.

The restraining order is the latest development following days of rulings, sudden reversals and controversies stemming from the McPherson-Berto bout Feb. 17.

And until the matter is cleared up in court, the four welterweight boxers who advanced last weekend are in limbo waiting to see when they'll climb into the ring again.

"All I want to do is fight," Cory Jones of Brooklyn, N.Y. said at a press conference introducing this week's competitors.

"Somebody's got to fight," said Vanes Martirosyan of Glendale, Calif. "Just tell us when and where."

Martirosyan's coach, Bobby Lee, said the legal proceedings are unfair to his boxer and the three other qualifiers. He has filed a grievance with USA Boxing on their behalf.

"These four young men were sitting there and the other boxers were boxing and it's unfair to them," Lee said. "These are young kids. These aren't full-grown men. They don't understand the rules."

Lee has been urging Martirosyan to remain focused but said the outside distractions are making that tougher for him to do.

"He can't think about what he's supposed to be thinking about," Lee said. "But whatever they rule tomorrow, we're going to go for it. We'll beat anybody they put in our way. Whatever they decide, we'll accept it and go on from there."

A favorite to make the U.S. team, McPherson injured his neck when he was slammed down by Berto in the closing seconds of their bout.

McPherson was carried from the ring on a stretcher, and the next day he was ruled out of the competition by USA Boxing physicians, who felt he would be risking further injury if he boxed.

Berto was initially disqualified but got reinstated. However, USA Boxing later changed its mind and dropped him from the double-elimination tournament.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press