Heavyweight Vargas gets break in draw

Updated: August 14, 2004, 10:49 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Middleweight Andre Dirrell will meet China's Ha Dabateer in the second match of the Olympic boxing tournament, according to the draw announced Friday.

Dirrell, a well-regarded fighter from Flint, Mich., will be the only American in action at the Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall when competition begins Saturday. Light heavyweight Andre Ward, another top medal prospect, drew a first-round bye.

The 283 fighters in 11 weight classes were randomly paired in the draw, which produced at least one outstanding early matchup: Heavyweights Alexandre Alekseev of Russia and Odlanier Solis of Cuba will meet Wednesday in a rematch of last year's World Championships final, won 18-15 by Solis.

Alekseev and Solis both are strong medal favorites -- good news for Devin Vargas, the U.S. heavyweight. Vargas will fight Morocco's Rachid El Haddak in the first round.

Ward caught a similar break when Russia's Evgeny Makarenko was paired with Cuba's Yoan Pablo Hernandez in the second round Thursday. Makarenko and Ward are considered the world's top amateur light heavyweights, with Hernandez not far behind.

Rau'Shee Warren, the United States' 17-year-old light flyweight, will meet medal favorite Zou Shiming of China on Wednesday, while super heavyweight Jason Estrada will face Ma'afu Hawke of Tonga.

American lightweight Vicente Escobedo will meet Colombia's Jose David Mosquera on Monday, and flyweight Ron Siler will face Bradley Hore on Tuesday. Hore was disqualified from the Australian team four years ago in Sydney for failing to make weight.

Light welterweight Rock Allen of Philadelphia also received a first-round bye. American welterweight Vanes Martirosyan will face Algeria's Benamar Meskine on Sunday.

Soulan Pownceby, New Zealand's controversial light heavyweight, will meet Turkey's Ihsan Yildirim Tarhan in the first round Saturday. Pownceby served four years in jail for manslaughter in the death of his 5-month-old child -- and has been convicted of seven more crimes since his release in 1999, most recently for assaulting a woman four years ago.

Najah Ali, Iraq's only boxing representative, will fight North Korea's Hyok Ju Kwak on Wednesday. The 4-foot-11 light flyweight has an American coach, and he trained with the U.S. team earlier this year.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press