Dirrell outpoints Ha for first U.S. boxing win

Updated: August 14, 2004, 10:52 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Middleweight Andre Dirrell got the U.S. boxing team off to a strong start Saturday, beating China's Ha Dabateer 25-18.

"Even though the bout was slow, I still gave everybody else something to look at,'' he said. "I believe if I stick to my game plan, I'm going to get a gold medal. Can't nobody stop me.''

A well-regarded left-hander from Flint, Mich., Dirrell counterpunched his way to an easy victory in the second fight of the day at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall as the other eight members of the U.S. team cheered him on.

The two-time national champion, and one of the top U.S. medal hopefuls, was content to let Ha chase him around the ring in the early stages. He came on strong late in the four-round bout, consistently landing counterpunches against the overeager Chinese fighter.

Despite the win, Dirrell, who has a week off before his next fight in the round of 16, will work with U.S. coach Basheer Abdullah on maintaining his weight and working on technical points.

"We had one of our strong hopefuls starting us off, and he got us going,'' Abdullah said. "(The fight was) definitely not his best. He was pretty much counterpunching most of the bout, but once he got his hands going, you can see he's got quick hands. He got credit for his work.''

In the first bout of the Olympics, Algeria's Nabil Kassel beat Glaucelio Abreu of Brazil 41-36.

The light heavyweights also got started Saturday, but U.S. hopeful Andre Ward received a first-round bye. Ward and Dirrell generally are considered the Americans' top gold medal hopefuls.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press