Flyweight Siler latest to fall

Updated: August 21, 2004, 1:55 PM ET
Asspcoated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Andre Dirrell showed all the power, speed and smarts that most of his U.S. boxing teammates lacked.

Dirrell roared into the quarterfinals Saturday, needing just two rounds to beat Algeria's Nabil Kassel 27-7 in their middleweight bout.

Earlier at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall, flyweight Ron Siler was the fifth American to be eliminated, losing 45-22 to Uzbekistan's Tulashboy Doniyorov.

The United States had lost four of its previous five bouts and was in danger of a miserable second round until Dirrell, a well-regarded fighter from Flint, Mich., dominated Kassel.

Fighting his first bout in seven days, Dirrell relentlessly pounded the Algerian with punches from both hands. Kassel was staggered by a pair of stiff jabs, and the fight was stopped on the 20-point mercy rule after one last devastating combination from Dirrell at the second-round bell.

Dirrell usually is a slow starter, waiting a round to launch his best stuff. Not this time.

"I got in there and did my job,'' he said. "There was nothing he could do.''

Dirrell's aggressive, proficient style works well in amateur boxing, where points can be difficult to earn from perplexing judges. U.S. coach Basheer Abdullah called it "a wonderful performance,'' praising the middleweight for stopping the team's skid.

"I think his performance showed to the other boxers that he's ready to compete for that gold medal,'' Abdullah said.

Dirrell will fight for a medal Wednesday against Cuba's Yordani Despaigne -- and unlike many American fighters up against the powerful Cuban team, Dirrell has an excellent shot. He beat Despaigne at an Athens test event earlier in the summer.

"I think my chances are very excellent, as long as I stick to boxing and stay focused,'' Dirrell said.

Three other U.S. fighters also reached the quarterfinals: light heavyweight Andre Ward, heavyweight Devin Vargas and super heavyweight Jason Estrada.

But four American boxers were eliminated in the second round, all from the lighter weight classes. The smaller Americans still haven't mastered the speed and timing necessary to excel in the international fight game.

The troubles continued Saturday when Siler was soundly beaten by Doniyorov, who showed all the aggression and planning that Siler lacked. Siler planned to use his jab to take control of the fight, but the Cincinnati native rarely mounted an attack.

"I could have made the bout a lot easier than it was,'' said Siler, the U.S. team captain. "I couldn't execute the game plan. I didn't box.''

Siler, who spent nine months in prison in 2002 for assault, claimed to be confused by Doniyorov's left-handed attack -- but remained unimpressed with his opponent's speed and power even after absorbing a thorough beating.

"I feel (U.S. light flyweight) Rau'Shee Warren has way more talent than him,'' Siler said. "He got the lead and protected it the best way he knew how. I'm used to the international scoring. I've been around, and it's not about landing a hard blow, it's about landing a smart blow.''

U.S. boxers in the Olympics are undermined by judging standards that reward precision and technique over creativity. Americans often leave the ring baffled by the score, but Dirrell clearly demonstrated the best way to overcome those problems.

"The straight punch is the most effective, and that's the one I used,'' Dirrell said. "Everything's lovely. The judges seem to be counting most of the punches.''

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