Ready to turn pro, Estrada shrugs off loss

Updated: August 23, 2004, 9:52 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- The biggest guy on the U.S. boxing team turned in the biggest flop when it mattered most.

American super heavyweight Jason Estrada gave perhaps the most lackluster performance yet by a U.S. boxer Monday night, losing a chance for an Olympic medal by dropping a 21-7 decision to Cuba's Michel Lopez Nunez.

If I'm going to lose I'm going to lose getting hit as little as possible. I'd rather not get hit at all. This is just one part of my life, I've got a lot more to go.
Jason Estrada

With a pro career already on his mind, Estrada simply shrugged off the loss.

"That's just the way boxing is," he said. "I'm not going to really worry about it."

If Estrada wasn't going to worry, his coach certainly was. After watching another American fighter simply go through the motions, Basheer Abdullah had seen enough.

"It discouraged me. I'm disappointed that he had that type of attitude," Abdullah said. "Somehow we have to find a way to make athletes take pride in representing the United States."

U.S. coaches had high hopes for Estrada in the quarterfinal match, considering he had beaten Nunez last year at the Pan Am Games and had superior hand speed to the Cuban.

But Estrada fought passively, admitting later he never pursued Nunez because he figured he would lose anyway and didn't want to take any more punishment.

"If I'm going to lose I'm going to lose getting hit as little as possible," Estrada said. "I'd rather not get hit at all. This is just one part of my life, I've got a lot more to go."

The loss was another big setback for a U.S. team that started the Olympics winning six of the first seven fights before losing six of their last eight. With just two fighters left, the team faces the real possibility of winning no medals for the first time ever in the Olympics.

Already, it's the worst performance of an American team since 1948, and the two remaining fighters, middleweight Andre Dirrell and light heavyweight Andre Ward, both face difficult quarterfinal opponents in a two-time Russian world champion and a Cuban.

"We may make history the opposite way we wanted to make history," Abdullah said. "Right now we're on the brink of not taking any medals here."

Cuba won't have that problem. Three more Cubans advanced to the semifinals Monday, giving them six boxers already assured of medals with three more still to fight.

Russia also is having a strong tournament, and reigning super heavyweight world champion Alexander Povetkin moved into the semifinal round with a 31-15 win over Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov of Kazakhstan.

Estrada needed to only win two fights to get in the medal rounds, and looked good in winning his opening bout against an outmatched opponent from Tonga, who reportedly had only five fights in his career.

But he weighed 262 pounds to the 228 he weighed when he beat Nunez to win the Pan Am gold and there was flab around his belly and little speed in his hands against the Cuban.

Like many of his teammates before him, Estrada fell behind early, and was trailing 7-1 after the first round. In a tournament where hardly any boxers have come from behind with the computerized scoring system, his only chance was to go after Nunez and make it a fight.

Estrada chose not to, though, and never gave himself a chance to win.

"He tried to make me come to him, but I just tried to stay with my game plan," Estrada said. "There was no point to me chasing him."

Estrada complained that some of his punches weren't scored, a complaint echoed by some boxers who face countries like Cuba that they believe the judges favor. But Estrada was clearly outclassed by the Cuban, who piled up points early with straight punches and then used movement to stay away and protect the lead.

Estrada and most of his teammates plan to go pro, and there was one pro boxing agent wearing a T-shirt with Estrada's picture on it at the boxing venue.

"These things happen," Estrada said. "It's just the end of this book and I'll have to bring a new book out."

Abdullah was not so gracious after watching another one of his fighters refuse to adapt to the amateur style and give a halfhearted effort.

"When you've got somebody offering you a pro contract, that blinds you from representing your country and taking pride in it," Abdullah said. "Think about it, you're taking a kid out of the ghetto and offering him 'X' millions of dollars (instead of) the pride of representing the United States? Come on."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE