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U.S. boxers swing and miss, then get reprieve

By Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times –

LONDON — For a grueling few hours, U.S. boxing faced its saddest reality — no Olympic medals for the first time ever.

Then another harsh bolt from the boxing world brought Team USA back to life.

(PHOTO: Errol Spence (USA), left, reacts as Krishan Vikas (India) is declared the winner of their a men’s welterweight Round of 16 boxing match at the ExCeL Centre during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England, Friday, August 3, 2012. Vikas defeated Spence, 13-11.)

Errol Spence’s welterweight loss to India’s Krishan Vikas was overturned by the international governing body of amateur boxing, erasing a 13-11 decision that had appeared to deal U.S. amateur boxing its lowest moment.

The darkness instead descended on Olympic boxing referees, second-guessed for incompetence a third time in third days.

An AIBA competitive jury ruled late Friday night that Denmark referee Lars Brovil erred numerous times in Spence’s three-round bout.

Vikas should have lost several points after intentionally spitting out his mouthpiece in the second round, and he committed nine holding fouls in the third round but received only one caution.

Two days earlier, a referee from Turkmenistan was expelled from the Olympics after a bantamweight from Azerbaijan fell to the canvas six times in the third round of a bout yet still won, 22-17. Earlier that day, a referee incorrectly disqualified a heavyweight from Iran and was suspended.

Spence’s reinstatement means he’s the only one of nine U.S. boxers to advance to the quarterfinals at ExCel boxing arena.

He trailed going into the third round, 9-8, and said a few minutes later he should have won because he “threw more punches and landed more shots.”

Spence will fight again Tuesday against Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy.

“I am obviously thrilled that the competition jury overturned my decision and I can continue chasing the gold medal I came here to win,” Spence said in a statement released early Saturday morning. “I am going to make the most of this second chance that I’ve been given. I can’t wait to get back in that ring on Tuesday.”

Before the result was overturned, famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach weighed in on the sagging state of U.S. boxing.

“We all lost. It looks terrible,” said Roach, who was not part of Team USA’s staff. “But the scoring system and the judging there sucks.”

Spence still must win Tuesday if the U.S. is to avoid a sad brush with history. Team USA has not failed to medal since Olympic boxing began in 1904.

It’s been heading in this direction since the U.S. took only one bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics. Only two American boxers reached the quarterfinals that year, a modest result this year’s team couldn’t even match.

The lack of punch irritated Oscar De La Hoya, who won a gold medal for the U.S. at the 1992 Olympics before embarking on a lucrative pro career.

“That’s it!” he wrote on Twitter before Spence’s result was changed. “I’m going to request Mark Breland, Sugar Ray Leonard and my self coach the next Olympic boxing team. I have (too) much passion for the sport I love dearly. Will do something about it!”

The longtime medal hopes of U.S. flyweight Rau’shee Warren ended Friday when he was eliminated by France’s Nordine Oubaali via decision, 19-18.

Warren stumbled in his third consecutive Olympics after taking a 14-13 lead into the third round. Unlike his teammate, though, his loss remained final.

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