Vargas to Skip Ceremonies to Rest

Staff and Wire Reports

With his first-round bout scheduled for Saturday, American welterweight Fernando Vargas of Oxnard has reluctantly decided to bypass Friday night's opening ceremonies.

"At first, I was trying to think of a way I could do it, if I could leave the ceremony early," Vargas said. "But that's not what they're going to let you do. You have to stay through the whole thing, and the athletes aren't going to get back to the village to something like 1 or 2 a.m. I can't do that.

"It'd make me tired. We're on our feet the whole time, so I figure I'll make up for it by closing with a gold medal around my neck. That'll make it well worth it."

Zahir Raheem, the team's 119-pound representative, also is fighting Saturday and also has opted to skip the ceremonies.

U.S. Coach Al Mitchell was pleased by the two fighters' decisions.

"You don't want to go to the opening ceremonies and then be tired, worn out, flat," said Mitchell, who said the 1992 team members who marched then fought the next day suffered for it.


Freddy Rojas and Lorenzo Aragon are the replacements for two highly regarded Cuban boxers who defected in late June.

Rojas will replace Ramon Garbey at 178 pounds. Aragon is a replacement for Joel Casamayor, the 119-pound champion at the 1992 Olympics. Aragon will box at 125 pounds, while Arnaldo Mesa will drop down from 125 to 119.

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