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Boxing Officials Again Reverse Their Decision

Times Staff Writer

Remember the famous episode of the old “Dallas” television series when viewers were told the entire season didn’t really happen? It was just a dream.

The board of directors of USA Boxing tried that same thing Friday morning with the 152-pound division at the U.S. Boxing Trials, declaring that the nine completed bouts had never happened. The field of eight fighters would be reconvened sometime in the next few weeks, probably in Colorado Springs, Colo., and start all over again.

But this dream, conceived at a late-night meeting Thursday as a possible solution to the ongoing controversy over the Andre Berto-Juan McPherson match, quickly turned into a nightmare.

As the day wore on, the authority of the board was questioned and lawsuits were threatened. By late evening Friday, the board was back in a meeting room again, working on Plan B: The four remaining fighters in the division would face each other tonight, Cory Jones and Vanes Matirosyan in the winners’ bracket, Edward Joseph and Austin Trout in the losers’ bracket.

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Tonight’s two winners would advance to the Olympic Box-offs next weekend in Cleveland.

Friday’s meeting was only the latest twist in a series of administrative blunders after Tuesday’s opening-round match involving McPherson and Berto. It was preceded by the convening of four grievance committees and the previous board of directors meeting, resulting in the reversal of a referee’s decision, followed by a second reversal and then a third, all in a span of four days.

And now, yet another reversal looms.

“We always have these kinds of problems every time we have the trials,” said Dr. Robert Voy, president of USA Boxing. “We have to deal with them and this was not dealt with correctly.”

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Even long-time observers of the U.S. Olympic boxing program say the program has plunged to new depths of ineptitude and indecision.

This week’s event at the Tunica Arena and Exposition Center was a disaster from the moment McPherson and Berto, arguably the top two athletes on the team, were selected to face each other in the opening round via a random draw.

In the fourth and final round of the Tuesday match, with 27 seconds left and Berto leading 10-8, he felt he was being excessively held by McPherson. In throwing off his opponent, Berto sent McPherson crashing to the canvas where McPherson suffered a head injury that left him unable to continue. Referee Dennis O’Connell disqualified Berto.

A grievance committee of five overturned O’Connell’s decision, reinstated Berto, ruled that McPherson was unable to continue on medical grounds, and thus declared Berto the winner. It was subsequently determined that the committee was not properly formed, according to USA Boxing rules. On Wednesday, a second committee, consisting of three news members, discussed the issues but issued no rulings. A third committee was then formed, which overruled the first and again disqualified Berto. Then came Thursday night’s board of directors meeting, which resulted in the overruling of the third committee’s decision.

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“You haven’t solved the problem,” said Al Valenti, one of two members of the 10-person board voting against the decision to replay the trials. “And now, you have created a new problem. How are you going to go back and tell the other athletes that have already won their bouts? ... It’s not a fair and just process.”

Jones, who is undefeated in the trials with victories over Trout and Joseph, agreed.

“I’m mad,” said Jones, who is considering legal action. “This [controversy] hasn’t got anything to do with me. I did everything I should do to get here.”

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There was no controversy in the other 10 classes where the following fighters won by decision to qualify for the winners’ bracket: Rau’Shee Warren over Rayonta Whitfield at 106 pounds, Ron Siler over Mark Davis at 112, Roberto Benitez over Torrence Daniels at 119, Mickey Bey over Ray Lampkin at 125, Vicente Escobedo over Anthony Peterson at 132, Rock Allen over Devon Alexander at 141, Andre Dirrell over Joe Greene at 165, Andre Ward over Marcus Johnson at 178, Devin Vargas over Matt Godfrey at 201 and Jason Estrada over Mike Wilson at super heavyweight.


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