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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
View from America

By Kevin Asseo
BBC Sport in California

Oh, where have all the American boxers gone?

Perhaps they have gone to the track, or the football field, or the basketball court.

US light heavyweight Andre Ward
Ward almost singlehandedly rescued US boxing credibility in Athens
But one thing is clear - after watching the American fighters in Athens, it is clear the top athletes in the United States are no longer making the boxing gym their destination.

With only two fighters in medal contention, the formerly mighty US Boxing team is on the verge of one of its worst Olympic showings ever.

The low point was super heavyweight Jason Estrada's half-hearted effort in his quarter-final loss to Cuba's Michael Lopez Nunez, after which Estrada expressed no regret at not trying to win the fight.

"He didn't take pride in representing the United States," said furious US coach Basheer Abdullah. "He basically said the loss didn't mean anything to him. He embarrassed our country, the national governing body, and the USOC (US Olympic Committee)."

Fortunately for the United States, light heavyweight Andre Ward came to the rescue.

Ward salvaged a measure of respect for the US team with a stirring victory against two-time world champion Evgeny Makarenko of Russia in the quarter-finals.

Ward took the fight inside against the much taller Makarenko and won 23-16 decision to assure himself at least a bronze medal.

When middleweight Andre Dirrell followed Ward's win with a narrow 12-11 decision in his quarter-final bout against Yordani Despaigne Herrera of Cuba, the US team was guaranteed to top its all-time low of one boxing medal at the 1948 Olympics.

American boxing fans will not look back fondly on the Athens Games, but at the very least Ward and Dirrell prevented Estrada's debacle from becoming the signature moment of these Olympics.

First things first - there is no way Paul Hamm is going to give back his gold medal following the controversy over the gymnastics results in Athens.

Hamm has emphatically stated that he is the Olympic all-around champion, and it is unreasonable to ask a man who worked towards that goal his whole life to turn around and say, "No, thanks."

All-round gymnastics gold medallist Paul Hamm flanked by Korea's silver and bronze medallists Kim Dae Eun and  Yang Tae Young
Hamm would become a national hero by handing in his medal
With that being said, Hamm should give back the medal.

It seems difficult to fathom, but the gymnast would be a national hero and symbol of sportsmanship for years to come were he to sacrifice his gold medal.

Olympic judging errors are unfortunately a long-standing tradition and it is certainly not the first time something like this has happened.

Usually athletes cling to their medals like new-born babies, no matter the circumstances under which they received them, and Hamm is no different.

But if he were different - and he has a chance to be just that - Paul Hamm would be a name synonymous with integrity long after these Olympics have concluded.

The San Diego Chargers' long wait for their number one draft pick to arrive at training camp finally concluded when quarterback Philip Rivers ended his bitter contract dispute and signed a six-year contract worth more than $40 million.

San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers
Top draft pick Rivers looks set for a quiet start to his NFL career
Rivers set a collegiate record with 51 starts for North Carolina State University and was expected to immediately step in as San Diego's starter.

But he now finds himself well behind fellow top-10 draft picks Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger in preparation for the regular season.

With only Manning set to start right away, the quarterback class of 2004 may not sweep the NFL off its feet right away, but count on all three signal callers to be soon be among the biggest stars the league has to offer.

Links to more US Sport stories


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05 Jul 04  |  US Sport

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