Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

American Fighters Plan to Win 'Our Share of Medals' U.S. Team Includes Three World Champs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

American Fighters Plan to Win 'Our Share of Medals' U.S. Team Includes Three World Champs

Article excerpt

Heavyweight Felix Savon, a pillar of Cuban sports success, will try to become the third boxer to win three Olympic gold medals when he returns to Sydney for the first time since he won a world title there nine years ago.

In contrast to the 32-year-old Savon, also a winner of three other world championships, is Michael Bennett, a 29-year-old heavyweight from Chicago who began boxing after he was released from prison in 1998. He served seven years for armed robbery.

Bennett won the 201-pound gold medal at the world championship in Houston in 1999 when Savon refused to fight to protest a decision against a Cuban in an earlier bout.

Bennett is one of three world champions on the 12-boxer U.S. team, whose average age is about 23.

The other world champions are 19-year-old Brian Viloria of Waipahu, Hawaii, at 106 pounds, and 20-year-old Ricardo Juarez of Houston, at 125.

"We're going to get our share of medals," head coach Tom Mustin said. "It's one of the better teams we've put together."

U.S. boxers have not won more than one gold medal since they got three in 1988 at the Seoul Games. The only gold among three medals in 1992 in Barcelona was won by Oscar De La Hoya at 132 pounds. David Reid (156) was the gold medalist in 1996 in Atlanta, where U.S. boxers also won five bronze medals.

With the exception of Bennett, the U.S. boxers are veterans of open competition, but they lack the international experience of many boxers from Europe and Cuba.

While there are some new faces on the Cuban team, joining Savon are such veterans as Juan Hernandez, Maikro Romero, Manuel Mantilla and Alexis Rubalcaba.

Hernandez, who will box at 156 pounds, won Olympic silver medals in 1992-96 and world championships in 1991, 1995 and 1999 at 147 pounds. Romero, the 1996 Olympic champion at 112 pounds, will box at 106, a weight at which he was the world champion in 1997 and runner-up in 1999, losing 9-2 to Viloria in the final. Mantilla won a world title in 1997 and Rubalcaba was a 1996 Olympic quarter finalist and a 1999 Pan American Games champion.

For good measure, there is Mario Kindelan, reigning world and Pan Am Games champion. …

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