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September 29, 2000

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Cuban boxers' protests dismissed

Alan Baldwin

Cuba formally protested after losing two Olympic boxing quarter-finals but their appeals were dismissed, amateur boxing's ruling body said on Friday.

"They were dismissed on the grounds that there was no evidence of any serious irregularity or bias," said Loring Baker, secretary general of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA).

He said the Cubans had made a formal written protest after the defeats on Wednesday evening of featherweight Yosvany Aguilera and light-middleweight Juan Hernandez Sierra on the grounds that "the judges did not score properly".

Aguilera was beaten 17-12 by Russian Kamil Dzamalutdinov and two times Olympic silver medallist Hernandez, who is also a four times world champion, lost 16-9 to Kazakhstan's Yermakhan Ibraimov.

The judges in the Hernandez fight came from Canada, South Korea, Bulgaria, Uganda and Italy with South Korean Yoo Jae-joon also judging the Aguilera fight.

The other judges in the Aguilera bout were from Puerto Rico, Mauritius, Romania and Egypt.

It was Hernandez's 5-3 defeat in the welterweight final at the 1999 world championships by Russian Timour Gaidalov that prompted the Cubans to walk out of that tournament in protest.

Hernandez was later reinstated as winner and four judges were suspended for a minimum of four years for "gross and blatant divergences". Hernandez has since moved up a division.

Cuban coach Alcides Sagarra, who was in Hernandez's corner as usual on Wednesday, was suspended for a year with five years further probation after the Cuban walkout.

Jose Barrientos, president of the Cuban boxing federation, was suspended for four years and Teofilo Stevenson, the only boxer so far to win three successive golds in the same weight division, banned for two years for leading the walkout.

Baker said the Cubans had also protested verbally after 1996 Olympic flyweight champion Maikro Romero, who has moved down to light-flyweight in Sydney, lost his semifinal to Frenchman Brahim Asloum 13-12.

However no formal written protest was made. "They just expressed their disagreement," he said.

Baker said no other team had protested about their semifinal or quarter-final results on Wednesday and Thursday.

The computerised scoring at Olympic boxing has been a rich source of controversy in the past and AIBA have introduced "spy cameras" and other measures in Sydney to try and prevent the outcry that has overshadowed previous tournaments.

Cuba and Russia both have four boxers through to the finals so far, with three of those fights being between the two countries in a battle for amateur boxing supremacy.

The Cuban walkout at the 1999 championship meant they lost their coveted team trophy in that tournament to the United States, who managed to get only four boxers into the semifinals and lost their first one on Thursday night.

Three more Americans fight on Friday. If they fail to reach the final it will be the first time since 1948 with the exception of the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games that the United States has not won an Olympic boxing gold.

Cuba are assured of six medals, their lowest overall total since 1972 when they won five from 11 weight divisions rather than the current 12, and the Russians seven.

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