Team USA endured a difficult day on Wednesday at the Olympic Games as three American boxers lost their bouts to amateur boxing powerhouses. Bantamweight Joseph Diaz, Jr. (S. El Monte, Calif.) fell to Cuban World Champion Lazaro Alvarez Estrada with heavyweight Michael Hunter (Las Vegas, Nev.) and super heavyweight Dominic Breazeale (Alhambra, Calif.) both falling to Russian opponents.
Diaz battled both his opponent and the Cuban mystique in his bout with Estrada, which was a rematch from the 2011 World Championships. The Cuban was extremely busy during the first round, showcasing the patented Cuban footwork but Diaz also enjoyed bright spots of his own, finding a home for his sharp left hand. Estrada held a 7-6 lead after one but Diaz came out firing in the second. The 19-year-old American looked to enforce his will in the second as the Cuban's output began to lower and Diaz landed strong, accurate punches. Yet the judges had Estrada up by a 14-10 margin after the second. Diaz refused to be discouraged by the score and continued to be the aggressor in the third round, pushing Estrada around and landing a wide array of punches. Despite Diaz's efforts, the Cuban was named the victor by a 21-15 final score to eliminate the American bantamweight from the tournament.
"I thought in the second round, I was landing clean shots. I thought it was going to be closer. At least me up by one, tied or me down by one but the judges didn't see it that way so I just fought my heart out the last round and tried to pull it out but I didn't get the W," Diaz said. "He's a really great counterpuncher. He's very long so its hard to get in on him but once you get in, he puts his whole body weight on you so either you'll be tired or you won't be able to get shots off on him. He's really smart, he's a really great fighter and I hope he gets the gold medal."
Hunter faced off in an ugly heavyweight match-up with Russia's Artur Beterbiev later in the session. The American heavyweight, who finally made it to the Olympic Games, following an unsuccessful run in 2008, took the first lead in the bout, holding a 4-3 lead after one. Much of the second round consisted of the two boxers in a clinch, but they still managed to put four points a piece on the board and Hunter went into the final round up one. The holding continued into the second, but Hunter looked to land shots and extend his lead. Beterbiev was able to pull the bout to a 10-10 tie and won the contest on a tiebreaker decision.
I think it got away from me but he was a better man today and he deserved it.
"I think it was a close fight and he was able to put his game plan in more than I was and he was just the better man," Hunter said. "My game plan was to make it simple and just box and use my legs, which I wasn't able to do. Make it an easy fight, 1-2-3s and keep turning and stay away from his right hand. He was able to time my jab more than I expected early."
Per AIBA Technical and Competition Rules, a tiebreaker is determined by the following. The lowest and highest judges total scores for each boxers are thrown out and the remaining three total punch counts are combined for each boxer. The boxer with highest total punch count is named the winner of the bout. AIBA does not realize tiebreaker totals.
Breazeale drew a tough bracket in his first Olympic Games, battling Russia's Omarov Magomed. The Russian's experience showed early as he landed some heavy shots on the game American and Magomed held a 5-0 lead after one. Breazeale was able to get some offense going in the second but couldn't evade all of Magomed's punches and faced a 13-4 deficit with one round remaining. He looked to mount a comeback in the third but fell short and Magomed won a 19-8 decision.
"I got behind pretty early. Trying to play the catch up game in amateur boxing is not going to work. I'm learning from this experience and being here at the Olympics," Breazeale said. "The trainers did a great job, every time I came back to the corner, they said stick to the game plan. I wasn't sticking to the game plan and in the middle of a bout, you can't second guess yourself and I was doing a lot of that."
Two U.S. boxers will look to stem the tide on Thursday as lightweight Jose Ramirez (Avenal, Calif.) faces Uzbekistan's Fazliddin Gaibnazarov at 9 p.m. London time (4 p.m. ET) and middleweight Terrell Gausha (Cleveland, Ohio) faces India's Vijender at 9:45 p.m. London time (4:45 p.m. ET).
123 lbs: Lazaro Alvarez Estrada, CUB, dec. Joseph Diaz, Jr., S. El Monte, Calif./USA, 21-15
201 lbs: Artur Beterbiev, RUS, dec. Michael Hunter, Las Vegas, Nev./USA, 10-10 (Russian won tiebreaker)
201+ lbs: Omarov Magomed, RUS, dec. Dominic Breazeale/Alhambra, Calif./USA, 19-8
Joseph Diaz Quotes
"I had a really tough fighter with Lazaro. He's a really great fighter. Unfortunately I didn't get the W but I gave everyone the show they wanted to see. I'm glad I gave everyone a really good show. Everyone was cheering and that's what I came here to do. Unfortunately God's plan wasn't for me to get a gold medal but I'm keep praying and build myself back up."
"I thought the scoring should have been closer but the judges didn't see that unfortunately. Lazaro a really great fighter. I'm not going to give him a downgrade or anything, he's a really great fighter. He's a good boxer, a great puncher and it just wasn't my day for the judges."
"It's always like that (difficult finding the Cuban mystique), but you just have to give it your all and know that you're ready and they're human just like you so go in there and give it your all and see what the judges see."
"In the World Championships, I was trying to box him, I was trying to be a counter puncher like him but I can't do that with him because he's so long and so rangy but this fight, I was just trying to put constant pressure on him and try to get him tired. It worked, he was getting a little tired but unfortunately I didn't get the W and hands down, Lazaro is a great fighter."
"I had a really great time at the Olympic Games, it was a great opportunity and a great experience. It was a blessing from God. I'm going to back home and start my pro career."
"I felt like I was blocking a lot of shots but the judges probably saw it different. My head was moving but my guard was up at all times. But the judges probably saw that I was getting hit or maybe his punches were powerful or something. It's all good though, I just have to back home and train like I've never trained before."
"I'm going to stay and cheer on the rest of Team USA. We still have a lot of athletes competing so I'm going to cheer them on. They're all great fighters so I still believe we're going to have some medals."
"We're going to go out and have a good dinner. Finally I get to eat some French fries and cheesecake since I haven't had that for a long time so it's gonna be great."
Michael Hunter quotes
"My legs got fatigued really fast. I don't want to make excuses or anything but I got a cold a few days ago and I think that might have a little to do with it. Regardless of the fact, my legs started to fatigue a little bit and I wasn't able to stay outside like I wanted to. My foot placement wasn't there and I wasn't able to turn like I was supposed to and I've been practicing on. That's the name of the sport, to be able to execute in the fight."
"It's very disappointing, I made a promise to my father when I was little that I would win a gold medal. I happened to fail that mission and I just have to keep it moving."
"It's very upsetting, last time I got food poisoning, it was something I couldn't control. I was this close, it's hurting to me to know that I failed real early into the tournament."
"When I first got hit, I knew my nose started bleeding. He hit me with a good shot but I've had a bloody nose before and I already had a stuffy nose so I wasn't nothing more to bother me, now its blood instead of snot."
"I don't like to pay attention to a tiebreaker because if I feel like I got a tie, I lost. It's like if you're on time, you're late. That's what it came down to."
"I thought it was very close. I thought I was maybe ahead a little earlier by more than one point in the first round but that's just my opinion. I wasn't surprised by the decision."
"Usually the refs break you up a lot faster. It's hard because you're pulling on one side and he's tugging on the other. You're trying to get an angle so it was kind of a wrestling match just to get the angle off. That's kind of what it was."
"I thought he was about to take a point from me when he was checking my bloody nose. He warned me a few times so I was trying not to hold as much as I could and just do the best I could not to get a point taken."
"Yeah, it was worth it (the journey to the Olympics). I got here. I'm thankful to step in the ring on this big stage. It wasn't the performance I wanted but it was definitely well worth it. I've been getting seasoned over the last few years."
Dominic Breazeale quotes
"I wouldn't say jitters, it was just a matter of experience. I only have three and a half years under my belt and it definitely showed tonight."
"We have great fighters in the United States so a fighter like that isn't anything I've never seen before."
"The jab is always effective, making contact is always effective. I would have loved to have been more effective where I was popping his head back but tonight I didn't do so well."
"I was trying to stay away from his lead hand. He has a big right hook and it landed a couple times tonight and its only because I was going to the left and not to my right."
"He's a big strong guy. He can punch, he can definitely punch. I've been hit harder and tonight he was the stronger guy in there."
"Boxing is a one-man game, it's you against the other man. Unfortunately we had two men go down as well as myself but we're going to come back strong."
"Playing the catch up game is tough in the amateurs, especially when you're down five after the first round. I went back out there in round two and stuck to the game plan a little bit but deterred away from it and that's what hurt me badly."
"It's night and day. In football, you have an off-season, in boxing you don't. In football, you can play it, in boxing, you have to live it. So it's a daily basis as far as nutrition and strength and conditioning. When you're in the ring, there's no blaming anyone else. You either win and get all the glory or lose and get all the blame."
"I'm just looking forward to the next couple of years. In three and a half years I got to the Olympics for the United States, one of the best countries in the world and it's been an honor to represent my country. I would have loved to have done more this afternoon but I'm going to stick with boxing and see what I can do in the next couple years. I've got a lot to learn but I'm going to stick with it and give it my all."
"When I get in a groove and I'm throwing big strong punches, mean is not a problem for me. You can always be pretty, look at Muhammad Ali. I'm not saying I have any crushes but Muhammad Ali was a good-looking man and he did some great things in the heavyweight game."
USA Boxing, as the national governing body for Olympic-style boxing, is the United States' member organization of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) and a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).