SYDNEY - The U.S. boxing team continued its dominating march to glory with another victory in the ring, but also faced its first loss of the Sydney Olympics.
Bantamweight Clarence Vinson won a tough fight against a boxer who grabbed and clawed to keep it close Thursday night, but the Americans suffered their first defeat when welterweight Dante Craig fell to a crafty Turkish boxer.
The U.S. team now has won 11 times with one defeat. American boxers appear to be headed for showdowns with Cuban boxers who have dominated the international scene for years. Cuban boxers are 10-1. There is even talk of winning six gold medals, which would be the highest total since 1976.
Vinson won 12-7 over Taalaibek Kadiraliev of Krygzstan. "He was a tough fighter on the inside," said Vinson. "The guy didn't want to box. He was holding an clinching."
It was an ugly fight, filled with clinches and pushing. The referee deducted points from both boxers for holding and pushing.
"I knew the fight was close," said Vinson. "I tried to pick it up, pick it up, but he had an awkward style. I'll take an ugly win over a loss any day."
Vinson became the first American to advance to the quarterfinals.
"The better an opponent gets, the better I get," said Vinson. "The best fighter brings the best out of me. A good fighter can adapt to different styles. That's what I did in there. I adapted to his style.
Vinson lead only 4-3 after two rounds, but came on strong in the final two rounds. Most of the American boxers have finished well. They credit their training in Colorado Springs with helping their endurance.
"I know that my performance didn't look that great tonight," admitted Vinson. "It was a tough fight, and he was a rough inside boxer. He was also very strong so I had to keep him off of me. I knew that it was close so I kept trying to pick it up."
The three-time national champion will now move on to the quarterfinals where he will face Olteanu George-Crinu on Sept. 26 during the evening session.
Craig lost 9-4 to Bulent Ulusoy from Turkey. Craig is just coming off of hand surgery in May which prevented him from competing in any of the international preparation tournaments, as well as participating in any team sparring three months prior to the Games.
Craig was able to keep the score close until he was dropped to the canvas by a right hook that Ulusoy was able to land at the end of the second round.
"Of course I am disappointed with this loss, " said Craig. "Everyone comes to the Olympics to get the gold, and I fell short. But I look at it this way, I wasn't even expected to be here right now, and I feel like I have come further than I ever thought that I would."