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An American fighter cried rip-off. A U.S. judge quit. And just
when it appeared that things couldn't get any worse for the
American boxing team, it suffered the most unthinkable upset of
the grueling Olympic boxing tournament.

Of all the U.S. fighters, Antonio Tarver was supposed to be the
closest thing to a gold medal lock, in the 156-pound weight
class. He was the team's veteran, a 27-year-old star who had won
the Pan American Games crown and his first world championship in
1995. But none of that could help Tarver last night at Georgia
Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum in his Olympic semifinal
against Kazakhstan's Vassili Jirov.

After a somnambulant first round and a frenzied second, this
fight was destined to come down to who had the most left in the
third. And it wasn't Tarver. As the last three minutes flitted
by, his blows came slower and slower and...slower. When the 15-9
decision was announced, there wasn't much Tarver could say about

However, teammate Floyd Mayweather, who had fought earlier in
the evening, was justifiably upset about the curious scoring in
his 10-9 loss to three-time 125-pound world champion Serafim
Todorov of Bulgaria. Immediately after the bout, American coach
Al Mitchell and team manager Gerald Smith filed a protest, which
should be addressed today. Then judge Bill Waeckerle of the
U.S., a 15-year veteran of international boxing, tendered a
one-page resignation letter to Anwar Chowdhry, president of AIBA
(boxing's international governing body). Waeckerle wrote,
"Frankly, Mr. President, the [present computer scoring] system
does not work."

After citing the Mayweather-Todorov bout as "the blatant
example" of "totally incompetent" judging, Waeckerle added, "It
is apparent that the system is not capable of correcting itself
with the people currently in charge of selecting and assigning
officials. The referee cautioned the Bulgarian boxer at least
five times for slapping, without a warning, and even worse, the
judges were counting them as scoring blows." When the decision
was announced for Todorov, referee Hamadi Hafez Shouman of Egypt
made another gaffe--he raised Mayweather's hand in victory.

Of the six U.S. boxers who fought in the semifinal round over
the past two days, David Reid was the only one to win his bout.
He scored an impressive 12-4 victory over Uzbekistan's Karim
Tulaganov in the 156-pound weight class yesterday, dropping
Tulaganov with a crushing right with 1:24 left in the second
round. "I thought he was out [cold]," Reid said.

Tomorrow he will fight one of the seven Cubans--Alfredo
Duvergel--who led the parade into the final round. After falling
behind Kazakhstan's Ermakhan Ibraimov early in the third round
of an action-packed fight, Duvergel dug deep and rallied for a
28-19 victory.

Reid and Duvergel have never met, but Reid didn't seem
especially concerned. After seeing what had happened to
Mayweather, he just wants to make sure his last fight won't be

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Mayweather tried in vain to catch up with Todorov and lost a disputed 10-9 decision. [Floyd Mayweather and Serafim Todorov]