Esta página no está disponible en español.
August 6, 2004
Puerto Rico's Under-21 team had to settle for a silver medal this past weekend at the U-21 World Qualifiers held in Halifax, Canada, after losing in the final, 97-86, to the United States. Despite the loss, the island quintet still qualified for the U-21 Worlds, which will be held next year in Argentina. In addition, Puerto Rico got a glimpse of what the future holds with a promising young team. Recently signed Washington Wizards center Peter John Ramos scored 34 points in the final with nine rebounds while Northeastern University standout Jose Juan Barea added 27 in the lost cause.
Coach Carlos Calcano said his team could not produce against the United States, which dominated Puerto Rico off the boards, 40-25 and in assists (20-9).
"When you play a game in which you only get 25 rebounds and nine assists you can't expect to win," said Calcano afterward. "The team couldn't rebound and they weren't passing. We also needed a third or fourth person who could score."
U.S. team coach Kelvin Samson knew from their first-round victory (92-79) over Puerto Rico that Barea was the man to contain.
"Their No. 5 [Barea] is my favorite player in the tournament. He's exciting to watch, he's intelligent, he's a strong leader and he's not afraid of anything," said Samson, who added that Barea was potentially dangerous in the transition game.
Dieppa, Calderon defend titles
Two boxing champions in Puerto Rico's lightest weights successfully defended their titles this past weekend. WBO minimum weight champ Ivan Calderon (20-0-0, 4 KO) made his fourth defense with a 116-112 decision over Mexican Roberto Leyva in Las Vegas while 108-pound WBO champ Nelson Dieppa (21-1-2, 12 KO) decisioned 22-year-old Mexican Ulises Solis in Louisville, Kentucky on the undercard of the Mike Tyson-Danny Williams fight, also a fourth title defense for the Vieques native.
Calderon's manager, Peter Rivera, is aiming for a unification fight next, possibly against IBF belt holder Daniel Reyes. Calderon has two more fights in 2004 on his contract with Rivera and Top Rank, neither rival has been set, but Calderon said he'll fight again in October against whomever they put in the ring.
Meanwhile, Dieppa, 33, faces a mandatory defense in November against Mexico's Hugo Cazarez. Dieppa is undefeated in his last 12 fights, 10-0, one technical draw and one no-decision, going back over five years.
Both boxers this week once again nixed the notion they might someday face off in the ring.
"That's something the media loves to talk about," said Calderon. "If there was no one else, we would fight each other, of course, but it's a little ridiculous because there are so many boxers in each of our weight classes."
While Calderon and Dieppa fought this week, other boxers like Alex "Nene" Sanchez and Jose Miguel Cotto (Miguel's older brother), geared up for ring action Friday in the third edition of Best Boxing's San Juan Boxing Nights at San Juan's Pedrin Zorrilla Arena. Cotto (23-0, 16 KO) will fight at 130 pounds versus Ghana's Alfred Kotey (24-9-1, 14 KO) while Sanchez 29-4-1, 20 KO) fights an eight-rounder at mini flyweight versus Mexican Roberto Gomez (14-13-1, 11 KO).
Finally, Felix "Tito" Trinidad made a very public appearance at "Night Out," an activity organized by the state police as a measure to fight crime through public awareness. Trinidad is preparing for his Oct. 2 return to the ring versus Nicaraguan Ricardo Mayora after more than two years of retirement following his loss to Bernard Hopkins. Trinidad is still about 12 pounds over his fighting weight of 160 and has foregone the weights in favor of a rigorous cardiovascular program.
So don't be surprised if you see Trinidad's face among the Kenyans on Aug. 15 for the 20th edition of the Abraham Rosa 10K, which will be run in Toa Baja's Barrio Pajaros.
Paul Kirui, John Korir, Paul Kosgei, two-time NYC Marathon winner John Kagwe and Wilson Kiprotich head a field of 12 Kenyans for the race, the third jewel in the Puerto Rican road racing Triple Crown. Last year's winner, Robert Cheruiyot will not be back to defend his title or his course record, which is 28:34.7 over the hilly and humid route. Ten of the Kenyans participating have registered top 10 times over the 6.2-mile distance this year. The race is usually held earlier in the season, but organizing committee president Jose "Tito" Ortiz said the race was postponed in search of a date that didn't conflict with any other major race.
Puerto Rican boxers gear up for Olympics
Puerto Rico's five Olympic boxers -- Joseph Serrano, Juanma Lopez, Carlos Velazquez, Alex De Jesus and Victor Bisbal -- have spent the past month in Europe learning a different style of fighting, according to their trainer Jose Luis Vellon. Convinced that the Europeans know how to fight at the Olympics better than the boxers on the American continent, Vellon shipped his troops to Germany, then France and finally, Italy, in preparation for the final countdown. Boxing is perhaps the most important and closely watched amateur sport for Puerto Ricans at the Games; while all of Puerto Rico loves the game of basketball, sports fans here know that the six medals won by this tiny island at the Olympics have all been in the sport of boxing.
"We've met our objectives, which were to focus on our training, get used to the European style and make weight," said Vellon. With the exception of Serrano, who fights at 112 pounds, the fighters are all already ready to go. Serrano is just one pound over.
None of the six will have an easy time of it in Athens. All will have to win at least three fights to advance to the medal round and each weight class is rife with veteran amateurs from countries like Cuba, Turkey, Thailand and China.
"France is actually the best team in Western Europe," said Vellon, who gave the French the nod over the Germans. "They have been working on their program for more than a decade and they have a contract with Cuba for trainers. Pedro Roque, the Cuban junior team trainer, has worked a lot with them and many of the French boxers speak Spanish because of Roque. A lot of their boxers are older, they've been with the program through two Olympic cycles."
Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.