Boxing rivals Cuba and the United States met for the first time in these Olympic Games on Tuesday. The Americans only can hope this wasn't a preview of defeats to come.
Maikro Romero was a decisive 24-12 winner over Eric Morel of Madison, Wis., in a flyweight bout at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum. American coaches told Morel he could not afford a slow start and yet that's precisely what he produced.
The score after one round was 9-1 in favor of the Cuban.
"It was a clear decision," said Morel, who became the first U.S. fighter to lose at the 1996 Games. "There's nothing I can do. The things that I did in the second and third round, I should have done in the first."
Morel is a stick-and-move fighter but after falling far behind, he went toe-to-toe with Romero late in the second round and rocked him.
Morel cut a 13-2 lead to 13-6 with a series of punches that briefly staggered the Cuban. But Romero was able to gather himself and land two late blows that gave him a 15-7 lead with one round to go.
In the third round, Romero was again the aggressor and took full control of the fight.
"We knew whoever controlled the first round would win the bout," said U.S. coach Al Mitchell. "We asked Eric to hop right on him, and he didn't do it. He can't get behind with his style."
"I thought the Cuban won, but not by 12 points," said U.S. assistant coach Jesse Ravelo.
The Cubans went 9-0 after Alfredo Duvergel outpointed Jozef Gilewski of Poland 10-2 at 156.
The day was not a total loss for the U.S. team. Light-middleweight David Reid became the third Philadelphian to box his way into the second round. He scored an easy 20-4 decision over South Korea's Wan-Kyun Lee.
Despite the one-sided decision, Reid said he would give himself a C+ for his opening performance. "A lot of punches I wanted to hit him with, I wasn't able to," he said.
But Reid was impressive throughout, drilling Lee with a number of right hands despite the Korean's determination to keep his distance. Reid will face the Czech Republic's Pavol Polokovic in the second round.
In other action Tuesday, German flyweight Zoltan Lunka beat Mexican Martin Castillo 13-7; Ireland's Damaen Kelly edged Bulgarian Julian Strogov 12-11; and Israel's lone boxer, Vladislav Neiman, lost 18-7 to Kazakhstan's Bolat Djumadilov.