Thursday, August 14, 2008

Demetrius Andrade Beats Andre Balanov

Demetrius Andrade was able to dominate Andre Balanov today and advance one step closer to his dream of winning a gold medal. His next opponent will be Korea's Kim Jung Joo. Here is the rundown via the Boston Globe:

That was then, and this is definitely now.

Demetrius Andrade fought Andre Balanov once before. It didn't turn out so well.

"I was 16," he explains. "It was my first trip abroad. I was a little nervous. I had no power. I couldn't hold the guy."

They met again Thursday night in a second-round 69-kilogram (152 pounds) Olympic welterweight match at the Worker's Gymnasium. By any measure, it was a rout. In the arcane, impenetrable scoring system that pollutes Olympic boxing these days, the official tally was 14-3. Two of the Russian's 3 points came via a penalty for "low ducking." A lot has happened since these two met four years ago in Balanov's homeland.

For one thing, Andrade, the pride of Providence, is a world champion. As such, he carries a burden here. The only other world champion on the 2008 US Olympic boxing team is Rau'shee Warren, and he is already out of the competition, the victim of what he and the rest of the Americans consider to have been a totally unjust decision on the part of judges from Tunisia, Argentina, Botswana, Russia and Thailand in his opening-round bout with Lee Oksung of Korea. Andrade came here as one of the favorites, if not the favorite in his weight class (Sports Illustrated gave him the gold in their Olympic preview issue). Demetrius Andrade is clearly America's marquee guy now.

He acknowledges that what happened to Warren gives him extra incentive to win gold here, not that he needed much of a push. Warren is more than just a friend. Warren is his roommate. They might as well be related.

"He's like my little brother, even though he is older," Andrade says. "He's just a little guy. I can smack him around a little."

One look at the post-fight Balanov post visage would tell anyone that Andrade smacked him around a lot. Balanov came out looking a lot older than his 32 years after spending eight minutes in the ring with Andrade, who completely dominated their rematch.

Andrade is noted for his defensive skills (SI labeled him "one of the world's best defensive fighters"), but Andrade was more than a Winky Wright wannabe, punishing the Russian with his full arsenal of punches while at the same time being maddeningly difficult to hit. He reached his match peak in the final 36 seconds of Round 2, when the judges rewarded his activity with 4 points that sent him into the third round with a clearly insurmountable 7-1 lead. And Demetrius Andrade knows what to do with a 7-1 lead.

"Just move," he explains. "Slip some punches. Get some rest."

A word about the much-discussed Olympic scoring: yuck

I mean, who understands it? There is no doubt that Andrade won every round. In all honesty, however, those aforementioned final 36 seconds of the second round didn't appear to be that overwhelming, at least not in comparison with other stretches. People were buzzing earlier in the evening when Kazakhstan's light welterweight (64-kilograms) Serik Sapiyev whipped Jonny Sanchez of Venezuela by the rather convincing score of 22-3. He was dominant, all right. But his 22-3 didn't look much different than Andrade's 14-3, and Sapiyev's defense was not as sophisticated as Andrade's.

No one has understood this rigid point system from the day it was implemented and no one ever will. I was seated for a while next to a veteran British scribe, who was asking me if I had any explanation for what was going on in a match between Mongolian Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg and Bulgarian Boris Georgiev. "The Mongolian hook snapped that guy's head back, and there was no point," the Brit observed. I couldn't argue with him on either point.

And don't get Andrade started on what happened to his friend Warren, who lost a very controversial 9-8 decision. "It was just unfair; that's all," he says. "Every time Rau'shee scored, they gave the other guy a point, too. That's not right."

Olympic boxing has always been a little quirky, but it's completely crazy now. It's definitely neat to see the score posted up on the big board atop the ring, but you spend the whole fight asking yourself how the judges arrived at those numbers. It has to play with boxers' minds.

But all anyone can do is fight his fight and hope for the best. US coach Dave Campbell is here to say that Andrade did just that, following pre-fight instructions perfectly. "First of all," Campbell says, "Demetrius is a world champion, and he fought the kind of fight we expect a world champion to fight. We expect him to compete at that level at all times.

"The main thing is to have a game plan and stick to it. We know these guys here can fight. So we wanted to test them with hard punches, then box. Then come back and bang some more. Demetrius did just that."

As good as Andrade was Thursday night, he says he can be even sharper. Logic says he'll have to raise his game against his next foe, Korea's Kim Jung Joo, a bronze medalist in Athens who literally shut out John Jackson of the US Virgin Islands (10-0). What he knows for sure is that one judges' robbery per room is the quota.

"They didn't just steal a Golden Glove jacket [from Rau'shee]," he says. "They stole a dream."

Such eloquence Demetrius Andrade can back up with his fists.

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