TUNICA, Miss. -- Top-ranked welterweight Andre Berto was
eliminated from the U.S. Olympic Team trials Thursday after a
grievance committee decided that a referee made the correct call by
disqualifying him the first day of the tournament.
"It's really heartbreaking," Berto said. "But what can you
Berto's odd three days at the trials began Tuesday when he was
disqualified in the fourth and final round of his opening bout with
Juan McPherson, another highly regarded welterweight.
Berto was disqualified by referee Dennis O'Connell for a
flagrant foul after he shoved McPherson to the canvas. McPherson
hit his head hard on the ring floor and could not continue the
Berto appeared to be on his way to beating McPherson, who
staggered into Berto before being pushed away.
Berto disputed the first ruling and a grievance committee
overturned the ref's decision after reviewing video tape. Because
McPherson could not have continued the fight, Berto was declared
Berto won his second fight Wednesday and was preparing to fight
Friday in the winner's bracket for the right to advance to the
box-offs in Cleveland on Feb. 27-28.
McPherson, who was thrown into the loser's bracket when Bertos'
grievance was upheld, failed to gain medical clearance to fight
from USA Boxing physicians and lost in a walkover, putting him out
of the double-elimination tournament. Thursday's decision doesn't
get him back into the tournament, however.
"I'm sure we'll have lawsuits," USA Boxing executive director
Eric Parthen said. "And we'll have to defend those."
Tony Morgan, Berto's coach, said they have legal representation
and are considering suing. McPherson, from Cleveland, said he would
likely be suing, too.
"It's sad this had to happen," McPherson said, "but I'm
keeping that hope."
Berto, from Winter Haven, Fla., was No. 1 in the 152-pound
division coming into the trials and McPherson was third.
The second, three-person grievance committee ruled the first
committee erred in finding a clear violation of USA Boxing rules on
the part of the official and McPherson was denied due process.
He did not get to present his case to the first committee.
"There certainly were mistakes made," Parthen said. "I
wouldn't wish this on anyone. Those are two great kids."
In the ring, a couple of highly ranked contenders were
eliminated from the losers bracket.
Aaron Alafa, of Visalia, Calif., defeated Raul Martinez, of San
Antonio, the top-ranked fighter at 112 pounds. Alafa won a 26-22
Aaron Williams, the third-ranked heavyweight, was bounced from
the tournament by friend and fellow Ohioan Robert Jacobs. Jacobs,
from Akron, beat Williams, from Cleveland, 12-9.
"I just wanted to counter him a lot because I'm faster,"