Welterweight bouts on hold until ruling

CLEVELAND -- U.S. Olympic boxing hopeful Juan McPherson
hasn't been counted out yet.

The 19-year-old welterweight won another round Wednesday in a
court fight that could determine whether he gets a chance to
compete in the Athens Games.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Burt W. Griffin granted a
restraining order for McPherson, which could lead to him getting
back into this week's Olympic team box-offs.

McPherson is trying to be reinstated after he was given a
medical disqualification when he was injured during a fight last
week in Tunica, Miss., against Andre Berto of Winter Haven, Fla.

Berto, who was disqualified for throwing McPherson to the
canvas, is also attempting to rejoin the 152-pound class for bouts
Friday and Saturday at the Convocation Center.

Griffin ruled that USA Boxing, which sanctions the U.S. Olympic
boxing team, must postpone fights in McPherson's class until an
arbitrator rules on the medical disqualification.

Eric Parthan, executive director of Colorado-based USA Boxing,
said an arbitrator will hear the appeals Thursday in Cleveland.

If the arbitrator rules to reinstate McPherson, Berto or both
boxers, the schedule of bouts will be adjusted. This week's winners
will represent the U.S. team at the summer Olympics in Greece this

The restraining order is the latest development following days
of rulings, sudden reversals and controversies stemming from the
McPherson-Berto bout Feb. 17.

And until the matter is cleared up in court, the four
welterweight boxers who advanced last weekend are in limbo waiting
to see when they'll climb into the ring again.

"All I want to do is fight," Cory Jones of Brooklyn, N.Y. said
at a press conference introducing this week's competitors.

"Somebody's got to fight," said Vanes Martirosyan of Glendale,
Calif. "Just tell us when and where."

Martirosyan's coach, Bobby Lee, said the legal proceedings are
unfair to his boxer and the three other qualifiers. He has filed a
grievance with USA Boxing on their behalf.

"These four young men were sitting there and the other boxers
were boxing and it's unfair to them," Lee said. "These are young
kids. These aren't full-grown men. They don't understand the

Lee has been urging Martirosyan to remain focused but said the
outside distractions are making that tougher for him to do.

"He can't think about what he's supposed to be thinking
about," Lee said. "But whatever they rule tomorrow, we're going
to go for it. We'll beat anybody they put in our way. Whatever they
decide, we'll accept it and go on from there."

A favorite to make the U.S. team, McPherson injured his neck
when he was slammed down by Berto in the closing seconds of their

McPherson was carried from the ring on a stretcher, and the next
day he was ruled out of the competition by USA Boxing physicians,
who felt he would be risking further injury if he boxed.

Berto was initially disqualified but got reinstated. However,
USA Boxing later changed its mind and dropped him from the
double-elimination tournament.