Dirrell outpoints Ha for first U.S. boxing win

ATHENS, Greece -- Middleweight Andre Dirrell got the U.S.
boxing team off to a strong start Saturday, beating China's Ha
Dabateer 25-18.

"Even though the bout was slow, I still gave everybody else
something to look at,'' he said. "I believe if I stick to my game
plan, I'm going to get a gold medal. Can't nobody stop me.''

A well-regarded left-hander from Flint, Mich., Dirrell
counterpunched his way to an easy victory in the second fight of
the day at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall as the other eight members
of the U.S. team cheered him on.

The two-time national champion, and one of the top U.S. medal
hopefuls, was content to let Ha chase him around the ring in the
early stages. He came on strong late in the four-round bout,
consistently landing counterpunches against the overeager Chinese

Despite the win, Dirrell, who has a week off before his next
fight in the round of 16, will work with U.S. coach Basheer
Abdullah on maintaining his weight and working on technical points.

"We had one of our strong hopefuls starting us off, and he got
us going,'' Abdullah said. "(The fight was) definitely not his
best. He was pretty much counterpunching most of the bout, but once
he got his hands going, you can see he's got quick hands. He got
credit for his work.''

In the first bout of the Olympics, Algeria's Nabil Kassel beat
Glaucelio Abreu of Brazil 41-36.

The light heavyweights also got started Saturday, but U.S.
hopeful Andre Ward received a first-round bye. Ward and Dirrell
generally are considered the Americans' top gold medal hopefuls.