HAVANA -- To characterize the U.S. Pan American boxing team as being "second string" might not be wholly accurate. Many U.S. fighters here are third string.
The United States began the tournament with 12 boxers. Six made it to the semifinals, meaning, for some, that they won one fight. As of last night, three U.S boxers are through to the finals: one on a bye, one by walkover and one, Patrice Brooks, actually beat another fighter. One lost last night -- Ravea Springs in the 156-pound class -- and two more will fight tonight.
It was the first fight of the tournament for Brooks, who advanced to the semifinals on a bye. He looked sharp last night and was awarded a decision over Canada's William Irwin.
According to Brooks, who fights in the 132-pound weight class, his motivation was to disprove the critics of the U.S. boxing team.
"My opinion is I think we are doing a whole lot better than most people, even reporters, were saying we would do," Brooks said. "They were calling us the second team. I don't think we are. I'm the team captain. I've been telling the guys to not listen to all that. To us, we're No. 1. We lost six guys, but we also got six guys through."
Brooks, clearly a positive thinker, fashioned a negative into a positive and used it to his advantage in his match against Irwin. Brooks had lost a decision to the Canadian earlier this year and didn't show his jab. That seemingly new tactic appeared to puzzle Irwin, who attempted to wade inside throughout the match.
The right jab from the lefthanded Brooks thwarted that effort.
"I changed my style, that's what threw him," said Brooks, 20. "The jab got me through the fight."
Springs was overmatched against Juan Lemus of Cuba, who had the partisan Cuban crowd behind him. Lemus won by decision overwhelmingly, 26-7.
with 1:14 left in the third round True to the team's theme, Springs had a positive slant on the fight.
"It was a tough fight, a tough fight," he said. "I started to pop my jab -- boom, boom, boom -- then my counterpunch. But he tried to outpunch me and I let him do that. I got into his kind of fight. I wanted to outbox him.
"I made a promise to myself that I would hang in with him. No one, not even my teammates thought I could make it. I fought well."
Satisfaction in defeat will have to suffice for the U.S. boxing team, for now.