Team USA athletes earned two victories on the opening day of competition for the American squad at the Americas Olympic Qualifier in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Saturday. Southern California boxers Jonathan Esquivel (Anaheim, Calif.) and Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles, Calif.) each recorded wins on Saturday while Marlo Moore (Hayward, Calif.) fell just short in his first bout of the tournament, dropping a split decision.
Esquivel knew that he would set the tone for his U.S. team at the Americas Qualifier in Argentina and he ensured that it was a winning one in Team USA’s opening session on Saturday afternoon. He scored a unanimous decision victory in the tournament opener for both he and his United States team, taking a definitive win on Saturday afternoon at the Ferial la Rural de Palermo in Buenos Aires.
Esquivel opened the competition against the Bahamas’ Israel Johnson and he refused to allow his opponent one moment of peace in the three round contest. He continuously split Johnson’s gloves with crisp straight shots and used an effective jab to control the bout. Esquivel stalked the Bahamian boxer relentlessly, trapping him in one corner after another and unloading combinations. The American finished the bout strong, teeing off with a wide array of shots. Esquivel started the tournament off with a 3-0 victory over Johnson for his United States squad. The win advances Esquivel on to a quarterfinal match-up with home nation boxer Marcos Escudero of Argentina on Wednesday afternoon. With one victory under his belt, Esquivel needs two more wins to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.
“I felt great. I just got the nerves off and the little tension you feel right before a fight,” Esquivel said. “I was touching with him with the jab and using feints and then I started to get comfortable. Touching him with the jab was key. I had it my mind that I was the first fight for the U.S. and I wanted to get the USA rolling.”
Mayer was the lone U.S. boxer to compete in evening action and she put on a memorable performance in his first bout of the Americas Olympic Qualifier. She opened the tournament in a bout with Kimberly Gittens of Barbados in women’s lightweight action. Looking to use her experience advantage to her benefit, Mayer felt her opponent early but her dominance grew throughout the bout. Mayer turned up the heat in the final two rounds, giving Gittens a standing eight count in the third round. She continued to pour it on over the final stanza. Mayer scored two more standing eight counts in the fourth, the bout was stopped late in the final round.
“I got the first one under my belt, it’s always the hardest with the nerves but I feel good. I knew that she wasn’t as experienced as I am so I used this to work on some things and get comfortable doing them for my tougher fights later in the week,” Mayer said. “The right hand was working. I should have let it go more. I was hesitant at first because she was long but once I started using the right hand, that was the key. I was able to test myself. I know I’m in good shape. I know I have the strength and skills to be here so it was a little bit of a confidence booster going in to the rest of the fights.”
Mayer will return to action in a quarterfinal bout with Canada’s Caroline Veyre on Monday evening. She must win gold at the Americas Olympic Qualifier to earn her berth in the 2016 Olympics.
Moore competed late in the early session in a super heavyweight contest with Canada’s Aaron Huggins. The bout was not the cleanest of contests and it became a wrestling match with both boxers looking to take control. Moore landed several strong shots as the momentum swung and he looked to take the edge in the foul-filled match-up. Despite his strong effort, Moore lost the bout by a 2-1 decision. The loss eliminates Moore from the Americas Olympic Qualifier.
“I was working against myself. I was working hard but in the wrong manner. I kind of crashed at the moment. This is a fight that I should have easily won with my speed, my ability and my boxing. I worked against myself, I kind of got flustered in the sloppiness of the match-up,” Moore said. “Instead of calmly thinking my way through it, I tried to push my way though it. There’s where I went wrong today. I just have to sit on it. I’m not going to say I’m not disappointed.”
Moore will have another opportunity to earn his spot in the Olympic Games at the World Qualifying Event in Baku, Azerbaijan in June. “This is something that I’ve been looking at since I was 15-years-old so I have to calmly analyze the situation, perfect it at home and come back,” said Moore. “I’ll be back for the World Qualifier. I’m not giving up on this dream.”
Despite the disappointing loss, Moore was able to learn from his participation in the Olympic qualifying event. “Even though you think you’ve done everything right. You can’t prepare perfectly for everything. Sometimes you have to go against being so perfect and that’s one of the things I feel like I learned today. Everything’s not always going to be perfect.”
Tomorrow’s Americas Qualifier competition will feature three American bouts with bantamweight Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.) facing Colombia’s Luis David Vargas and heavyweight Cam F. Awesome (Lenexa, Kansas) battling Davon Hamilton of the Bahamas. Middleweight Charles Conwell (Cleveland Heights, Ohio) will be the lone American bout of the evening session as he takes on Alejandro Mora of Uruguay in the late session.
132 lbs/female: Mikaela Mayer, Los Angeles, Calif./USA won on TKO over Kimberly Gittens, BAR, TKO-4
178 lbs: Jonathan Esquivel, Anaheim, Calif./USA dec. Israel Johnson, BAH, 3-0
201+ lbs: Aaron Huggins, CAN, dec. Marlo Moore, Hayward, Calif./USA, 2-1