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Julian Rodriguez had a difficult time watching the boxing portion of the 2012 Olympic Games in London last summer, and not just because the United States men's team went 5-9 overall and failed to win a single medal.
It was mostly because the well-spoken 18-year-old boxer from Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., believed he should have been there, instead of Jamel Herring, in the 141-pound division. Rodriguez lost a controversial decision, 14-9, to Herring in an Olympic qualifying event in Fort Carson, Colo.
"Amateur boxing is quite political now," Rodriguez said. "The best fighters don't always win."
Friday night, in a 141-pound semifinal at the Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions, Rodriguez made sure the best fighter won, even against a defending champion. He outpointed George Rincon of Texas, who won the division last year in Mesquite, Nev., to advance to Saturday night's championship round at the Salt Palace.
On paper, it appeared to be an upset, but Rodriguez says it really wasn't.
"We studied him in his last fight, and nothing he did really impressed us," Rodriguez said. "We saw a lot of holes, and we took advantage of those holes."
His goal of making the U.S. Olympic team gone for several years, Rodriguez said Saturday's fight against Eddie Ramirez of Chicago will be his last as an amateur.
"I am going to turn pro," he said.
As Rodriguez found out, it was a good night to mess with Texas. The Lone Star state advanced six boxers to Friday's semifinals, and all six lost in the state's first national Golden Gloves event since the death last August of longtime coach Charlie "Alvin" Pryor, a Golden Gloves Hall of Famer.
One of those Texans, Francisco Martinez of Dallas, fell to Detroit's Ja'Rico O'Quinn in an entertaining 123-pound semifinal. Martinez was hoping for some revenge after losing 3-0 to the 18-year-old O'Quinn in the USA Boxing nationals youth men's division last month in Spokane, Wash., but the result Friday was the same.
"I'm on my way," said O'Quinn. "Boxing is in my blood, and I want to be a world champion."
Next up for O'Quinn is another highly decorated amateur, Gary Antonio Russell of Washington, D.C. Russell, who won the senior men's finals in Spokane last month, advanced with a hard-fought victory over Misael Reyes of Kansas City.
"I've been waiting to fight him for a long time," O'Quinn said.
Joshua Temple of St. Louis registered the night's only knockdown, dropping Darnell Price II of Washington, D.C., in a 201-pound bout. Midway through giving Price an eight-count, the referee stopped the contest.
Kansas City's Cam F. Awesome, the flamboyant super heavyweight who was profiled in Friday's Salt Lake Tribune, rolled past Stephen Shaw of St. Louis, despite being considerably outweighed.
The crowd was somewhat smaller, the atmosphere not quite as electric on Friday after three Utahns Jesse West, Isaac Aguilar and Larry Gomez were eliminated in Thursday's quarterfinals.
O Although Texas loses all six of its semifinal bouts on Friday, it wraps up the team title regardless of what happens in Saturday's finals.
• The only defending champion in the tournament, George Rincon of Texas, loses to New Jersey's Julian Rodriguez at 141 pounds.
• For full results, see Scoreboard. > D6