Chicago:Bantamweight Gary Russell Jr and light welterweight Javier Molina took steps forward in their quests to qualify for the Beijing Olympics with victories in the preliminary round of the World Boxing Championships on Tuesday.
Russell started things off for the US boxing team when he soundly defeated Slovakia's Rudolf Dydi. Molina defeated Jamaica's Rikardo Smith.
Russell looked cautious during the first two rounds, despite catching Dydi with a solid left hook in the first.
He took control of the bout in the third round, becoming more aggressive and battling Dydi with strong combination punches to the crowd's chants of "USA." He won the match, 13-6.
"Pressure makes diamonds," Russell said. "I'm trying to shine everywhere I go."
Russell has performed under pressure this year, winning a spot on the U.S. boxing team by fighting his way through the challenger's bracket in Houston. He can qualify for a trip to Beijing in 2008 by making the quarterfinals.
Russell was confident that he will go to the Olympics.
"This is my destiny," he said. "This is my calling in life right here."
The crowd roared behind Molina as he jumped out to an 8-4 lead in the first round. Molina kept Smith at bay in the second, then started to run away with the match in the third round, just like his teammate Russell had done earlier in the day.
In the fourth round, Smith came after Molina with several straight rights, but Molina bobbed and weaved around them. Molina completely outclassed his opponent, winning 37-16.
After the match, Molina said that people continue to see him as "a little kid with hardly any muscle." The 17-year-old Molina, however, never sees himself as an underdog.
"I've been thinking about the Olympics since I was a little kid," Molina said.
The U.S. team drew several tough opponents in the opening round.
Flyweight Rau'shee Warren, who is attempting to become the first U.S. boxer in more than 20 years to compete in two Olympics, is scheduled to fight Tulashboy Doniyorov of Uzbekistan, who also fought in the Athens Olympics, on Thursday morning.
Warren was 17 and the youngest member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic boxing team in Athens. He lost 22-9 in his first match to China's Zou Chiming at 48 kilograms (106 pounds).
The last U.S. boxer to compete in two Olympics was Davey Lee Armstrong in 1972-76.
There also will be two continental qualifiers early next year, so the Chicago tournament will not be the last chance to make the Olympics.
On Wednesday morning, U.S. Featherweight Raynell Williams will fight French boxer Khedafi Djelkhir, who competed in the 2004 Olympics.
Also on Wednesday, middleweight Shawn Estrada will battle Israel's Artur Zlatopolski and heavyweight Deontay Wilder will face off against Poland's Krzysztof Zimnoch.
Super heavyweight Michael Hunter will fight Andres Ruiz Ponce of Mexico on Wednesday night.
On Thursday afternoon, lightweight Sadam Ali will face Jose Pedraza of Puerto Rico and welterweight Demetrius Andrade will fight Jvania Kakahaber.
Christopher Downs, who fought in Iraq and is the oldest member of the U.S. team, will fight Ukraine's Ismayl Sillakh on Thursday evening. Light flyweight Luis Yanez will face Simanga Shiba of Swaziland on October 28.
The top eight finishers in the light flyweight (106 pounds; 48 kilograms) to light heavyweight (178; 81) divisions and the top four from the heavyweight and super heavyweight classes will qualify for the Beijing Olympics.
Chicago is hoping to use the World Boxing Championships as a boost in its bid for the 2016 Olympics. The city didn't get the championships until May after it was pulled from Moscow.