RENO - In a boxing dual meet that favored an experienced South Korean team it was the event's most inexperienced boxer who made the ultimate difference.
Heavyweight Eric Fields, of Ardmore, Okla., buried Jung Eu-Chang under an avalanche of punches and forced the referee to stop the contest after two rounds, giving the Americans a 6-5 victory Thursday in front of more than 1,000 fans at the Eldorado's Convention Center.
The 23-year-old Fields, in just his 16th overall contest, was up by 20 points, forcing the stoppage.
Jung (Koreans place their last name first) stepped down to heavyweight from super heavy to face Fields and substitute for an injured teammate, giving Mike Wilson, of Central Point, Ore., a walkover victory and helping ensure an American win.
"The Koreans were fighting kinda dirty, so I wanted to come out and show who was boss," said Fields, who started boxing only two years ago under the tutelage of Ardmore's Gary Ramon, who hadn't trained a fighter in 20 years. "Early on I landed hard body shots. That's probably what did it."
Throughout the first three matches in particular Hong Moo-Wong (106 pounds), Lee Ok-Sung (112) and Han Soon-Chul did a masterful job of subtly breaking the rules by hitting on the break, holding, holding and hitting, pushing down with elbows behind the head and other infractions without being penalized.
Wong took a 54-25 win over national champion Marco Rangel, of Scottsdale, Ariz., Lee took a 39-18 decision over 2004 Olympic alternate Aaron Alafa, Visalia, Calif., and Han scored a 32-16 victory over David Clark, of Marquette, Mich., to give the Koreans a 3-1 lead.
"The referees are very lenient in IABA-type boxing around the world," said Team USA head coach Candy Lopez. "You could see it at the Olympics. Our kids follow the rules strictly here (in the U.S.) and have to adapt. The youths have to get used to it."
Seventeen-year-old Richard Baltazar, 125, Lynwood, Calif., used a busy style to combat the mugging style of Jo Seok-Hwan, notching a 26-13 win to start a four-fight winning streak for his team.
Baltazar bloodied Jo's nose in round two and assaulted his opponent with a two-fisted barrage to score his biggest-ever win over the Athens bronze medal winner.
"They (his corner) were telling me to score early and keep the lead," said Baltazar, who also said he had some other help. "The crowd pumped me up and kept me going. Beating a bronze medal winner puts me up there."
Stan Martyniouk, 132, Antelope, Calif., decided to give the Koreans a bit of their own medicine, drawing the ire of the referee, who gave Baik Jong-Sub two points when he caught Martyniouk holding in the fourth round.
Martyniouk responded with a flurry off the ropes, rocking Baik and subtly pushing him to the canvas along the way to a 24-20 decision. Asked if the push was intentional, Martyniouk grew serious.
"Oh yeah, definitely," he deadpanned. "He was a lot more experienced, a lot older, physically stronger and more experienced. I'm younger and had to use my speed. The crowd pumped me up. I couldn't let the crowd down. I had to bring back our second victory."
Six-foot-three Willie Nelson, 141, Cleveland, Ohio, also took the physical route and outboxed and roughed up Park Kwan-Soo for an 11-8 win. Tall, lean and skilled, Nelson is reminiscent of 1984 gold medalist and world champion Mark Breland.
"I heard the Koreans like to rough people up, bully up," Nelson said. "I did what they usually do to win. I believe I threw him off. He thought I was just a skinny kid. It frustrated him when I wrestled back. It made him fatigued."
Austin Trout, 152, Las Cruces, N.M., took an 11-9 victory over Kim Jung-Joo before the Koreans rallied for two wins, which eventually set up Fields for the deciding victory.