ATHENS, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Oleg Saitov started his quest for a rare Olympic boxing treble in comfortable fashion on Sunday.
The Russian welterweight, out to join all-time greats Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon in the record books, easily outpointed Moroccan Miloud Ait
Hammi in his first bout in the Athens competition.
The 30-year-old, known for pleasing judges more than crowds, is trying to become the fourth boxer to win three Olympic titles and the third to do so
in the same weight class after the two Cuban heavyweights.
Hungary's Laszlo Papp, arguably the finest boxer in Olympic history, also won three gold medals, but from two categories.
Cuba's Lorenzo Aragon, the man most lightly to upset Saitov's plans, started his campaign by ruining the hopes of host nation favourite Theodoros
Aged 30 like Saitov, Aragon struggled for years after losing to American Floyd Mayweather in the quarter-finals of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta but
Vocal support from the fans at the Peristeri hall could not help Kotakos, who was trailing by 28 points when the referee stopped the contest in the
"It was very easy but you should not underestimate anybody in this sport," said Aragon, who has fought more than 400 bouts in a career spanning over a
"We always keep our feet on the ground and that's one of the reasons for Cuba's domination," said the Cuban, who failed to qualify for the Sydney
Games but made it back to the top with world championship triumphs in 2001 and 2003.
Another welterweight medal prospect is Frenchman Xavier Noel, the European championship silver medallist, who used his advantage in reach to the full
to narrowly outpoint Andre Berto.
An American with Haitian parents, Berto switched to Haiti after being disqualified from the U.S. trials in February.
"I thought I pulled it out but I guess not," said Berto, whose aggressive style suggests he could soon do damage in the professional ranks.
Also in action on Sunday were the light-welterweights and hard-hitting Alexander Maletin, nicknamed the "Russian Tank", was rolling over Egyptian
Saleh Khoulef when the referee stopped the bout in the third round.
Maletin is the favourite in that class but faces a challenge in the next round from world champion Willy Blain of France, who displayed his trademark
swift footwork and clever body moves on his way to outpointing Tunisia's Mohamed Ali Sassi.
[Edited on 15-8-2004 by Ocelot]