Wilson seeks atonement after being stripped of '06 title

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) In his eyes, super-heavyweight Mike Wilson is going for an unprecedented fourth straight national boxing championship.

USA Boxing doesn't even consider the Central Point, Ore., native the defending champion.

That honor belongs to Jonte Willis, who was awarded the 2006 title when Wilson tested positive for marijuana last year.

Willis was upset in the preliminary rounds of this year's tournament, but Wilson reached the semifinals Tuesday by beating Golden Gloves champion Nate James of Maulden, Mass., 12-7.

Wilson had to draw on all his years of experience and trainer Dick Wood's expertise to outpoint the 265-pound James, who outweighed him by 55 pounds.

``A lot of people had him favored to win this tournament, but I just stuck to a game plan. I knew he liked to hook a lot. So I did what you don't usually do against a southpaw, and that's move into his power hand. That took away his hook,'' Wilson said.

Wilson also nullified James' superior brawn by staying on the move throughout the four-round bout.

``I couldn't sit there and bang with him because of his size, so I had to move. I had to move like a middleweight,'' Wilson said. ``You heard a lot of people in there: 'You've got your track shoes on!'

``Hey, a win's a win.''

Unless it's stripped from you for failing a doping test like it was from Wilson last year.

``I felt horrible, I really did,'' Wilson said. ``Nobody's perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. But this is just a mistake that you can never erase.''

So, he's seeking atonement instead.

``Yeah, I feel like that would kind of redeem me. By winning it again, I feel that would help erase it,'' he said. ``But you know I'm just here to take this tournament. The past is the past and I'm just focused on this year.''

And anyway, he still sees himself as the best super-heavyweight in the nation, positive drug test or not.

``I've still got the medal. I've still got the jacket. In my eyes, I'm still the 2006 national champion,'' Wilson said. ``I've got to redeem myself this year. I've got to show I can bounce back and overcome any adversity and still pull through and be victorious.''

The marijuana chemical THC is not subject to the normal two-year suspension because it is less likely to be abused as a doping agent, so Wilson received a three-month ban from competition and was stripped of his title.

``I still consider myself the three-time national champ. And I know everybody does. But just in the books they have to take it away. Even the guy that I beat last year that I gave the title to, he still considers me the national champ,'' Wilson insisted.

So, he said he's chasing not only redemption but history.

``Nobody's ever won this four years in a row in any weight class, anyone from the Oscar De La Hoyas to the Sugar Ray Leonards,'' Wilson said.

Wilson cleared a huge hurdle Tuesday by outmaneuvering James.

``I should have done more,'' James said. ``I should have thrown more punches. I didn't do enough and that was the difference. He's good, but I can beat him. I can beat everyone here.''

He'll get another chance to show as much at the Olympic trials this summer. The top eight boxers in each of the 11 weight classes here qualified for those trials in August, with dates and location to be determined.

Flyweight Rau'shee Warren, trying to become the first U.S. boxer to fight in two Olympics since Davey Lee Armstrong in 1972 and '76, didn't box Tuesday because officials granted a rematch of the preliminary bout between Bruno Escalante and Vincent Montoya.

Warren will fight the winner of that bout on Wednesday, and if he wins that, he'll have to box in a semifinal in a local gym on Thursday, which was scheduled as a rest day before Friday night's title matches.

``At first I was mad, but it's not going to change anything. I'm going to win Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,'' Warren said.

In one of the bigger surprises Tuesday, 132-pounder Jerry Belmontes, 18, of Corpus Christi, Texas, defeated two-time defending Golden Gloves champion Sadam Ali of New York 13-12.

``I just studied his tapes, what I did wrong last time,'' said Belmontes, who avenged a 13-6 loss to Ali in the 2005 Junior Olympics championships. ``I turned southpaw the last time. This time, I stayed right-handed all the way.''

Which set up a devastating straight left in the third round that turned the bout.

``He never saw it,'' Belmontes said.

(Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)