By Patrick Johnston
LONDON (Reuters) - With his contact lenses lying somewhere across the ring, American flyweight Rau'shee Warren trudged out of the London Games for the professional ranks on Friday with the ignominy of an eight-year Olympic losing streak.
The 25-year-old, the first American boxer to compete in three Olympics, lost a narrow decision 19-18 to Nordine Oubaali of France, who moved on to the quarter-finals and one victory away from securing at least a bronze.
After first round losses at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games, defeat was tough to take for the 2007 world champion.
"I thought I had the decision but overall you don't know what they are counting on the paper. It's a big disappointment you know coming a third time and then losing for a third time," Warren, head down and despondent, told reporters.
"As you can see this isn't my lane anymore, coming to the Olympics, just trying to get the gold and bring it back to the United States."
It did look like his lane, though, after a bright first round where he picked off the Frenchman to take a 9-7 lead. However, one of Oubaali's punches knocked Warren's contact lenses out and changed the course of the contest.
"The headgear... it kept falling down over my eyes, then my contacts fell out in the first round so I was having to wait for my opponent to get a little closer so I could throw my shots," Warren bemoaned.
"It always happens, even when I am training, when I have been hit and when the contacts come out it is really blurry."
A costly tactical tweak after the first round also scuppered the American, who lost in the first round at Beijing after being misinformed about the score midway through his bout.
Instead of working the combinations that put him in front, his corner instructed him to hold back and look for the key blow.
Encouraging Oubaali, who started to beat the American to the punch, was not a wise move.
"I was just trying to flick the jab and just trying to deliver one shot instead of two, three or four shots but I guess that is what cost me the fight as he was just more aggressive and I was just trying to land my shots," Warren said.
"(We) have got to talk about getting something else, maybe a world title in the pros."
American boxing was heavily criticized when they reached their lowest point after coming back from Beijing with only one bronze medal.
But deeper depths could be coming. Welterweight Errol Spence is the last American man left, and only just, after being the beneficiary of a rare move by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), who overturned the result of his bout.
India's Krishan Vikas was paraded as a narrow 13-11 victor, but after viewing video footage, AIBA decided that Spence should have been awarded extra points after penalties by his opponent and gave the American the victory.
While Warren headed back to the Olympic Village to pack his bags, Frenchman Ouabaali was thinking about a tricky last eight contest against impressive Irishman Michael Conlan.
Conlan jabbed Ghana's Duke Micah out of their flyweight contest to seal a 19-8 win, the Irishman leaving his opponent guessing throughout by continually switching from an orthodox to southpaw stance.
"It was a nice wee workout," Conlan told reporters. "It is great to get the first win out of the way."
(Editing by John O'Brien)