RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Army News Service, Aug. 3, 2007) - Two-time reigning U.S. national light heavyweight champion boxer Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Downs won a bronze medal at XV Pan American Games Rio 2007.

Sgt. 1st Class Downs lost an 8-5 decision to Yuciel Napoles of Cuba in the semifinals of the 81-kilogram weight class July 24 at Riocentro Convention Center.

He scored the first point of the four-round bout but struggled throughout to get inside against the sturdy Cuban counter-puncher. The score was tied at 1 after the first round.

Mr. Napoles won the second and third rounds by identical scores of 3-0 and took a 7-1 lead into the fourth and final 2-minute round.

Sgt. 1st Class Downs rallied to tally four points in the final round and closed the scoring gap. His flourish, however, was too little, too late against the Cuban, who stayed on the move in the waning moments of the bout.

"Chris' bout against Cuba was a tough, close bout, which we knew it would be," Team USA coach Dan Campbell said. "In the end, I think the Cuban's experience won out."

Sgt. 1st Class Downs passed a top-notch test of the international boxing experience during his 12-5 quarterfinal victory over Brazil's Washington Silva, who was backed by a raucous hometown crowd.

"I can't say enough about this Brazilian crowd," Sgt. 1st Class Downs said. "They're really passionate about their athletes. You've got to love it, and you have to love the challenge that you have to persevere."

Sgt. 1st Class Downs was tentative early on and trailed 1-0 after the opening round.

"I was a little nervous and a little jittery in the first round," he admitted, a boxer in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.

Sgt. 1st Class Downs loosened up in the second round, scored with a couple of jabs, and took a 3-1 lead into the third.

"I didn't start to relax until the end of the second or well into the third round," he said. "He was a puncher and he was looking for one good shot."

Both boxers got busy during an entertaining third round and the bout was tied at 5 entering the final stanza.

Sgt. 1st Class Downs took the lead for good early in the fourth and closed with a flourish that forced Silva into a standing eight-count.

"I want to thank all the coaches who helped me get ready for this competition," said Sgt. 1st Class Downs, whose coaches here included All-Army coach Basheer Abdullah, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team's head boxing coach. "My cardio, legs and strength were all there for me and it was just a good victory for the USA.

"The game plan was just to box - to keep moving and keep him turning, which took me a little bit out of my offense," he continued. "I was basically on the defensive the whole time, looking to score points on the open shots, and make him pay when he missed.

"It was a great experience and I'm glad to be here," concluded Sgt. 1st Class Downs, 32, who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. "My ultimate goal is to make next year's U.S. Olympic team. The only person that can stop me is probably me. I can't believe the hype. I just have to stay grounded, stay focused, continue to train hard, and listen to my coaches."

(Tim Hipps writes for Family and Morale Recreation Command Public Affairs.)