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BARCELONA '92 OLYMPICS : De La Hoya Provides Only Joy for the U.S. : Boxing: East L.A. lightweight easily defeats Nigerian. Reyes loses to North Korean, Reilly to Lithuanian.


BADALONA, Spain — On an otherwise disastrous Saturday for the American boxing team, lightweight Oscar De La Hoya of East Los Angeles cruised into the quarterfinals.

De La Hoya trailed awkward, left-handed Nigerian Moses Odion, 1-0, after a slow first round, then switched from boxing to punching and won, 16-4.

De La Hoya is one victory away from at least a bronze medal. To reach the semifinals, he has to beat Bulgarian Dimitrov Tontchev on Monday.

Before the Garfield High graduate's victory, the U.S. team had lost all three of its bouts. First, the U.S. team lost its gold-medal favorite at light-flyweight, Eric Griffin, then bantamweight Sergio Reyes and Glendale welterweight Pepe Reilly were sent packing. The Americans are 13-5 here.

Today, flyweight Tim Austin, the only American who has not boxed, will get his chance. Austin, who drew a first-round bye, will meet Bulgarian Julian Strogov. And light-middleweight Raul Marquez, who barely escaped defeat in the first round, will face Rival Cadeau of Seychelles.

Cuba won all three of its fights Saturday and is 17-1.

De La Hoya's opponent was tall, awkward, and couldn't punch. But he could run, and De La Hoya never did find him during the first round.

"I thought: 'Oh, no! First they stole one from Eric, and now this!' " De La Hoya said.

"But Coach (Joe) Byrd told me to go to right-hand leads, which is the way you fight any southpaw, and that's what I did. I got him with a lot of right-hand leads, and that's unusual for me, because I'm a knockout puncher with my left hook."

De La Hoya appeared to land two body punches during the first round, and the judges scored neither. He landed his first scoring right hand of the second a minute into the round, and it snapped Odion's head back.

After that, De La Hoya simply ran down his fleeing opponent and landed with his right. He had a 7-1 lead after two rounds and had Odion in serious difficulty twice during the third.

"All he had was a funny-looking left jab, one that I never saw before," De La Hoya said.

"I felt a lot of pressure. After Eric lost, I said to myself: 'You got to win-- yourself .' "

Reyes and Reilly were beaten by boxers presenting styles 180 degrees apart.

Reyes lost to North Korea's Li Gwang Sik, who had the edge in punching power from the opening minute. That was something of a surprise, because Reyes, a U.S. Marine from Ft. Worth, also is a brawler.

But this time, he met one who was quicker and stronger. Li's left uppercuts to Reyes' chin at close range were unerring.

Reyes made one desperate charge with 48 seconds left, when he landed a long right hand flush to the North Korean's face, but it was far too late.

"I knew he was going to be tough," Reyes said quietly. "I saw him box the other night. Every time I threw my right inside, he countered me with that uppercut. I guess he watched me, too."

Reilly had to deal with another left-handed Eastern European.

Vitalijus Karpaciauskas of Lithuania rendered Reilly tentative and uncertain from the outset, and when he surprised Reilly with a straight left midway through the first round, referee Renato Fortaleza of the Philippines gave Reilly a standing-eight count.

Reilly was countered almost every time he threw a straight right and took another standing-eight during the second.

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