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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Unsung, but U.S. Also Unbeaten

Boxing: Terrance Cauthen and Albert Guardado score victories to keep winning streak (4-0) alive.

July 22, 1996|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Up early, in bed on time and winning.

Lightweight Terrance Cauthen and light-flyweight Albert Guardado kept the American Olympic winning streak alive Sunday, chopping their way through the first-round of boxing competition Sunday in vastly different manners.

With one-third of the first round completed, the U.S. is four for four in the Games, and two other Americans have first-round byes--which means that half this unsung team is only two victories away from the medal rounds.

"I think our team is sending a message out," U.S. assistant coach Jesse Ravelo said.

The message is clear, and in vivid contrast to the U.S. team's dismal--and undisciplined--performance four years ago in Barcelona, when the Americans won only three medals, and only Oscar De La Hoya won gold.

This year's team, unlike the 1992 squad, spent a long, hot 3 1/2 months in camp together and, despite some carping from the fighters, even in Atlanta has kept to a tough regimen of early-morning runs and no-excuses curfews.

"The '92 team was a very talented team, and we learned a lot of things from that event," said assistant coach Patrick Burns. "The guys are getting up early to run, we've got curfews. . . . We're staying hard on them.

"We've kept the distractions to a minimum, as hard as it is with family, promoters around, but we've kept their heads in perspective."

Cauthen, who turned in the U.S. team's most impressive performance so far by dancing and flurrying his way to an 18-6 victory over Mahamatodkir Abdullaev of Uzbekistan, said the coaches' hard rules have kept the fighters focused.

"When I saw 3 1/2 months of camp, I thought, 'Whoa, 3 1/2 months?' But the 3 1/2 months has paid off," said Cauthen, a graceful left-hander from Philadelphia who is married and has two children.

"The coaches are always on us, but that's helped us, and it's showing."

The U.S. coaches did not hide the fact that Cauthen, 20, was the one American who needed the most work during camp and showed obvious pleasure when he outclassed his opponent Sunday.

But Cauthen was never in trouble, zigging and zagging his way around the ring, then flying at Abdullaev for scoring swoops.

"To tell you the truth, the guy we were worried about most was Terrance," Burns said. "He had a slow camp, he was slow starting."

The fight was decided at the end of the first round, when, in the quickest flash of American scoring so far, Cauthen stopped moving and erupted with a dozen unanswered shots--turning a 4-2 lead into an 8-2 runaway.

"It was really fun," Cauthen said. "I opened it up a little, but just a little. I haven't opened it all up yet. Watch me next week and you'll see."

Both Cauthen and Guardado, who jumped to an 11-5 lead against Modiradilo Healer of Botswana then almost let it slip away with several careless moments in the third round, said they wanted to make sure they weren't the first American to lose.

"The guys who went before me, they're all looking very impressive," Cauthen said. "I didn't want to be the one left out. I wanted to show that I was right there with them, you know, 'Don't worry, I'm coming, I'm coming. . . .' "

Said Guardado, who is from Topeka, Kan.: "You definitely don't want to be the first one to lose. These first fights show that we're going to give the world a run for its money."

Guardado, 23, one of the U.S. team's most experienced fighters internationally, built a 4-1 lead after the first round, but said that he got tired late in the third.

Guardado had to endure a several-minute delay before the bout began, when his headgear was ruled to be unacceptable, even though it had an International Amateur Boxing Assn. stamp on it.

The fighters aren't allowed to put their headgear on until they are in the ring, which meant that Guardado had to stand and wait in the ring until suitable headgear could be retrieved.

"I had the right person to handle it," said U.S. Coach Al Mitchell. "I had Albert. He's seasoned, he doesn't panic too much, he had no problem with it. One of the younger guys might have just lost it.

"They said it was bad headgear. If they do it, they should do it back where we put our gloves on, not when he's in the ring right before the fight."

Two Americans fight in tonight's session: featherweight Floyd Mayweather fights Bakhtiyar Tileganaov of Kazakhstan, and middleweight Rhoshii Wells faces Sefid Dashti Mollal of Iran. Wells received good news when it was announced his draw was incorrect. Instead of having to face Cuban star Ariel Hernandez in the second round, Wells can only face him in the medal rounds.

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