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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | BOXING

U.S. Boxers Regroup, Send Three Teammates to Quarterfinals

July 27, 1996|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — It was Retrenchment Friday, a time for the conspiracy theories and communist plots to be put aside, and the U.S. boxing team to go about the business of actually winning fights.

The new American credo? The scoring system is what it is, so get used to it.

A day after dropping two disputed bouts, lightweight Terrance Cauthen, light-flyweight Albert Guardado and middleweight Rhoshii Wells fought smart, ducked out of trouble when they could and danced their way to the quarterfinals.

Also Friday, the Cubans suffered their first two losses.

Lose and learn.

Seven days and 200-plus fights into this tournament, and especially after Oxnard welterweight Fernando Vargas' decision loss Thursday, there are no real secrets on the Alexander Memorial Coliseum floor--other than, how come Bruce Willis got an official pass and Shaquille O'Neal didn't?

"The farther we go, the better our guys are getting," U.S. Coach Al Mitchell said. "They're understanding what the system is about, and what they have to do to win."

So are the U.S. coaches. That's why they figured the Olympic judges would reward Cauthen over valor and instructed the 20-year-old Philadelphian to scramble around the ring to protect a one-point lead in the final 40 seconds against Trmentsetsec Ultumen of Mongolia.

"We know the score," said U.S. assistant coach Jesse Ravelo, acknowledging that the U.S. corner is signaled from parts of the arena where the score flashes on TV screens. "It's no mystery. Everybody out there knows the score. Yeah, we knew he was one point ahead and we told him to run. There's no reason to jeopardize the fight."

Cauthen, who blasted his first-round opponent, drew loud boos from the crowd during his dancing act Friday, then was booed again when the 10-9 decision was announced.

After building a five-point lead midway through the second round with the same kind of hurry-and-flurry moves that were so crowd-pleasing in his earlier fight, Cauthen got slammed with a double left hook that left him tumbling forward onto the Mongolian.

When Ultumen pulled away, Cauthen fell to his knees, but the referee did not rule it a knockdown. Still, for the rest of the bout, at the urging of his corner as the score narrowed from 9-6 to 10-8 to 10-9 late in the third, Cauthen ran.

'Yeah, he rocked me, I can't lie," Cauthen said. "I recuperated, but I had to box smarter, and that's what I did. I got caught, and from then on, I had to box.

"If I hadn't boxed him, you've got to understand that I might not have been here right now. I'm telling you, I may have been in a hospital. Nobody said getting the gold medal was going to be easy."

Said Mitchell: "Ten years from now, if Terrance wins the gold medal, nobody is going to remember Joe Blow from China, they're going to remember Terrance Cauthen. The whole thing is about getting the gold, and if it gets the gold, you won't remember any of these bouts."

In Guardado's much-neater 9-4 victory over Anicet Rasonnaivo of Madagascar, Guardado, from Topeka, Kan., controlled the fight with his jab, began pounding to the body, then opened up for clean scoring shots to the head.

Wells, meanwhile, started hitting Brazilian Ricardo Rodriguez with a sweeping right hand, and never stopped, pounding his way to a 16-2 victory during the night session. On the heels of his 24-7 first-round victory, Wells, a former resident of Riverside who lives now in the Atlanta area and was considered the United States' worst medal hope before the Games, continued his emergence.

"Everybody was dogging me coming in here, saying I wouldn't win one fight," Wells said. "Now I know nobody can beat me."

The three victories gave the U.S. team a 13-3 record in the Games.

Meanwhile, the Cubans' 13-fight win streak ended when light-flyweight Yosvani Aguilera was thrashed by Mansueto Velasco of the Philippines, 14-5, followed quickly by two-time Pan Am Games lightweight gold medalist Juan Gonzalez losing a 9-3 decision to Georgian Koba Gogoladze. Middleweight superstar Ariel Hernandez ended the Cuban slide late Friday with an easy victory.

But, this being the Olympics, and boxing, even on this calm day, a little controversy had to rain down. The U.S. team has become increasingly frustrated by NBC's lack of prime-time coverage, and Friday, Mitchell produced his sharpest barbs.

"I believe deep in my heart, if I had one white kid on my team that was outstanding, it would be a different story," Mitchell said. "Even in Philadelphia, if you have a white kid, you draw the media."

Today, super-heavyweight Lawrence Clay-Bey, a solid medal contender, makes his first appearance, facing highly regarded Ukrainian Vladimir Klichko. Also in the day session, middleweight David Reid faces Czech Pavol Polakovic and at night, featherweight Floyd Mayweather meets Armenian Artur Gevorgyan.

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