Griffin, Reilly ring up first victories U.S. boxers advance in easy openers

July 27, 1992|By Earl Gustkey | Earl Gustkey,Times Mirror Olympic Staff

BADALONA, Spain -- The United States boxing team put together an Olympic Games winning streak of of two yesterday, with Eric Griffin and Pepe Reilly winning handily in the tournament's first session.

On a day when a crowd of about 1,500 in the Joventut Pavilion included African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela and pro heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, the U.S. team improved markedly on the first-day performance of the 1988 team.

On Day 1 in Seoul, South Korea, four summers ago, gold-medal pick Kelcie Banks was knocked unconscious with one punch, thrown by an unknown Dutchman, Rogelio Tuur.

"It's great to get off to a 2-0 start, it could be a momentum-builder," said Jim Fox, executive director of USA Boxing.

"I said Eric would get us off to a great start by winning, and that's what he did today," U.S. coach Joe Byrd said.

Griffin, 24, the two-time world champion at light flyweight from Broussard, La., chased Fausto Mercedes of the Dominican Republic all over the ring and won a 14-2 decision.

Reilly, 20, a welterweight from Glendale, Calif., stopped an outclassed Spaniard, Victor Baute, but got a swollen left eye in the process.

The United States can boost its mark to 3-0 today, when light middleweight Raul Marquez looms as a lopsided pick over a Nigerian, David Defiagbon.

Yesterday morning's first session was noteworthy on two counts:

* It marked the first appearance in an Olympic boxing tournament since 1960 by a South African boxer. That attracted Mandela, who watched light-flyweight Fana Thwala, who is black, lose a 9-0 decision to Spain's Rafael Lozano.

* The Day 1 bouts were the first ever in the Olympics to be scored with computers, as will all 327 bouts of the tournament.

Griffin, a 106-pound slugger his teammates call "Lil' E," used all the skills that have kept him ranked the world's No. 1-ranked light flyweight since 1989, when he won his first world title in Moscow. He is America's best hope for a gold medal.

He cut off the ring on Mercedes throughout the bout, and once he found the range on his opponent, he took his legs away with unrelenting pressure.

Mercedes' offense consisted of occasional left jabs, most of which missed.

By the second round, the few American spectators in the crowd started a "U-S-A! . . . U-S-A!" chant, knowing the magnificently conditioned Griffin was in command.

A feature of the new computer scoring that will be used for these games: Judges' scores are posted after each round. Griffin had a 3-0 leadafter the first.

"It was pretty easy. He was hard to hit because he didn't want much of me," Griffin said. "My conditioning was good. . . . We've been training hard for two months, and it paid off."

Reilly was up against a hostile crowd in his debut. He was beating Baute, a Spaniard, handily from the outset.

Reilly was up 12-1 after one round and 18-6 after two. Reilly is a long-armed, awkward boxer with a big punch. His best shot yesterday was a right uppercut with one minute left in the second that caught Baute on the chin and staggered him.

When Filipino referee Reyaldo Fortaleza gave Baute a standing-eight count with 1:10 left, it seemed as if the end was near for Baute. Confusion reigned nine seconds later, when Fortaleza unexpectedly stopped the match. Byrd said Baute had cursed the referee at the point of stoppage and that Fortaleza had disqualified him.

"The referee stopped it because Baute had taken a lot of blows to the head," said Jerry Dusenberry, the only U.S. referee/judge working the tournament.

Actually, Byrd and assistant coach Osmar Analiz were concerned about Reilly's left eye. It was swelling rapidly in the third round. Reilly said later that he had difficulty seeing Baute's third-round punches.

Both coaches said Reilly should be ready to box his quarterfinal opponent, Viatalijus Karpaciauskas of Lithuania, on Sunday.

Griffin will fight Lozano, also Sunday.

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