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THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 12 : Boxing : U.S. Has Chance to Equal ’76 Medal Haul

Times Staff Writer

Heavyweight Ray Mercer became the sixth United States boxer to reach the medal round of the Olympic tournament Wednesday when he stopped Italy’s Luigi Gaudiano in the first round.

The victory by the 27-year-old Mercer completed a three-bout U.S. sweep of Wednesday’s morning’s quarterfinals session and improved the Americans’ overall record to 24-4.

“I couldn’t be happier, our kids have done a great job,” said Ken Adams, the U.S. head coach.

At Thursday morning’s first semifinals session, three Americans can advance to gold medal bouts--light-flyweight Michael Carbajal, lightweight Romallis Ellis and light-heavyweight Andrew Maynard.

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Thursday’s semifinals bouts, with the losers guaranteed at least bronze medals, are as follows:

106 pounds--Carbajal vs. Robert Isaszegi (Hungary).

119--Kennedy McKinney vs. Phajol Moolsan (Thailand).

132--Romallis Ellis vs. Andreas Zuelow (East Germany).

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147--Ken Gould vs. Laurent Boudouani (France).

175--Andrew Maynard vs. Henryk Petrich (Poland).

201--Ray Mercer vs. Arnold Vanderlijde (the Netherlands).

No one is predicting that the United States will match its 1976 haul of five gold medals in Montreal, but that figure is attainable in the finals Saturday and Sunday.

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The nine gold medals won in Los Angeles in 1984 is out of reach, but hopes that this team would challenge the Sugar Ray Leonard-led 1976 team soared Wednesday morning after Mercer flattened Gaudiano with three consecutive right hands late in the first round.

Mercer was impressive Wednesday, unlike his tournament debut Monday against Czechoslovakia’s Rudolf Gavenciak. Mercer stopped the Czech, but looked like a wild man in the process.

On Wednesday, he was all discipline. His power and pace were measured, and he delivered his punches off his left jab in textbook fashion.

“Today, I just wanted to box,” he said. “If I was going to get a chance any time in the tournament to work on my boxing skills, this was the guy. He was short, and he came straight in on me. Everything I did today came off the jab.

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“The coaches told me the same thing the last time, but I didn’t listen. I’d been waiting over a week to box, and I was over-anxious.”

The 6-foot 1-inch Mercer will need all his skills in his fight with the 6-7 Vanderlijde, known as “The Towering Tulip.”

Vanderlijde always seems to be in the medal round, but has never won the big one. A pure boxer with a superb left jab, he was a bronze medal winner in 1984 and a silver medalist at the 1986 world championships.

On Wednesday, he was a 5-0 winner over Hungary’s Gyula Alvics.

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McKinney, who scored a 5-0 victory, did not seem surprised at the narrow margin of his win over Kenyan Stephen Mwema.

Judges from Thailand and Uruguay scored it for McKinney by only 59-58 margins in a bout McKinney appeared to control. McKinney’s other winning margins were 60-56 (East Germany), 60-57 (Sweden) and 59-57 (Iraq).

“I didn’t think it was close at all,” McKinney said, “but I don’t care if they give it to me by only a tenth of a point, so long as they raise my hand.”

Many of the boxers from African countries have shown excellent athletic ability here, but have lost due to poor physical conditioning. Not Mwema.

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The 25-year-old Kenyan fought hard for 3 minutes, every round. McKinney seemed to simply out-number him with scoring blows on virtually every exchange. If Mwema landed two punches in a flurry, McKinney landed three.

McKinney’s semifinal opponent, Thailand’s Phajol Moolsan, defeated Mongolia’s Nyamaa Altankhuyag, 5-0.

Gould ran up against a tough Finn, Joni Nyman, and emerged with a 5-0 decision in what was easily Wednesday morning’s least-interesting bout.

The two athletes seemed to cancel each other’s skills. Both were quick afoot, had good hand speed, and spent much of the time charging straight into each other, into clinches.

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Gould finished strongly, however, catching Nyman with a long right to the jaw with 30 seconds left. And as the last bell sounded, Gould knocked the Finn’s mouthpiece halfway across the ring with another right to the chin.

A Japanese judge scored it for Gould by only a point, 59-58, but the other four judges had Gould winning by at least three points.

Gould next meets Laurent Boudouani of France, instead of South Korea’s Song Kyung Sup, beaten 3-2 by the French boxer.

“I’m disappointed,” Gould said. “I wanted to show the world I could keep the South Korean off balance, to show he’s not of my caliber. Instead, I guess I get a rematch.”

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At the Reno world championships in 1986, Gould scored a 4-1 decision over Boudouani in the quarterfinals.

On Tuesday night, meanwhile, Todd Foster, the light-welterweight who had to box twice in an unprecedented Sunday night session, ran out of miracles, losing, 3-2, to Australian Grahame Cheney. There were no complaints in the interview room. Some Americans saw it as a 5-0 win for the Australian.

Foster, denied entry to the medal round, went out in tears, his face buried in a bloody towel.

“He was tough,” Foster said, his voice breaking.

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“He made adjustments, and I didn’t. Yeah, it was tough, having to box twice Sunday. It might have taken something out of me. . . . I wanted that gold medal so bad .”


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