BARCELONA '92 OLYMPICS : The First Round Appears Soft for U.S. Boxers

Oscar De La Hoya, the East Los Angeles lightweight who vowed in 1990 to win a gold medal at Barcelona for his dying mother, Cecilia, will make his Olympic debut Thursday.

At Saturday's pretournament draw, De La Hoya drew a preliminary round match with Brazilian Adilson Silva.

De La Hoya is in the bottom half of the lightweight bracket with a world-class Cuban, Julio Gonzalez. De La Hoya defeated Gonzalez a year ago on a close decision in a USA-Cuba tournament.

The prominent boxer in the upper half of the bracket is German Marco Rudolph, who decisioned De La Hoya at the World Championships in Sydney last year, 17-13, and went on to win the gold medal.

Light-flyweight Eric Griffin, the two-time world champion, will be the first American to box when he meets Fausto Mercedes of the Dominican Republic today.

Pepe Reilly, U.S. welterweight from Glendale, follows Griffin in the 61-bout opening session today, meeting Victor Baute of Spain.

Montell Griffin of Studio City drew France Mabiletsa of Botswana for a Wednesday match.

Generally, U.S. boxing officials seemed pleased with Saturday's draw.

Said U.S. Coach Joe Byrd: "I think it's appropriate that our team captain (Eric Griffin) get us off on the right foot. It'll really get the guys fired up to cheer on 'Lil' E' tomorrow."

Most of the U.S. boxers appeared to draw easy first-round opponents. Flyweight Tim Austin of Cincinnati drew no opponent. Of the 31 flyweights, he was the only one to draw a bye into the second round.

However, for some, more formidable opponents loom. Heavyweight Danell Nicholson of Chicago seemed to draw a soft touch in Paul Lawson of Great Britain in his first-round match, but then he probably will meet world champion Felix Savon of Cuba in the quarterfinals. Facing more difficult first-round bouts are featherweight Julian Wheeler and super-heavyweight Larry Donald, who drew opponents from the Commonwealth of Independent States. Wheeler will box Ramazi Paliani on Wednesday, and Donald will face Nikolai Kulpin on Monday.

Other U.S. first-round pairings:

Monday--Raul Marquez vs. David Dafiagbon, Nigeria, light-middleweights.

Tuesday--Sergio Reyes vs. Harold Ramirez, Puerto Rico, bantamweights; Chris Byrd vs. Mark Edwards, Great Britain, middleweights.

Thursday--Vernon Forrest vs. Peter Richardson, Great Britain, light-welterweights.

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