Tuesday, September 19|
Cuban boxer already thinking about 2004
The tall, power-punching teen-ager caused a stir, but the star
of the 1986 world championships was Teofilo Stevenson, a Cuban
boxer of mythic proportions.
Stevenson, in the autumn of his career, won the super
heavyweight title at those world championships in Reno, Nev., for
his third world title to go along with three Olympic gold medals.
Felix Savon, Stevenson's 18-year-old teammate, won the
heavyweight gold medal that year, and firmly established himself as
one of the sport's top amateurs.
Fourteen years later, Savon will attempt to match Stevenson's
Olympic achievement next month.
Savon is "The Man" in the world of amateur boxing, a role he
has played for almost a decade and a part he has relished. Not only
does Savon match Stevenson in right-hand punching power, he rivals
him in arrogance.
There is a scene in S.L. Price's book about Cuban sports,
"Pitching Around Fidel," in which a 14-year-old member of a
boxing academy meets his hero.
"I wish I could inject you with my blood, so you could be like
me," the youngster was told by Savon, who besides the two Olympic
gold medals has won five world titles and three Pan American Games
When the subject of the 2000 Olympics came up, Savon, usually
uncooperative with journalists who are not Cuban, told Price, "I'm
not even worried about 2000. I'm thinking about Athens in 2004."
Both Stevenson, who retired in 1988, and Savon missed the 1984
and '88 Olympics because of Cuban boycotts. Stevenson won golds at
the 1972, '76 and '80 games. The only other Olympic triple champion
is Lazlo Papp of Hungary, a winner at 165 pounds in 1948 and at 156
There are signs that the Savon who will go to Sydney is not the
fighter who won his second Olympic gold medal in the 201-pound
class four years ago at Atlanta.
In 1997, he was stopped in a bout in Cuba by Juan Carlos Delis
and he lost a 14-4 decision to Ruslan Chagaev of Uzbekistan in the
final at the world championships that year.
He also reportedly was knocked out in Cuba early this year and
he squeaked by 4-3 in the final at the Cuban Olympic trials.
When Stevenson's right-hand power began to fade, he could still
rely on his boxing ability. Savon does not have that kind of
ability, which could hurt him in Sydney.
If he connects with an opponent, however, boxing ability means
In the final at the 1998 Goodwill Games, Savon knocked out
DaVarryl Williamson of Aurora, Ill., with one punch 55 seconds into
In Sydney, Savon could meet Chagaev again or Michael Bennett of
Chicago. He evened the score with Chagaev by outpointing him in the
world championship quarterfinals last year.
He was to fight Bennett in a bid for a sixth world title at
those championships in Houston, but he refused to enter the ring
for the final in protest over a decision that went against a Cuban
boxer in an earlier bout.
Savon, one of five children whose father was a bricklayer, was
born in Guantanamo, about 11 miles from the U.S. naval base.
Before he took up boxing at 13 years old, Savon was to enter the
Cuban sports machine as a rower.
It's a cliché, but Felix Savon took to boxing like a duck to