Boxer Felix Savón signs off in Sydney with another fistful of gold
Felix Savón once more made his mark in the boxing ring at Sydney 2000, becoming only the third boxer in history to win a third consecutive Olympic title.
Regarded as one of the greatest amateur heavyweights of his time and an undisputed star of Cuba’s famed boxing scene, Felix Savón travelled to Sydney 2000 in search of a third straight Olympic heavyweight title.
After making his international debut in the mid-1980s, Savón when on to win six world titles between 1986 and 1997.
The first of his Olympic gold medals came at Barcelona 1992, where he capped a flawless campaign with an emphatic 14-1 defeat of Nigeria’s David Izonritei in the final.
Standing 1.98m tall and weighing 90kg, Savón then wreaked havoc with his reach, technique and powerful right hand in Atlanta four years later, outclassing Canada’s David Defiagbon 20-2 in the gold-medal bout.
Savón had a record to set straight when he arrived in Sydney. At the previous year’s amateur world championships in Houston (USA), he had been due to fight home boxer Michael Bennett in the heavyweight final only to concede the fight when the entire Cuba team withdrew from the competition in protest at a decision that had gone against one of their boxers.
Savón finally came face to face with the American in the ring in the quarter-finals in Sydney, having earlier disposed of Nigeria’s Rasmus Ojemaye with a second-round RSC victory.
Joining the Olympic greats
“It’s going to be a great battle between two warriors,” said Bennett ahead of the eagerly awaited bout. As it turned out, however, the American barely landed a punch on his elusive opponent. After taking a 7-2 lead in the first round, the 33-year-old Savón poured on the style in the second and third and had built up a commanding 23-8 advantage by the time the referee called a halt to the fight with three seconds remaining.
The two-time reigning Olympic champion was made to work slightly harder by Germany’s Sebastian Köber in the semi-final, the Cuban recording a 14-8 win but not without his opponent inflicting a cut on him below the left eye.
That injury was Savón’s biggest concern going into the final against Russia’s Sultanahmed Ibzagimov. Yet though the cut reopened during the gold-medal bout, prompting fears that Australian referee Wayne Rose might stop the contest, the Cuban champion went on to record a relatively comfortable 21-13 win.
After equalling the feat of his compatriot Teofilo Stevenson (an Olympic heavyweight champion at Munich 1972, Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980) and Hungary’s Laszlo Papp (a middleweight gold medallist at London 1948, Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956), the great Savón retired from the ring with a career record that read 362 wins in 383 fights.
In the years that followed, Savón turned down a number of big-money offers to turn professional and fight the undisputed world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Explaining his reasons for resisting that temptation, the Cuban idol said: “I wouldn’t swap the love and affection of my people for all the money in the world.”
Savón has remained very much involved in the sport he loves, taking on the job of coaching the Cuban national team shortly after hanging up his gloves.