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Invincible Savón savours another heavyweight gold

Félix Savón Getty
03 Aug 1996
Atlanta 1996, Olympic News, Boxing, Cuba

Cuba’s Félix Savón arrived in Atlanta surrounded by an aura of invincibility. The reigning Olympic heavyweight boxing champion had never been beaten in a major tournament. Blessed with huge natural talent, Savón married that with incredible power, fitness and tactical acumen, and it was hard to contemplate him failing to win gold again.

His rivals in Atlanta all appeared to embarking on mission impossible. First up to challenge him was Andrei Kurnyavka from Kyrgyzstan, who managed to go the distance with the Cuban but lost 9-3 on points. Next up was Sweden's Kwamena Turkson, who fared less well, with the referee stopping the contest within the first round.

Savón was by now in his element, and in the next round proceeded to thrash the unfortunate Giorgi Kandelaki of Georgia by 20-4. For the Georgian just getting to the end of the bout appeared to be the aim.

The semi-final against Germany’s Luan Krasniqi should have provided him with a far tougher challenge, but was actually a walkover. It meant that the Cuban had reached the final without really being stretched.

Up against him in the gold medal bout was Canada’s David Defiagbon, who had competed for Nigeria as a light-heavyweight four years earlier in Barcelona. Defiagbon had impressed in his semi-final, beating the USA’s Nate Jones, but he was to prove no match for Savón, who seemed able to hit his opponent at will. The Canadian spent almost all the bout on the back foot. He was forced to take two standing counts, and was eventually beaten on points by the massive margin of 20-2.

Savón had retained his title, and was acclaimed around the world. He won a third gold medal four years later in Sydney, and continued to reject all offers to turn professional. After completing his hat-trick of Olympic golds, he retired in 2000 at the age of 33, having won 362 fights and lost just 21.

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