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Cuban Savon Struggles, but Is a Winner in Opening Bout

ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

July 22, 1996|TIM KAWAKAMI

ATLANTA — Heavyweight Felix Savon, the pride and power of the Cuban boxing team, won his opening bout in decidedly unspectacular fashion early Sunday morning at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Amid rumbling that the Cuban fighting machine is slackening in depth and quality, Savon, a five-time world champion and 1992 gold-medal winner who is used to winning by commanding scores, was tied, 1-1, after the first round with Andrei Kumyavka of Kyrgyzstan.

Savon looked sluggish and couldn't land his bread-and-butter overhand right against the plodding Kumyavka early on, but cracked one right-hand blast to open the second, causing the referee to give a standing eight count.

A couple more flurries, and Savon was up, 6-3, after the second round. He won, 9-3, but never truly was in command.

Is this a sign that Savon, the dominant amateur of his time, and the rest of the Cubans are not up to their nine-gold-medal performance of 1992?

"The system is still the same as always," said U.S. assistant coach Jesse Ravelo. "It's just that their fighters are getting older. They're still a threat no matter what, but I think they do it with intimidation more than anything else."

Savon is not speaking to the media.

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