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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Spotlight

Hitting Below The Belt

A look at the day that was and at what lies ahead at the Summer Games

July 31, 1996|TIM KAWAKAMI

The punch was low, but not that low, according to French heavyweight Christophe Mendy.

And the flopping and floundering done by the recipient of the low shot, Canada's David Defiagbon, was plain disgusting, said a furious Mendy, the one man given a realistic chance of dethroning defending heavyweight gold medalist Felix Savon of Cuba.

Mendy, the No. 2-ranked amateur in the world, behind Savon, was disqualified Tuesday afternoon when, during an exchange in the third round, the Frenchman threw a hard shot that struck Defiagbon's lower regions.

Defiagbon, who surprisingly was ahead at the time, 10-9, collapsed to the floor, claiming that Mendy hit him in the groin, though TV replays showed otherwise.

"Everyone could see that my adversary was faking it and making a show of the whole thing," Mendy said through an interpreter. "I hit him on the thigh."

His face in apparent agony as he crawled around the ring, the Canadian, flanked by his coaches, said he could not continue--and was given the automatic victory over Mendy.

"I could tell that my adversary was tired, the round was going well--until he got the blow on the thigh," Mendy said.

Defiagbon limped to the center of the ring--with one hand down his pants--for the referee's traditional arm-raising to signify victory. Afterward, Mendy, who refused to shake the Canadian's hand, lingered in the ring for several minutes.

"My coaches asked me to stay in the ring until the last moment," Mendy said.

And what would he say to Defiagbon if he could?

"I would tell him that it is not a proud thing," Mendy said. "It's shameful this would happen."

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