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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Reid Scores a Knockout of a Finish

Boxing: Well behind on points, he stuns Cuba's Duvergel to get only U.S. gold.

August 05, 1996|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — With a sudden right-hand flash and a toppling crash, in the last round of the last day, David Reid hit gold.

In an epic finale to an otherwise troubled two weeks for U.S. boxing, this was a bout that blended desperation, transcendent luck, pure power and a timely touch of light-middleweight magic.

Hours before the Olympic torch was officially doused Sunday, Reid performed his own closing ceremonies.

"Was that an ending? Was that an ending?" said U.S. Coach Al Mitchell, who has been a mentor and second father to Reid since he was 10.

Trailing so badly (16-6) in the third round that a decision victory was out of the question, Reid absorbed a hard left, then threw a savage, short overhand right that caught Cuban Alfredo Duvergel near the right eye and knocked him to his hands and knees.

"I was going for the home run," Reid said. "He hit me hard a couple times. I said to myself, 'All you need is to get one in.' "

Said Mitchell: "I told him, 'Forget about trying to outbox him, go for the knockout. You can't beat him any other way.' "

Duvergel landed at Reid's feet, and Reid bolted for a neutral corner, collapsing to his knees for one instant in relief and happiness.

Bulgarian referee Simeon Stojadinov counted to nine as Duvergel teetered back to the canvas, regained his balance, then scrambled to his feet.

"And after that overhand right landed, it was like it was in slow motion to me," said U.S. assistant coach Pat Burns. "I'll tell you, that was the longest eight count we have ever been through in our lives."

With Duvergel clearly wavering on his feet, Stojadinov stopped the fight 35 seconds into the third round, giving the U.S. team its only gold.

Duvergel screamed a complaint, but still was not steady on his feet minutes after the knockout. It was the only stoppage of the tournament's gold-medal round.

"I couldn't think of a better way for this to end," Mitchell said. "This erases all the bad things that I thought happened to us at the Olympics, all the bad breaks I thought we got.

"The biggest break I ever got in my life was Dave's right hand. And for all the people to do it, it was my son."

It was an ending that will go down in Olympic boxing lore. It triggered a whispered salute from Muhammad Ali, who was at ringside, and had Reid, a 22-year-old from Philadelphia, dazed.

He was one of the low-profile Americans coming into these Games, the coach's favorite, a quiet kid with sizzling hand speed.

"I think I'm going to wait until I get into my room alone and jump as high as I can, probably right through the ceiling," said Reid, who pulled out a flag on the podium as he received his gold medal, and waved it wildly before the national anthem was played.

Right after the fight, after he took a bouncy victory lap on the floor of Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Ali waved him over, then whispered in his ear.

"He said, "You're a baa-aad boy,' " Reid said.

Reid's victory prevented the U.S. team from being shut out of gold for the first time since 1948, a statistic that was not lost on the coaching staff. Overall, the U.S. claimed five bronzes and Reid's gold, double the 1992 Barcelona total of three medals.

As Reid came out tentatively, letting Duvergel's left score again and again in the early moments, 1948 seemed not far away at all.

"I told him an hour before the fight that you don't want to box him, you've got to get inside," Mitchell said. "But he was nervous in the ring, and from the first punch he did almost everything wrong."

After the first round, Duvergel led, 7-5. After a blistering second round, in which the Cuban outscored Reid, 8-0, and triggered a Reid standing eight count, it was 15-5 and things were bleak.

Reid headed back to the American corner frustrated and tired.

"I was down for a second," Reid said, "but then I heard from Pat [Burns], and he said I could still win. And Al just told me, 'You've got to meet his straight left with your right. You can do it.'

"That got my spirit up, and I told myself that this is not the end of it. Anything can happen in the third."

Anything did. Right off the bat, Duvergel abandoned the usual Cuban style of circling away with a big lead, and came right back at Reid. Fifteen seconds into the round, Reid followed the instructions and sent Duvergel two steps backward with a quick right.

"I saw Duvergel getting cocky at the end of the second round," U.S. assistant Jesse Ravelo said. "And I thought that if he does the same thing in the third, he could be in trouble, because David's got power.

"I don't think Duvergel made that decision. I think the corner wanted him to take David out to prove a point, and that's the biggest mistake I've ever seen [Cuban Coach Alcides] Sagarra make."

Duvergel was wounded, but stayed in front of Reid, and popped in another hard left hand to bring his lead to 16-6 before the thunder struck. Duvergel leaned in one more time, and never got back out.

"I remember him coming at me throwing the straight left, because he'd been throwing that hard straight left all bout long," Reid said. "He threw the straight left this time, and I just went for it. And I turned around, and he was down.

"When I saw him trying to get back up and fall back down again, I knew he was hurt."

And out, the late but great Olympic boxing finale.

The U.S. bronze medalists were Floyd Mayweather at 125 pounds, Terrance Cauthen (132), Rhoshii Wells (165), Antonio Tarver (178) and Nate Jones (201).

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