My love of boxing began by watching the Olympics. My mother led the Olympic spirit in our household. As a Cuban-exile who left Havana for being too politically outspoken, it was not a surprise that she bragged about Cuba’s world-class boxers. Setting aside her Cuban pride, she shared stories of Teofilo Stevenson, who had won two gold medals by the time I first watched him in the1980 Olympics.
There are many thoughts on why the Cuban boxers are so successful. Cuba has won about 70 medals in boxing, 34 of them are gold. Cuban boxers follow a highly technical training experience, probably similar to other boxing programs. However, their consistent dominance demonstrates that they possess more than just a strong training ethic.
As I got a little older, a boxer by the name of Felix Savon captured my heart. Savon was another heavyweight (201lb) and is well known for dancing circles around Poland’s Andrew Golota winning the Junior World Championships in 1985. Savon captured three consecutive gold medals in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics. These events were magnificent. His amateur record was 362-21!
Savon is heralded as one of the best Olympic boxers of all time. Most boxing fans in my experience believe that Cuban boxers seem to possess a special pugilistic magic, but their admiration is often assigned an asterisk. Because Cuban boxers never go Pro, they continue aging in the sport, acquiring tremendous amateur experience and strength that gives them an advantage when facing fresh fighters. For example, Savon has beat David Tua, Lamont Brewster, and Shannon Briggs. Briggs lost to Savon when he was 18 years old, whereas Savon was 10 years his senior.
Take a look at this highlight reel of Felix Savon, whose footwork inspires me considering he is 6’5. Notice how he throws his combinations leading to a set up where he bats down the lead arm of the opponent, setting up an overhand right.