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A case of setting them up for the kill
Tex Maule
September 09, 1974
Hospitable old Havana opened its heart to the fighters in town for the first world amateur championships—feted them, fed them well, and then the Cubans danced off with most of the gold medals, cha-cha-cha
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September 09, 1974

A Case Of Setting Them Up For The Kill

Hospitable old Havana opened its heart to the fighters in town for the first world amateur championships—feted them, fed them well, and then the Cubans danced off with most of the gold medals, cha-cha-cha

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One of the five judges was a Russian. Normally, in a fight as close as this, the Russian vote would automatically have gone to the Cuban. But Russia and Cuba were in their tight contest for the team championship, and the Russian voted for Davis, giving him a 3-2 decision over Alvarez to the whistled dismay of the crowd. Although the judging by and large was good, it was sometimes more political than even-handed.

Meanwhile, Stevenson, who is considered to be the best amateur heavyweight in the world, won his semifinal easily. But Fatai Ayinla, a 37-year-old Nigerian heavyweight who has been fighting for 22 years and is one of the coaches of his national team, lasted the entire three rounds and at times made Stevenson look confused and uncertain.

Ayinla is a square, rather pudgy lefthander who moves around the ring about as gracefully as a dancing bear. But he has had more than 200 amateur bouts and has never been knocked off his feet.

Stevenson boxed him almost contemptuously in the first round, then spent the second and third doing his utmost to knock Ayinla out. The ungainly-looking Nigerian, lumbering as fast as he could and retaliating at times with a slow, swinging charge of his own, took an occasional hard right to the head, but none of them made him blink. He was carried out of the arena in triumph by his countrymen after the decision, grinning broadly and waving. Later, at his delayed dinner, he was still smiling. "Never, at no time, was I hurt," he said. "But now it is done, now I am through with the fighting. Now I am coach."

When the fighting was all over, one could not help but be impressed with the Cuban team. They were easily the best-conditioned athletes at the meet, and they fought with patriotic fervor. Castro sat at ringside to congratulate each of the Cuban winners personally, and he even put his arms around Jorge Romero, a Cuban loser, to console him.

The Russians had expected to win the tournament but, ironically, they encountered a revolution. Certainly they could have seen it coming: outside the coliseum entrance, in three-foot-high neon letters, is a sign that reads, "Revolutions, in this moment of history, on this continent, are inevitable."

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