- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Like Ali, Biggs can float like a butterfly—but unfortunately he also stings like one. Plus, he lacks the confidence most champions have. "I feel I probably can beat any super-heavyweight in the world," Biggs said last week. Or: "I am probably the greatest."
Against the 6'1", 220-pound Damiani, a shaggy-haired brawler who has a Kirk Douglas chin and the nose of his favorite heavyweight, Gerry Cooney, Biggs jabbed effectively and made Damiani miss. Yet the crowd of 6,403 applauded Damiani and booed Biggs when the 4-1 decision was announced. Perhaps the knockout-hungry L.A. fans, accustomed as they are to pro fights, were unfamiliar with the tactics and scoring employed in amateur boxing, which stresses the number—not necessarily the power—of punches landed.
Biggs was more hurt by the booing than by Damiani's punches. "What do they want from me?" he said. "I fought my fight. I don't want to make this a racial thing.... Maybe they just didn't enjoy the fight."
The boxers enjoyed Los Angeles. They stayed at the well-appointed Century Plaza Hotel and trained at a new high-tech gym off Sunset Strip called Quest-star. Actor Gene Hackman, who took a break from his own workout to watch the U.S. team train, was immediately spotted by Womack, who called out to the villain of Superman, "Lex Luthor! How you doin'?" The Italians took especial joy in the place, kissing the hands of skimpily Danskinned women. Chianese, whose training habits are a standing joke in the Italian contingent, even participated in an aerobics class before quitting in frustration after less than a minute.
Whitaker might have felt inclined to do the same against Goire. "He gave me the worst two rounds of my life," said Whitaker, a brash southpaw who has beaten Cuba's two-time Olympic champ, Angel Herrera, in each of their last four meetings. In the third round the boxers slugged for an extra 10 seconds because the bell was drowned out by the cheering. Before the fight Whitaker had said, "I'm looking for a standing ovation," and after his 3-2 decision, he got it.
Breland, whom Steward calls "the most talented boxer I've ever worked with," scored a 5-0 decision over iron-jawed Luciano Bruno. More significant, Breland suffered no pain in his right hand, which was operated on last June to repair a damaged tendon.
Womack, who had split with Romero in two previous fights, decided in the first round that this night the two-time world champion "was an impostor, and I had to get him out of there." A perfect Womack right put down Romero, who spars with Stevenson. After a wobbly Romero took a standing eight count and was knocked down again, the referee stopped the bout. "Continuing would have been very, very damaging to his health," Womack said.
Injuries clearly concern Stevenson, who, in one of the few definitive statements he made last week, said, "I have my health. Everything else is secondary." The only thing that got as much as a rise out of him was the cumulative effect of repeated questions about his chances for the fourth gold. Finally relenting, Stevenson said, "I've always believed I can do it. And I will do it." Now, Tyrell, you know what the pats were about.