July 31, 1996
Low point of games
PROTESTS FLY AS CANADA'S DEFIAGBON GIVEN WIN FOR OPPONENT'S BELT BLOW
By STEVE SIMMONS -- At The Olympics
ATLANTA -- A policeman stood guard by the door. Men wearing the colors of France were screaming in anger. Emotions ranged from disgust to confusion to suspicion.
There was no time for celebration.
This was the scene after Canada won its first boxing medal of the Olympic Games, a medal surrounded by questions, tensions and accusations.
And security was needed after the fight just to keep one boxer away from the other.
David Defiagbon, the heavyweight who left Nigeria for Halifax, had his hand raised in victory, assuring him of at least a bronze medal, a medal won yesterday afternoon by disqualification.
An apparent low blow thrown by Christophe Mendy of France sent Defiagbon reeling to the canvas in severe pain. Several minutes later, when Defiagbon couldn't continue, referee Abduk Samad disqualified Mendy and the Canadian advanced in the heavyweight division.
The French team delivered a tape of the fight and a written protest to officials last night, claiming Defiagbon could have continued. Mendy was stomping around defiantly and near tears just minutes after the bout.
"If I am David, I have a big problem with my conscience," Mendy said through an interpreter. "It's shameful. He was afraid. This is not a proud thing.
"On the video you see it, the punch was on the hip ... I've worked six years of my life for this. For what? It's all a waste."
Defiagbon, who was a significant underdog coming into the fight, trailed early in the bout but came back in the second and third rounds to take a 10-9 lead in the computer scoring. It was then, with 1:59 left in the bout, that Mendy hit Defiagbon.
It was a punch below the belt. Of that, there is no doubt. And Defiagbon fell quickly, writhing in pain, his face contorting. If he was faking, as the French corner insisted, he was one hell of an actor. In his own corner, Defiagbon's coaches Yvon Michel and Wayne Gordon - who had been asked between rounds to push his protective cup lower - were screaming for him to get up.
"When he didn't acknowledge it, I knew he was hurt," Michel said. "He didn't even hear us."
Mendy, who doesn't speak English, said the Canadian coaches were encouraging Defiagbon to stay down. But Michel bristled at such a suggestion.
"I've seen David lose. I've seen him in tough fights. I never saw David put on a show or be a comedian," Michel said.
"The doctor (Dr. Jean Dion) said his penis was swollen - by how much I can't tell you."
Afterward, Defiagbon was apologetic in victory. He didn't want to win this way, leaving questions unanswered, leaving the result open to debate and conversation.
"I feel kind of sad for him," Defiagbon said quietly, in too much pain and too much disappointment to feel any joy from a bronze medal that could turn to silver with a victory in the next round against American Nate Jones. But before he can fight again, he must be examined by a neutral physician to determine that he is physically able.
"I feel sad for me. I wasn't faking," Defiagbon said in soft tones. "I didn't want the fight to end this way. I've been boxing for 15 years and I've never done anything like this before. I'm not really happy. I wanted to win."
When asked about the punch, Defiagbon said: "He hit me right there, at the side of the cup. It felt like an electric shock. I am still in pain now. That's why I couldn't stand.
"The ref saw it. He knew. I'm just lucky I have a couple of days before I fight again."
Defiagbon was down 3-2 after the opening round and 8-3 at one point in Round 2 but rebounded to take a 10-8 lead. The score was 10-9 when the bout was signalled to an end, but had it continued Defiagbon would have led by three - the result of two points awarded for the low blow.
All of that seemed lost in the post-fight consternation.
Defiagbon went back to the Athletes' Village last night, with sadness and with the knowledge he will have his Olympic medal. He went back to the Village for further treatment, ice and rest.
He will, all things being well, fight again tomorrow. But it will not be easy to dismiss all that happened here - the yelling, the finger-pointing, the protest, the frustration.
Canada has its first boxing medal of the Olympics from a man so proud to be wearing the country's colors. But all that appeared lost in the post-fight argument.
A policeman stood guard by the door of the tent where the boxers do their post-fight interviews. On one side, a frustrated Christophe Mendy told his story of a right hand that got away. On the other side, David Defiagbon looked sad, for himself, for his opponent, for the circumstance.
In the end, there was no incident. There was only pain.