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article by Nicola Pucci

The situation of the American boxing team selected by coach Al Mitchell is becoming decidedly worrying at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. When we have now reached the final fights of the various weight categories, the United States is without gold medals as it hasn’t happened for 48 years, that is, from the London edition of 1948 during which American boxers obtained only one silver, with Hank Herring in the welterweight category. And for the homeland of “zio Sam” it would really be a double defeat, because not only has boxing always been a discipline that brings a fair number of successes to the Games, but above all because, this time, we are fighting in the home ring.

All’Alexander Memorial ColiseumIndeed, Floyd Mayweather, Terrance Cauthen, Rhoshii Wells, Antonio Tarver and Nate Jones, boxers on whom Al Mitchell was confident, all ran aground on the penultimate rockstumbling in the semi-final and having to settle for the bronze medal, and the chances of victory, at this stage of the competition, they are all placed on David Reid, a 23-year-old southpaw superwelterweight (or light-middleweight) from Philadelphiawho Mitchell himself has been coaching since he was 10 years old.

In fact, Reid and Mitchell are deeply attached to each other, to the point of calling each other “padre” e “son“, and they have experienced several difficult moments during their time in boxing. A month before the Atlanta Olympics, even, David ended up behind bars on charges of domestic violence against his partner following an altercation, a charge that was later dropped once the Games began. And in the Georgia city, Reid can compete in his weight class, even though he’s not really the brightest star on the U.S. team.

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In Atlanta, the underdogs among the super welterweights go to the Romanian Francisc Vastagalready present in Barcelona 1992 among the welterweights and who in the four-year Olympic period, rose in weight to between -71 kg., he won the Amateur World Championships both in Tampere in 1993 and in Berlin in 1995, in both cases beating the Cuban Alfredo Duvergel on points in the final. He was also present at the Olympics, where he once again takes on the role of the most accredited challengerwith Reid playing the role of third wheel in a group of boxers which also include the Caserta native Antonio Perugino and a fierce platoon of ex-Soviet fighters, such as the Uzbek Karim Tulaganov, the Kazakh Yermakhan Ibraimov and the Ukrainian Serhiy Horodnichov.

What you don’t expect, however, is already around the corner in the first round, with the German Markus Beyer, bronze at the world championship in Berlin and who at the recent European Championships in Vejle, Denmark, in April, surrendered in the final to Vastag, who surprised the Romanian, 17-12ousting the most authoritative candidate for the gold medal, then in turn being eliminated in the quarter-finals by Ibraimov, 19-9 which does not allow an appeal.

Reid, for your part, enters the game with an easy success against the South Korean Lee Wan-Gyun, 20-4, and then also gets the better of the Czechoslovakian Pavel Polakovičwho climbed to the third step of the podium at the European Championships in Vejle, 12-5, giving rise to a close fight with the grim Tunisian Mohamed Salah Marmouri in the quarter-finalsfinally defeated on points 13-8.

Tulaganov, for his part, is on time for the semi-final at the top of the draw, where he faces Reid, as well as Duvergel he has no problems getting rid of the Polish Józef Gilewski, 10-2, Horodnichov, 15-2, and Perugino, 15-8, finding Ibraimov on the road that leads to the final.

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The two semi-finals, therefore, pit two Europeans and two boxers from this side of the Atlantic against each other, and for the Atlantic public it is manna from heaven that the two expected protagonists win, the favorite Duvergel who crushes Ibraimov, 28-19, and the challenger Reid who does the same with Tulaganov, 12-4appearing at the decisive clash on August 3rd.

In unsuspecting times, when Reid was still a teenager he ended up under the protective wing of Al Mitchell, the “padrepredicted to “son” who would win the gold medal at Atlanta 1996. And now David has that metal within punching distancewhich would not only earn him the label of “american dream“, but it would also save the honor of Stars-and-Stripes boxing, so badly damaged in this edition of the Games. Obviously, however, we still have to deal with Duvergel who remains an absolutely formidable opponent, and who is perhaps favored in the forecasts of the experts.

To be honest, Duvergel’s powerful boxing seems to definitely have the upper hand, given that the judges’ card, at the beginning of the third and final round, credits the Cuban with a seemingly reassuring advantage, 15-6, after in the first round Reid had almost made the match equal, 7-5, and in the second he had been counted out standing. Mitchell, who knows more than the devil, at this point goes for broke, suggesting to Reid to forget about the technique and try to find the decisive knockout with the right, looking for an opening in the opponent’s left defense, which promptly happens shortly thereafter. David, 36″ after the start of the last round, he lands a right to Duvergel’s temple, who goes down to the mat. The Caribbean man tries to get back on his feet with difficulty, but it’s time for the Bulgarian referee to “count him”, and at 10, the Cuban unable to continue the match, Reid, intoxicated with joy, can throw himself into Mitchell’s arms.

The golden work is accomplished and the Olympic dream of American boxing comes true.

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