David Reid’s Incredible Gold Medal

We’re back after a brief hiatus. Things have been crazy, as I’ve taken on a 40-hour a week part time gig for Comcast for the Olympics. Posting will be fairly sporadic for a few weeks, then we’ll hit the ground running hard in September with football, and October of course marks our 2nd annual “Relive the World Series Spectacular.” This year we’ll be doing the ’29 Series between the A’s and the Cubs. Contributor Michael Collazo penned this piece about a former Philly boxer who took gold in Atlanta in ’96.

David Reid, a soft-spoken kid from North Philly, was a highlight of the 1996 Olympic Games – even though Muhammad Ali, changing sports TV marketing and a bomb upstaged what could have made him a star.

Lots of boxing’s past stars used the Olympics to become household names. Ali (then Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya come to mind. By 1996, TV storylines — from Ali’s torch lighting to more family-friendly gymnastics, basketball and track & field coverage — hogged up NBC primetime, not boxing. Remember too on July 27, a scary bombing at Centennial Olympic Park marred what was supposed to an America’s love-in at the Atlanta Games.

On top of all that, Team USA Boxing had put up a disappointing showing. While Cuba – Team USA’s natural boxing rival – were on its way to scoring four gold and three silver medals, the local team was struggling to finish with just five bronze medals. Trenton’s Terrance Cauthen, who trained at Joe Frazier’s Gym on his way to Atlanta, scored one of those bronze medals at 130 lbs. On August 2th, two highly touted fighters you may know took crushing defeats. Future pro Light-heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver – AKA Mason “The Line” Dixon from the film Rocky Balboa — lost handily in his semi-final bout. And before he had a “Money Team,” a 19-year-old Floyd Mayweather lost a controversial, one-point decision to Bulgaria’s Serafim Todorov – a fighter who was eight years older than Floyd and in his third Summer Olympics.

So on August 3rd, Reid, Team USA’s light middleweight (160 lbs.) representative, entered his gold medal fight against Cuba’s Alfredo Duvergel as the last hope. Reid’s advantage was a familiar face in his corner. As a middle-school kid, Reid had met Team USA’s lead coach Al Mitchell at Athletic Rec Center on 26th and Master Streets. Ever since, Reid trained and followed the instructions of Mitchell – all the way to the Olympics and beyond.

Early on Duvergel, a southpaw, used his counter-punching to control the first two rounds. Reid was stunned in Round 2, taking an Olympic-style standing eight-count. Entering Round 3, computerized scorecards showed Reid trailing 15-5. It felt like 1948 all over again – the last time a US boxing team had not scored a gold medal. Then before Round 3, Coach Mitchell gave Reid some advice.

“I told him ‘Hey, you can’t win,’” Mitchell told NBC’s Beasley Reece. “’The only way you can win is meet him with the right hand, go for the knock out – meet him.’”

And meet him he did. Reid threw a shrewd right, hitting Duvergel square and flooring the frontrunner. The referee counted to ten then waived off the fight. Reid’s jumping for joy was classic. He had won the gold.

“I’ve finally fulfilled my dreams now,” Reid said after the fight. “I look at myself – another Roy Jones, Ali…ah man.”

Reid’s highpoint was Atlanta. He essentially fought through an entire amateur and pro career with one bad, droopy eye. His poor vision cut his pro career short. Reid’s highest profile fight was his overwhelming loss to Tito Trinidad in 2000. Today, there are stories of Reid staying close to Coach Mitchell now in Michigan, broke and slowed by his illnesses.

But to Philly fans, Reid should always remember that elated gold medal winner jumping for joy.

David Reid should always be a star to us.

North Philly native and former Syracuse University classmate of Donovan McNabb, Michael Collazo is Group Sales Manager for Prudential Center in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter: @MCollazo215.