Another Olympian came down with Stevenson's disease today. That is the ailment that seems to afflict boxers who step into the ring with Cuba's majestic Teofilo Stevenson. The telltale symptoms are constant backward movement and hand frozen close to the face.
Otherwise courageous and skilled men frequently melt about the time the opening bell chimes, as Hungarian Istvan Levai did in another heavyweight mismatch. Levai stayed alive, in fact stopping Stevenson's Olympic, knockout string at nine.
But instead of being carried out of the ring, Levai was hooted and whistled out by a crowd that did not appreciate the Hungarian hardly landing a blow the entire three rounds.
Unbeaten in the last Oylmpics, the last two Pan American Games and the last two world championships, Stevenson fights for the gold medal here Saturday against a Soviet who fought as though he was looking forward to the bout.
"Why would either of these guys want to win," somebody wondered during the Pyotry Zaev-Jurgen Fanghanel match that followed Stevenson's victory by unanimous decision. "Being healthy with a bronze surely seems better than getting clobbered for a silver."
Standing about 5 feet 10, Zaev is nearly six inches shorter than Stevenson. He also has one of the most inviting and prominent noses in the sport. Stevenson surely will find it often -- and perhaps deliver another lethal right to start another knockout streak.
Stevenson seems dedicated to winning a third Olympic gold medal, a feat no heavyweight has achieved. The only other fighter to win three golds -- Laszlo Papp -- was one of the Hungarian officials in Levai's corner today.
The Cuban tried to be agressive, but Levai's defense was such that jabs rarely pentrated. Levai is certainly one of the few fighters who honestly could leave the ring ugly -- and deserved -- abuse, lose a decision by as wide a margin as possible and still correctly insist the big lug never laid a glove on him.
Levai never gave Stevenson that chance.
The most surprising track and field result today was Cuba's failure to survive the first round of the men's 4x100-meter relay. The Cubans were battling the Soviet Union for the lead when Silvio Leonard -- after running a leg that one observer aptly called "a 100-meter temper tantrum" -- muffed passage of the baton to anchor man Thomas Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, distressed, punched the air with his hands, pounded both fists on the ground in frustration, and muttered to himself as he left the track.