BARCELONA, Spain -- The United States-Cuba boxing rivalry even involves ringside doctors, if you're to believe the American version of light heavyweight Montell Griffin's disputed loss to world champion Torsten May of Germany last night.
U.S. coach Joe Byrd claimed the fight should have been stopped after Griffin opened a one-inch gash above May's right eye 54 seconds into the final round, but said the Cuban doctor convinced the referee to allow it to continue.
The doctor, Byrd said, wanted May to advance to the next round, where the cut could put him at a disadvantage against a Cuban opponent. The alleged plan unraveled when the Cuban lost in the next bout, but by then the damage was done.
The episode would never have become an issue, but the 5-foot-7 Griffin lost the fight in an equally controversial manner -- on a three-point penalty he received 59 seconds later, for ducking his head against an opponent nine inches taller.
The three-point penalty was added to May's score on the computerized Olympic scoring system. It enabled him to win, 6-4, assuring him of at least a bronze in the medal round.
Byrd said the U.S. team will not file a protest, as it did when light flyweight Eric Griffin lost a questionable decision under the new scoring rules. But both he and Montell Griffin were livid over the result.
"A cut over the eye, in a tournament like this, the fight's over," Byrd said. "He's probably going to get stitches. If he doesn't, he's not going to survive the next round."
Said Griffin: "I saw the blood come down from his eye immediately. I was like, 'Yeah, yeah' . . . . Most professional referees would have stopped the fight. I couldn't believe they let it go on."
Byrd said the head-ducking penalty was just as mysterious, for the shorter Griffin spent the entire fight with his head in May's chest. But he said he was not surprised by the outcome, contending that Olympic boxing officials are anti-American.
"When you go in there, they're against you," Byrd said. "We have to come out and do everything perfect. They don't care about America. These small countries, they laugh at us."