BARCELONA, Spain -- The fighter said he got thumbed in the eye. The coach said the fighter quit. And a third party offered just what the latest U.S. boxing controversy needed: Another opinion.
The facts are, U.S. flyweight Tim Austin lasted only 64 seconds in his Olympic semifinal bout against Cuba's Raul Gonzalez yesterday before Indonesian referee Kishen Narsi stopped the fight.
Austin's personal coach, John Falcone, claimed afterward that the outcome would have been different had he been permitted in Austin's corner. But U.S. coach Joe Byrd responded wearily, "When you get thumbed, no coach can help that."
Byrd didn't actually believe Austin got thumbed. He said Austin wanted out of the fight the moment he got caught by the relentless Gonzalez's first punch, a hard uppercut to the chin.
After 40 seconds, Austin turned his back on Gonzalez and started walking away. He apparently believed the referee saw him get thumbed, and said he needed a moment to regain his vision. Gonzalez followed, and hit him on the back of the head.
Austin, 21, said he wasn't hurt by the blow, but he took a standing eight-count 10 seconds later and survived only 14 more seconds after that, becoming the third U.S. boxer to be eliminated by a Cuban.
"I'm sure it was a thumb," Austin said, holding an ice pack over his left eye.
"A thumb leaves damage," Byrd countered. "It leaves redness in the eye."
U.S. medical official John Lehtinen said there was no damage, only swelling around Austin's eye. Meanwhile, Falcone sat in the back of the interview room, fuming over his lack of input.
Austin's defeat left only two U.S. fighters -- lightweight Oscar de la Hoya and middleweight Chris Byrd -- in contention for gold medals. Both fight today, de la Hoya against Germany's Marco )) Rudolph, Byrdagainst Cuba's Ariel Hernandez.
"I have nothing against Mr. Byrd, but the natural coach has to be in the corner," Falcone said, his voice booming. "Mr. Byrd is Chris' natural coach. That's why he's doing so well here."
Joe Byrd seemed perplexed by Falcone's charges, especially after the way Austin fought. Personal coaches of U.S. athletes have been known to routinely complain about their lack of access during the Olympics.
Falcone said Austin didn't warm up properly, but Byrd said, "He had a good sweat going." The more significant question is, why did Austin suddenly refuse to fight?
"I've never gotten thumbed this bad before," he said. "Things like this happened in numerous fights throughout my amateur career. Usually, I play it off a little bit. But this time, my vision was too blurry. I couldn't see at all. I had double vision."
Byrd said when a fighter turns his back, "that's a sign he's through." Austin had earned a bronze medal by winning his previous two fights by a combined score of 38-15. Byrd said of his performance yesterday, "that's not Tim."
"He got hit by a good shot," Byrd said. "It seemed like he just gave up from that point. That's the way it looked to me."