David Defiagbon, a boxer who won gold for Nigeria at the Auckland 1990 Olympics and also featured for the country at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics has died. According to Chronicle Herald of Canada, Defiagbon died of heart complications in Las Vegas, United States on Saturday.
He was aged 48. Defiagbon after Barcelona 1992 Olympics where he lost in the first round of Light Middleweight category to America’s Raul Marquez, emigrated to Canada and won a silver medal in heavyweight category of boxing for Canada at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics.
According to the newspaper, the boxing community in Canada was still mourning the boxer’s death.
“It’s a shock,” said Lower Sackville’s Wayne Gordon, who along with his late father Taylor, were instrumental in bringing Defiagbon to Canada. They coached him as an amateur.
Shortly after Auckland 1990 Commonwealth Games, Defiagbon reportedly met Taylor Gordon, then the former national team coach of Canada, and the wheels were in motion to get him to emigrate to Canada. But it wasn’t a smooth transition.
“My dad first met David in 1989 when he took the national team for a tour of Africa,” Wayne Gordon recalled in an interview by Chronicle Herald of Canada. “David was very charismatic.
“Dad ran into David again in Barcelona in 1992. David told a compelling story about the adversities he went through with the Nigerian boxing team. He pleaded with us to help him come to Canada. It was heart-wrenching.
Another Canadian newspaper, Toronto Sun gave the account thus: “Whenever Gordon and Defiagbon ran into each other over the next few years at various tournaments, Defiagbon would plead with Coach Gordon to take him to Canada.
Finally, at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Nigerian boxer saw Taylor Gordon at the athlete’s village, dropped to his knees and begged him to take him to Canada.
“There must have been 200 people there and all of a sudden I have this 6-foot-5 guy grabbing me around the legs and begging for my help,” Gordon told the Toronto Sun’s Jim O’Leary in 1996. “He had tears running down his face.”
The former Canadian navy man came through, arranging Defiagbon’s passage to Canada, where he moved in with Wayne Gordon and his family in Halifax. Defiagbon received his Canadian citizenship in time to compete for the Great White North at the 1996 Olympics”.
Wayne Gordon in his account to Chronicle Herald continues: “We sent money over to him to buy an airline ticket and more or less escape from where he was,” Gordon added. “He got caught and (was) thrown in jail.
“We got word back so we ended up sending more money to bribe the guards to let him out of jail, get to the airport and escape Nigeria. And he did. He ended up living at my house for almost a year. David became a part of our family.”
For three years, the Gordons worked to get Defiagbon his Canadian citizenship so he could fight for his new home.
Defiagbon trained at the Gordons’ Citadel club and became a household name with his silver-medal showing at the ’96 Olympics. After losing to Cuba’s Felix Savon in the gold medal match, Defiagbon turned pro and moved west to join Sawridge Enterprises of Slave Lake, Alta. He eventually settled in Las Vegas.
Nicknamed ‘The Dream,’ Defiagbon won his first 21 pro bouts. In his 21st victory, the then-six–foot–five, 226–pound Defiagbon defeated Ron Guerrero on a fifth–round knockout on June 12, 2004 in Bermuda. He claimed the WBA Fedecentro title with the win and moved into the WBA’s top–10. That would be the pinnacle of his pro career.
He lost his next two bouts, including a TKO loss to Juan Carlos Gomez on Jan. 15, 2005. At the age of 33, it would be Defiagbon’s last professional fight.
“I was looking at pictures today of him having Christmas suppers with us, pictures with my kids,” Gordon said. “It’s really too bad.
Canadian newspaper, Toronto Sun recalled a controversial bout that Defiagbon had at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics. He had qualified for the medal round under controversial circumstances as Frenchman Christophe Mendy as disqualified for hitting Defiagbon ‘below the belt’.
Defiagbon advanced to the medal round. But TV replays showed that Mendy’s blow appeared to land on Defiagbon’s upper thigh. Defiagbon rolled around the ring in apparent agony until the referee stopped the fight and a furious Mendy was disqualified
David Defiagbon, in his silver medal winning encounter at Atlanta ’96 Olympics
To his credit, the Nigerian-born Defiagbon fought valiantly in the semi-final to defeat American Nate Jones to qualify for the gold medal match, where he lost to Cuban legend Felix Savon. Defiagbon went on to enjoy a solid pro career (21-2 12KOs) and remains the last Canadian to win an Olympic boxing medal.
It was former world light heavyweight champion Montell Griffin, who trained with Defiagbon, announced the fighter’s passing on his Facebook account. Mandy Evans, who has a daughter with Defiagbon, confirmed the boxer died last Saturday, adding that a service will be held on December 8 in Las Vegas.
Defiagbon’s former coach Wayne Gordon, who had kept in touch with his fighter over the years, was supposed to meet up with Defiagbon in Las Vegas in May of 2017, the week of the Canelo Alverez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight, but after arriving in Nevada, couldn’t reach the fighter.
“He had told me before that his life was not the best,” Gordon said. “He got involved in drugs and alcohol and the night life where he was working as security guard. But the last time I talked to him, everything was sort of good. He said, ‘I got my life straightened out, I’m not drinking anymore, the party scene is behind me.’ I couldn’t wait to see him.”