Bernard Fernandez

Dubious distinction: Robert Shannon

Robert Shannon always liked knockouts because he understood that his aggression and punching power were his primary assets. If he had his opponent in trouble, he was always going to try to finish him off.

So when Shannon, the U.S. team’s representative in the 119-pound weight class at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, hurt South Korea’s Moon Sung-Kil badly enough in Round 2 of their third-round fight that Moon was given a standing eight-count, the boxing barber from Edmonds, Wash., let his natural instincts take over. He rushed in to close the deal – but only after blowing a kiss to the crowd of 8,000-plus in the L.A. Sports Arena. Yeah, Shannon was that confident.

But momentum shifted quickly and Moon floored Shannon with an overhand right late in the same round. And Moon, who would go on to win professional titles at junior bantamweight and bantamweight, got in the last, best shot in a rousing third round – a jolting right along the ropes that prompted referee John Poucher to step in and wave the bout off with 1 minute, 46 seconds remaining. It went into the books as an RSC (referee stops contest).

“This was one of the great Olympic bouts,” gushed Col. Don Hull, president of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) from 1978 to 1986, who had attended every Olympic boxing competition since 1932.

But scoring style points in a loss didn’t mean much to Shannon, who was leading on four of the five official scorecards at the time of the stoppage. A member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team which was prevented from competing in the Moscow Olympics because of the American boycott, Shannon thus became an answer to a trivia question: Who was the only U.S. boxer in 1984 to have not medaled?

Still a barber – he trimmed his Olympic teammates’ hair upon request – Shannon has come to accept a distinction he’d rather not have.

“I was one of them,” he said of that heavy-medal group. “It’s like football. Here in Washington, everybody knows Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman. Not so many know who the punter is. But he’s a Seattle Seahawk, and he has a Super Bowl ring. I’m like that guy.”

 

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