Boxers debunk Vitor Belfort’s Olympic claims, recall closed-doors bout in Cuba: ‘That’s not true’

Vitor Belfort will enter the boxing ring for his first skilled match since his debut in 2006, however he ruffled some feathers within the Brazilian boxing neighborhood with feedback he made throughout a latest media scrum in California.

Belfort, who’s getting ready to face former boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya on Sept. 11 in Los Angeles, stated he certified to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as a boxer however “couldn’t go resulting from a knee damage that I had.” He doubled down with an Instagram post days later with a photograph he claimed was from a win he secured in a qualifying bout for the 2000 Olympics alongside the caption, “I couldn’t go [to the 2000 Olympics] as a result of I had damage my meniscus in coaching and I needed to had surgical procedure in my knee and I miss this chance.”

The factor is, Belfort by no means truly made it onto the Brazilian Olympic staff — and subsequently was by no means certified to compete on the Olympic Video games.

In actuality, “The Phenom” had the possibility to earn a spot within the Olympic qualifying match, as he claimed, however got here up quick in a behind-closed-doors boxing match with Brazilian heavyweight boxer Marcelino Novaes, who received bronze within the 1999 Pan-American Video games.

“Bullsh*t,” Novaes stated of Belfort’s Olympic claims when requested by MMA Preventing. “He was the youngest champion in UFC historical past — blah, blah, blah — however I used to be the Brazilian champion. I used to be undefeated for seven years in Brazil, representing Brazil from 1994 to 2000.”

Ulysses Pereira, the coach of the Brazilian boxing staff on the time, echoes Novaes’ response.

“That’s a story,” Pereira instructed MMA Preventing. “He was by no means a part of the Olympic staff. There is no such thing as a, ‘I missed the Olympics.’ And being a part of the Olympic staff doesn’t imply you’re going to the Olympics, you continue to must undergo a qualifying match. It surprises me to see Belfort say he didn’t go to the Olympics as a result of he injured his knee. That’s a story, that’s not true.”

Belfort didn’t reply a request for feedback.

Very similar to when UFC star Anderson Silva expressed his desire to be within the 2016 Olympics in Taekwondo throughout his doping suspension within the UFC, there was plenty of buzz round Belfort within the late Nineteen Nineties. The MMA fighter owned earlier expertise in beginner boxing tournaments, and Novaes started to listen to some chatter about Belfort representing the nation in Sydney in his weight class.

“He was thought-about probably the most harmful fingers within the UFC so folks began speaking about Vitor going to the Olympics,” Novaes stated. “I used to be like, ‘Decelerate, Vitor’s going to the Olympics my ass. To make it to the Olympics, first you need to undergo me, after which you need to undergo the Olympic Qualifying match, and you then’re certified to the Olympics.’ You’re not going simply since you’re the UFC champion. That’s not the way it works.”

Belfort was beneath contract with PRIDE across the time of the 2000 Olympics, having misplaced a choice to Kazushi Sakuraba in his debut in 1999. However having as fashionable of a determine as Belfort to compete in Sydney can be large for the Brazilian boxing federation — and that’s why they determined to match Belfort up in opposition to Novaes.

“They wished to have him in by the again door,” Novaes stated.

The match was tentatively set for late 1999, however finally occurred on March 16, 2000. Novaes claims he was “arrange” throughout a visit to Cuba, the place the Brazilian staff was anticipated to remain for a three-week camp. Two days earlier than flying again to Brazil, nonetheless, Novaes stated he was knowledgeable by the coaches that he would face Belfort to find out who would symbolize Brazil within the following Olympic Qualifying match.

“Vitor was already in Cuba once we obtained there,” Novaes stated. “I requested him what he was doing there, and he stated he was getting ready for a battle, however didn’t point out to me that the federation had already agreed that he would face me in a qualifier. The coaches on the time, Ulysses Pereira and the Cuban, they knew about it and instructed me nothing.

“[Belfort] was coaching with us for 3 weeks, seeing how I prepare and getting private lessons day by day to battle me, and I had no preparation. I by no means anticipated to be stabbed within the again like that. I deserved higher than that.”

Pereira denies that there was any secret masterplan to learn Belfort.

“He misinterpreted us,” he stated. “It was too snug for him on this weight class, so the thought was to have two good boxers. Vitor Belfort was nice and Marcelino was additionally nice and extra skilled. [Novaes] was very upset on the time however we made it very clear that our concept was that you simply’ll show to be one of the best if you’re not the one one within the division. If there’s somebody risking your place, you go there and beat the man. That’s the way it works, and that’s what he’s carried out.”

The health club, situated close by Havana, was closed that day. Belfort and Novaes had been the one ones to place the boxing gloves and enter the ring. Novaes recollects that the match lasted 4 rounds.

Marcelino Novaes stated he knocked Vitor Belfort down twice.
Photograph by way of Marcelino Novaes

“We slugged it out,” Novaes stated. “I dropped him and he took greater than a minute to get again up, which might make it a knockout since he has 10 seconds to get again as much as his ft. OK, we continued — and I dropped him once more. And I received the match. Don’t understand how they got here to this conclusion however they stated I received by 4-2.”

“It was a detailed match,” stated Pereira, who coached Belfort in beginner boxing tournaments previous to this contest in Cuba. “Marcelino was touching him the whole time, he rather more skilled in beginner boxing, whereas Vitor was making an attempt to make use of the clinch, however couldn’t use the takedowns like he might in MMA. He received most of his MMA fights by knockout however boxing for MMA shouldn’t be the identical factor. It’s fully completely different.”

Pereira provides that “there was a declare that Vitor injured his knee as a result of slippery mat, however that doesn’t matter.” The knee damage, Novaes stated, was the “excuse” utilized by the MMA star to “by no means present up” to a rematch weeks later. Belfort finally returned to the PRIDE ring in June 2000 and earned his first victory in Japan with a choice over Gilbert Yvel.

“I went to Mexico understanding we’d battle once more and this time I used to be ready mentally for it,” Novaes stated. “I skilled like an animal, I used to be hungry. … I met Vitor once more a number of occasions since then however we by no means talked about it. He respects me, however by no means talked about why he didn’t present up. And identical to [the Brazilian boxing federation] by no means defined to me why he was provided that likelihood within the first place, they by no means instructed me why he didn’t present up [for the rematch].”

Vitor Belfort poses with Marcelino Novaes (heart) after successful the UFC belt over Randy Couture.
Photograph by way of Marcelino Novaes

Novaes finally made it to the finals within the Olympic Qualifying match the place he misplaced to Canada’s Mark Simmons and missed his likelihood to compete in Sydney. He turned professional the next 12 months and compiled a 7-3-1 document earlier than hanging up his gloves in 2004.

Belfort went on to deal with his MMA profession, successful 20 of his subsequent 33 bouts.

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