100 Years of Irish Olympic Boxing: The team of London 1948.

As Irish Boxing prepares to celebrate its Olympic centenary, we celebrate every team which has boxed who’ve boxed for Team Ireland.

Today marks 19 days to the first bell at Paris 2024, and we revisit London, 1948. Ireland didn’t contest the 1936 Games, held in Berlin, and no Games were staged in 1940 or 1944, because of WWII

The 1948 Summer Olympics featured 136 medal events, covering 23 disciplines in 17 different sports and in arts.

At the time of the Games, food, petrol and building were still subject to the rationing imposed during the war in Britain; because of this the 1948 Olympics came to be known as the “Austerity Games”. Athletes were given the same increased rations as dockers and miners, 5,467 calories a day instead of the normal 2,600. Building an Olympic Village was deemed too expensive, and athletes were housed in existing accommodation. Male competitors stayed at RAF camps in Uxbridge and West Drayton, and an Army camp in Richmond Park; female competitors in London colleges. 

Prior to the first Olympiad after WWII, Ireland had made notable progress and entered its first major tournament besides the Olympics at the 1937 European Elite Championships in Milan; the 1939 European Elite Championships at the National Stadium in Dublin.

The IABA also hosted the 1947 European Championships, the first European Championships after WW2, at the National Stadium. Germany hosted an unofficial European Championships in Germany in 1942. These results were annulled by AIBA after WWII

London 1948 marked the fourth successive Olympics where an Irish boxer reached the semi-finals – which would be enough to secure at least bronze under today’s rules.

Willie Lenihan, who won two bouts, Kevin Martin and Peter Foran, who was beaten by eventual silver medallist, Horrace Herring (USA), and Hugh O’Hagan also registered victories at the 14th Olympiad.

The London Games set a new record for entries for boxing with 205 athletes from 39 nations competing across eight weight divisions.

The Games also took place under the auspices of the Association Internationale de Boxe Amateure (AIBA), who had replaced the Fédération Internationale de Boxe Amateur (FIBA) in 1946. FIBA was dissolved because it had, according to reports. lost credibility because of the conduct of some of its officials during WWII.

The limits in each division, which had remained static since 1920, were adjusted to metric measurements for the 1948 Games: the light-heavyweight class limit changed from 175 lbs./79.38 kg. to 80 kg./177 lbs.

The venue for boxing at the 1948 Games was actually a temporary drawbridge laid out over the Empire Pool at Wembley. Earls Court was also used as a venue for boxing at the 1948 Olympiad.

The 1948 squad won ten and lost nine bouts. Ireland’s stats from four Olympics now stood at: 28 boxers (including boxers who represented Ireland twice) used: Wins 20. Losses 31 (including walkovers for and against). Four boxers through to semi-finals)..

Team Ireland: London 1948

Flyweight: Alf William Barnes (Windsor); Lost to Frantisek Majdloch (Czechoslovakia) Pts

Bantamweight: Willie Lenihan (Arbour Hill)
Beat R.G. Behm (Luxembourg) Pts
Beat Olavi Ouvinen (Finland) PTS
Lost to Giovanni Battista Zuddas (Italy) TKO3

Featherweight: Kevin Martin (Mount Street)
Beat Nicholas Linneman (Holland) Pts
Lost to eventual gold medallist Ernesto Fermenti (Italy) 0-3

Lightweight: Maxie McCullagh (Corinthians)
Beat Tauno Rinkinen (Finland) Pts
Beat Ronnie Cooper (Great Britain) Pts
Lost to Sven Wad (Denmark) Pts

Welterweight: Peter Foran (St Andrew’s)
Beat Gareeb Afifi (Egypt) Pts
Lost to eventual silver medallist Horace Herring (USA) Pts

Middleweight: Mick McKeon (ITC)
Beat John Keenan (Canada) Pts
Beat Hossein Toussi (Iran) Pts
Beat Aime-Joseph Escudie (France) Pts
Semi-final: Lost to Johnny Wright (Great Britain) Pts

Bronze medal box-off: Lost to Ivano Fontana (Italy) W/O

Light-heavyweight: Hugh O’Hagen (Corinthians)
Beat Hans Schwerzmann (Switzerland) Pts
Lost to Adrian Holmes (Australia) Pts

Heavyweight: Gearoid O’Colmain (North City)
Lost to Uber Baccilieri (Italy) Pts

Check out highlights of the Games here:

Seventeen-year-old American Bob Mathias won the decathlon only four months after taking up the sport. He remains the youngest athlete in Olympic history to win a men’s athletics event. The dominant woman of the Games was sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands. She entered four sprint events and won all four.

Karoly Takacs was a member of the Hungarian world champion pistol shooting team in 1938 when a grenade shattered his right hand—his pistol hand. Takacs taught himself to shoot with his left hand and, 10 years later, he won an Olympic gold medal in the rapid-fire pistol event.