They said that Cuba’s Juan Hernandez-Sierra couldn’t be beaten…
Today marks the 25th anniversary of Michael Caurrth’s historic gold medal win at Barcelona 1992.
Wayne McCullough also won silver on a famous day for Irish boxing on August 8th a quarter of a century ago.
Irish boxing had been waiting for the elusive gold since entering the Olympics independently at Paris 1924.
Two men, John McNally and Fredt Tiedt, reached Olympic finals in 1952 and 1956, and John Caldwell, Freddie Gilroy, Jim McCourt, Anthony Byrne and Hugh Russell claimed bronze prior to Barcelona 92.
But Carruth from the Drimnagh BC finally delivered against Hernandez-Sierra on a 13-10 verdict under the old computer scoring system at the Pavelló Club Joventut de Badalona venue.
Computer scoring was introduced following outrage (what’s new?) over the scoring at the 1988 Games where Carruth beat Shinju Higashi (Japan) but lost to Sweden’s eventual silver medallist George Cramne in the lightweight class.
The Dubliner and Hernandez-Sierra, who lost in the 1996 Olympic final to Oleg Saitov of Russia, were locked at 8-8 going into the final round in Barcelona four years later before the Irish southpaw added another five points to his total in a final frame which was just as tense as Katie Taylor versus Sofya Ochigava Olympic decider 20 years later.
Reflecting on the dramatic events of yesteryear, the Olympic champion remarked that time has passed so quickly, “like smoke through a keyhole,” as Ken Egan, also an Olympic finalist, memorably put it.
Carruth’s late dad, Austin Carruth, and Nicolas Cruz were in the Irish corner at Barcelona 92 and advised the Olympic champion – who revealed that he is FaceBook friends with Hernandez-Sierra – well.
“I said to me da and Nicolas the coach that I’d go at him – I’ll trap him in the corner. I’ll do anything to keep him there. But they said “No, you’re doing well… go backwards’. That was the plan – to go backwards,” said the two-time Irish Olympian, whose Olympic record (1988/92) is five wins from six bouts.
“It’s a bit dangerous to do that and let a 6ft 3in Cuban come onto you for another three minutes. He was getting verbal abuse in his corner about not getting near this little fella, he added.
“In the first 30 seconds of that last round, I won the Olympics because he walked onto three lovely punches. I knew then it was a matter of just staying with him. If he hit me, I was to get one back.
“It was a long three minutes but I knew when the bell (went) that I’d won.”
Cuba dominated the boxing event in Barcelona after taking home seven gold medals – but they didn’t take home the welter title. That was on its way to Ireland.
Germany (2), North Korea, USA – and Ireland – were the only countries besides Cuba to win boxing gold at the 25th Olympiad.
Hernandez-Sierra, who is now living in the USA, claimed two Olympic silver medals, four World Elite titles and two Pan-American Games gold medals in his glittering career.
Sean Horkan was Irish team manager at Barcelona 92.
Ireland at 1992 Olympics
Flyweight: Paul Buttimer (Sunnyside)
Lost to Moses Malagu (Nigeria) 8-12
Bantamweight: Wayne McCullough (Albert Foundry) – Silver
Beat Frederick Muteweta (Uganda) 28-7
Beat Ahmed Ghmim Abbood (Iraq) 10-2
Beat Mohammed Sabo (Nigeria) 31-13
Beat Gwang-Sik (North Korea) 21-16
Lost to Joel Casamayor (Cuba) 8-16
Featherweight: Paul Griffin (Drimnagh)
Lost to Steven Chubgu (Zambia) TKOI2
Welterweight: Michael Carruth (Drimnagh) – Gold
Beat Maselino Tuifao (Western Samoa) 11-2
Beat Andreas Otto (Germany) 35-22
Beat Arkom Chenglai (Thailand) 11-4
Beat Juan Hernandez (Cuba) 13-10
Heavyweight: Paul Douglas (Holy Family)
Beat John Pettersson (Sweden) 8-1
Beat Alexei Tchoudinov (CIS) 15-9
Lost to Arnold Vanderlijde (Holland) TKOI1
Super-heavyweight: Kevin McBride (Smithboro)
Lost to Peter Hrivnak (Czechoslovakia) 1-21