Los Angeles 1932
The Irish Amateur Boxing Association sent a four-strong squad to the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, but the squad didn’t exactly travel to the USA with the ringing endorsement of all of Irish boxing.
Some of the biggest County Boards in the country expressed the view that the panel might not be up to task and even suggested at a Central Council meeting – a suggestion which went down like a led baloon – that the quartet should test themselves in the ABA Championships (English Championships).
The IABA Central Council overruled the County Boards in question, as reported in the Irish Independent and the Irish Times and various over publications in 1932, and the squad were dispatched to the USA as selected.
Paddy Hughes was the first into the ring in LA, but he was beaten by Argentina’s Carlos Alberto Pereyra in the bantamweight class, while Ernie Smith received a bye into the quarter-finals where he dropped a points decision to Argentina’s Carmelo Robledo, who went on to claim gold after beating Germany’s Josef Schleinkofer in the featherweight final.
Four years prior to the LA Games, Robledo was beaten by Ireland’s Frank Traynor in the quarter-finals at the Amsterdam Olympics. Welterweight Larry Flood also lost out in southern California, while Jim Murphy, boxing in the light-heavyweight class, was the only Irish boxer to record a victory.
Murphy, who received a bye into the last-eight, beat John Miller of the USA in the quarter-finals, but was then retired injured in the first round of his semi-final with Italy’s Gino Rossi – who lost to David Carstens (South Africa) in the final. The injury also forced Murphy to withdraw from the box-off for bronze with Denmark’s Peter Jorgensen.
85 boxers from 18 nations competed across eight weight categories at the 1932 Games between August 9th to 13th of that year. Argentina stunned the world of amateur boxing after securing two gold and one silver medal to finish on top of the medals table ahead of the USA at the Olympic Auditorium venue.
The ref was inside the ring for the 1932 Games, as opposed to sitting on a high stool outside the square circle, and in a new innovation boxers wore red and green ribbons around their waist. American heavyweight Jack Dempsey, who was of Irish/Cherokee descent, was one of the celebrities that attended the X Olympiad.
Ireland claimed two gold medals in LA, with Pat O’Callaghan winning his second gold in-a-row in the hammer throw and Bob Tisdall finishing on top of the podium in the 400m hurdles in a world record time of 51.7. However, the record was not recognised under the rules as Tisdall clipped a hurdle en route to victory.
The 1932 Games marked the last occasion that an Irish athlete competed at the Olympics before WW2 as Ireland did not enter the 1936 Games in Berlin. A number of publications, particularly in the USA, have reported that Ireland boycotted the 1936 Olympiad.
But the reason Ireland didn’t participate at Berlin 1936 was because of myopic wrangling in relation to flag and anthems and administrative authority between various national sporting bodies. There had been talk of an Irish boxing squad fighting in Berlin under the flag of the then International Boxing Association, but that also fell through.
From a boxing perspective, the non appearance at the 1936 Games was regrettable as the Garda boxing club at the time were clearly the backbone of Irish boxing and renowned throughout Europe. It was felt that a Garda boxer would surely have won a medal in the German capital.
But the bottom line was that Irish boxing would not throw a punch at an Olympid until after the guns fell silent on WW2.
Ireland’s pre WW2 statistics from three Olympics read: 20 boxers used. Wins 10. Loses 22 (including walkovers). Three boxers reached their respective semi-finals (enough for a bronze medal under today’s rules).
IRISH SQUAD AT LA 1932
Bantamweight: Paddy Hughes (Corinthians)
Lost to Carlos Alberto Pereyra (Argentina) Pts
Featherweight: Ernie Smith (St Andrew’s)
Lost to Carmelo Robledo (Argentina) (eventual gold medallist) Pts
Welterweight: Larry Flood (Army)
Lost to Robert Barton (South Africa) Pts
Light-heavy: Jim Murphy (Army)
Beat John Miller (USA) Pts
Lost to Gino Rossi (Italy) TKOI1
Bronze Medal Box-Off
Lost to Peter Joergensen (Denmark) W/O