Vladivostok, if loosely translated from Russian, means “to conquer the East”.
The Irish Olympic boxing squad of 2008, pictured above, headed to Vladivostok, the home base of the Russian Pacific nuclear fleet, to train and spar with the Russian national team in the run up to the Beijing Olympics.
A few weeks later the five-strong squad touched down at Dublin Airport from China with three medals, Irish boxing’s biggest haul since the 1956 Games in Melbourne.
Ken Egan claimed silver and the late Darren Sutherland and Paddy Barnes took home bronze, while John Joe Nevin and John Joe Joyce made the last-16.
All five Irish boxers were only beaten by the eventual gold medallists in their respective weight categories in Beijing.
Egan met China’s Zhang Xiaoping in the light-heavyweight final, but the Asian fighter, who was born in Inner Mongolia, was handed a controversial 11-7 decision and Egan’s dreams of landing gold and joining an illustrious light-heavyweight cast which included Muhammad Ali, who claimed light-heavyweight gold at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, were dashed.
Many boxing pundits believe that the final score to Xiaoping, who had been well beaten by Irish 2012 Olympian Darren O’Neill in a Multi Nations tournament prior to Beijing, did not reflect Egan’s performance, that the judges had failed to register some of the Dublin southpaw’s clear cut shots, particularly in the second and third rounds.
Egan dropped to his knees after the final bell, as did Xiaoping, in celebration. The 81kg gold medal would not be leaving China.
“I genuinely thought that I won that fight by two or three points. If it had of been anywhere in the world I would’ve won, said Egan – who beat Turkey’s Bahram Muzaffer, who controversially beat Ireland’s Joe Ward at the 2012 Olympic qualifiers in Turkey – in Beijing.
“Everyone says to me I went to the Olympics and I won the silver. I lost the gold in the final; that’s how I look at it. Okay, I came home with the silver medal, an amazing achievement. If I was offered that at the start of it, I would have taken it with both hands.
“It was a close final and he came out on top but it is behind me now and it’s history and it’s great to have been part of it.”
Meanwhile, Sutherland stopped Algerian middleweight Nabil Kassel in his opening bout and was then drawn against the powerful Venezuelan, Alfonso Blanco, in the last-16.
Blanco had beaten the St Saviours OBA (Dublin) man at AIBA World Championships and Olympic qualifiers in Chicago en route to silver in the Windy City.
But Sutherland produced a fantastic performance to exact revenge in Beijing to guarantee himself at least bronze. That set up a semi-final clash with Great Britain’s James DeGale, a duel which the London-born middleweight won 10-3.
Egan, incidentally, beat Tony Jeffries 10-3 in the light-heavyweight semi-final, leaving the Olympic head-to-heads between Ireland and Team GB locked at 1-1 and an exact amount of points scored and conceded.
Barnes, who qualified for Beijing from the AIBA World Championships in Chicago, a tournament at which the great Muhammad Ali made a guest appearance, registered impressive 14-8 and 11-5 verdicts over Ecuador’s Jose Luis Meza and Poland’s Lukasz Maszcyk to assure himself of at least bronze in Beijing.
Zou Shiming, who had beaten the Irish Elite champion in the quarter-finals in Chicago, awaited, and once again there was controversy over the scoring after the Chinese light-flyweight was awarded a 15-0 verdict. There is no questioning the fact that Shiming deserved his win. However, Barnes found the target at least six times in that clash and Shiming’s margin of victory was outrageously flattering.
Nevin, at 18 the youngest member of the Irish squad, booked his ticket for Beijing at the Olympic qualifiers in Pescara, Italy. Gary Keegan, the then Director of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association’s High Performance Unit, had brought Nevin to Pescara, the second last Olympic qualifier for European boxers, for experience.
However, Nevin, who also qualified for the 2012 Olympics, took his opportunity with both hands and made the Irish team for Beijing, where he beat Abdelhalim Ouarradi of Algeria before going out to eventual Olympic champion, Badar-Uugan Enkhbat of Mongolia.
Nevin put his Olympic disappointment behind him to become the first Irish male boxer in the 101-year history of the IABA to win two medals at World Championships level in Milan and Baku in 2009 and 2011.
Meanwhile, John Joe Joyce had lost on three occasions to Gyula Kate of Hungary prior to Beijing, but the St Michael’s Athy man put the record straight on the biggest stage of them all with a 9-5 decision in his opening bout. The then IABA President Dominic O’Rourke, Joyce’s club coach, was at ringside.
Joyce was then ahead by a single point going down the final stretch of his last-16 meeting with Felix Diaz, but the Dominican Republic light-welterweight found the target in the final few seconds to tie the bout at 11-11 before getting the nod a countback.
Joyce, who would go on to win bronze for Ireland at the European Championships in Liverpool later that year, was the second Irish boxer after Andy Lee in 2004 to exit the Olympic Games on a countback, a system in which the highest and lowest scores of the five ringside judges are eliminated and the scores from the three other judges are totted up.
Billy Walsh and Zuar Antia worked Ireland’s corner in Beijing. Jim Walsh was Irish team manager.
China finished on top of the medals table in Beijing. Ireland were in 12th spot, two places adrift of Cuba. Ireland finished in 11th positions in the rankings table, two places above the USA.
The 2008 Olympic Games was the last Olympiad to exclude female boxers, which was a good omen for Ireland as certain female lightweight was poised in Bray to bridge the 20-year gap since Michael Carruth stood on top of a an Olympic podium.
Light-flyweight : Paddy Barnes (Holy Family) – Bronze
Beat Jose Luis Meza (Ecuador) 14-8
Beat Lukasz Maszczyk (Poland) 11-5
Lost to eventual gold medalist Zou Shiming (China) 0-15
Featherweight: John Joe Nevin (Cavan)
Beat Abdelhalim Ouarradi (Algeria) 904
Lost to eventual gold medalist Badar-Uugan Enkhbat (Mongolia) 2-9
Light-welterweight: John Joe Joyce (St Michael’s, Athy)
Beat Gyula Kate (Hungary) 9-5
Lost to eventual gold medalist Felix Diaz (Dominican Republic) 11-11 (countback)
Middleweight: Darren Sutherland (St Saviours) – Bronze
Beat Nabil Kassel (Algeria) RSC4
Beat Alfonso Blanco (Venezuela) 11-1
Lost to eventual gold medalist James DeGale (Britain) 10-3
Light-heavyweight: Ken Egan (Neilstown) – Silver
Beat Julius Jackson (Virgin Islands) 22-2
Beat Muzafer Bahram (Turkey) 10-2
Beat Washington Silva (Brazil)
BeatTony Jefferies (Great Britain) 10-3)
Lost to Zhang Xiaoping (China) 7-11
Sydney 2000 and Atlanta 2008
Michael Roche was the only Irish boxer at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
The Sunnyside BC light-middleweight was the third athlete from the famed Cork club after Kieran Joyce and Paul Buttimer to qualify for an Olympiad.
Roche booked his ticket for the Sydney Games at the 2000 Chemistry Cup in Halle, Germany, the stylish Munster technician taking home a silver medal into the bargain.
Roche, a five-time Irish Elite champion, beat Fawis Nassir of Denmark and Josef Frecer Czechoslovakia to reach the 71kg final at the Halle tournament, which was also acting as a direct route to Sydney.
But he then lost to Hungary’s Karoly Balzay in the final on a walkover because of a back injury. However, his Olympic ticket was in the post.
Firat Karagollu awaited in Sydney and the Turk earned a 17-4 decision to end Roche’s and Ireland’s interest in the 74-tournament.
Karagollu went out in the next phase to Frederic Esther of France. Nicholas Cruz worked Ireland’s corner in Sydney and Martin Power was Irish team manager.
“The Olympics was a fantastic experience and while I was obviously disappointed not to have progressed in Sydney I was very proud to represent my country at the Olympic Games,” said Roche, who was honoured this year for his outstanding contribution to the sport at a Cork Boxing Breakfast.
Cuba topped the medals table at the 2000 Games.
Another Munster man, Limerick southpaw Andy Lee, was Ireland’s only fistic representative at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece.
Lee, boxing out of the St Francis BC in Limerick and one of the first members of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association’s High Performance Unit, qualified for Athens at the 2004 European Senior Championships in Pula, Croatia.
The three-time Irish Elite champion was celebrating on the double in Pula as he also secured a bronze medal in addition to his Olympic berth.
Lee, a silver medal winner at the 2002 AIBA World Youth Championships in Cuba, made an impressive Olympic debut after outclassing Mexico’s Alfredo Lopez.
But he then agonisingly lost on a countback in the next phase to Nassan D’Dam N’Jikam of the Cameroon following a 54-point thriller.
Just two points separated the combatants on accepted scores after a 27-27 tie, but Lee, who had ex Irish head coach Billy Walsh working his corner, became the first Irish boxer to bow out of an Olympiad on the dreaded counback.
N’Jikam exited to eventual gold medallist, Gaydarbek Gaydarbekov of Russia, in the next phase. Gaydarbekov beat Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin, the current world pro kingpin, on a countback in the final.
The light-middleweight class was scrapped for the 2004 Games and Olympic boxing was now back down to 11 weight categories. Cuba, once again, finished in pole position the medals table.
Lee and Amir Khan, who won silver at the 2004 Games, were the only two boxers from Ireland and Great Britain to qualify for Athens. Both Lee and N’Jikam claimed WBO World middleweight titles after switching codes.
Light-middleweight: Michael Roche (Sunnyside)
Lost to Firat Karagollu (Turkey) 4-17
Middleweight: Andy Lee (St Francis)
Beat Alfredo Lopez (Mexico) 38-23
Lost to Nassan N’Dam Njikam (Cameroon) 27-27 (44-42 on a countback)
Brian Magee has his hand raised in victory v Randall Thompson of Canada at 1996 Olympics
The Holy Trinity BC in Belfast were within touching distance of at least two bronze medals on August 30th/31st at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Damaen Kelly, a bronze medal winner at the 1993 AIBA World Championships in Finland and a bronze medal winner at the 1996 European Championships in Denmark, which qualified him for Atlanta, and Brian Magee, a silver medal winner at the 1998 European Championships in Belarus, both reached the quarter-finals in the USA, but both lost out one bout away from securing a semi-final spot and at least a bronze medal each.
Kelly fought his way past Bulgarian flyweight Julian Strogov and Hussein Hussein of Algeria only to lose 13-6 to Bolat Dzumadilov of Kazakhstan. Dzumadilov reached the 51kg final in Atlanta but was edged out on a 12-11 decision to Cuba’s Maikro Romero for the gold.
Magee, trading leather at middleweight, ousted Canada’s Randall Thompson and Betrand Tetsia of the Cameroon before losing (15-9) to Mohamed Bahari of Algeria.
Bahari had to settle for bronze after a countback reversal to eventual silver medalist Malik Beyleroglu (Turkey) in the last-four.
Galway’s Francis Barrett, who was selected as Irish flag bearer for the opening ceremony at in Atlanta, recorded a win over Zely Ferreria on his Olympic debut, but went out of the tournament to Fethi Missaoui of Tunisia on an 18-6 verdict. Missaoui reached the semi-finals, guaranteeing himself bronze.
St Saviours OBA heavyweight Cathal O’Grady went out to New Zealand’s Garth Da Silva – who in turn was beaten by Sergey Dychkov of Belarus – in his first contest.
Cuba once again finished on top of the medals table at an Olympiad after securing four gold medals.
On January 1st, 1996, AIBA introduced a Competition Record Book. It was made compulsuary for all boxers to produce same to compete in AIBA competition.
The upper age limit was raised from 32 to 34 years on the back of improved safety measures introduced to protect boxers’ health.
Women’s boxing was recognised, but they’d have to wait 16 years until they were allowed trade leather at the Olympics.
Flyweight: Damaen Kelly (Holy Trinity)
Beat Julian Strogov (Bulgaria) 12-11
Beat Hussein Hussein (Australia) 27-20
Lost to Bolat Dzumadilov (Kazakhstan) 6-13
Light-welterweight: Francis Barrett (Olympic)
Beat Zely Ferreria (Brazil) 32-7
Lost to Fethi Missaoui (Tunisia) 6-18
Middleweight: Brian Magee (Holy Trinity)
Beat Randall Thompson (Canada) 13-5
Beat Bertrand Tetsia (Cameroon) 11-6
Lost Mohamed Bahari (Algeria) 9-15
Heavyweight : Cathal O’Grady (St Saviours)
Lost to Garth Da Silva (New Zealand) TKO1
Michael Carruth and Wayne McCullough
Sixty eight years after Michael “Mossy” Doyle – the first Irish boxer to step into the ring at the Olympics at the 1924 Games in Paris – began Ireland’s quest for one of the biggest prizes in sport on July 15th of that year, Michael Carruth finally ended Ireland’s long wait for a boxing gold at the Barcelona Olympics on August 8th, 1992.
Wayne McCullough was also trading leather for gold on a day which saw underdogs Ireland slated to meet powerhouses Cuba in a double header in the bantamweight and welterweight classes. It finished honours even.
Computer scoring – as a result of the fallout from the Roy Jones versus Park Si-hun outrage at the previous Olympics – was used for the first time in the Catalan capital,and the new system reflected the dominance of McCullough, a gold medal winner for Northern Ireland at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, as he cruised through his opening three bouts, hammering Fredrick Mutewata of Uganda, who must have been sick of the sight of the Belfast man at this stage as he lost to him at the 1988 Olympics, Ahmed Ghimin of Iraq and Mohammed Sabo of Nigeria on convincing 28-7, 10-2 and 31-13 verdicts.
The win over Sabo was for a place in the semi-finals and at least a bronze medal. The Belfast fighter, later to be nicknamed “The Pocket Rocket”, met Li Gwang-Sik of Korea in the last-four and booked his ticket into the 54kg decider with a 21-16 victory following a slug-fest with the North Korean.
In the corresponding semi-final, Cuba’s Joel “El Cipillo” (The Brush) Casamayor stopped Mohammed Achik (Morocco) in the first.
The stage was set for a compelling bantamweight duel, but it the Guantanamo-born southpaw who got the decision, a 16-8 verdict, at the Pavelló Club Joventut de Badalona venue, despite a storming final round from the Irish champion, who was bravely fighting through the pain barrier after picking up a severe facial injury after being on the receiving end of a stinging right from El Cipillo in the second round. McCullough fought heroically through the pain barrier.
Casamayor, according to reports, defected from Cuba on the eve of the 1996 Games in Atlanta to turn professional and won a World pro title, as did McCullough after he switched codes.
Meanwhile, Carruth was limbering up in the dressing room for his welterweight clash with Juan Hernandez. The Dublin southpaw, the captain of the Irish team in 1992, beat Maselino Tuifao 11-2 in his opening bout to set up a last-16 duel with a familiar foe in the quarter-finals; Andreas Otto, who was now boxing for a unified Germany.
Three years prior to their Barcelona clash, Otto, then boxing for East Germany, had beaten Carruth 18-1 in the light-welterweight semi-finals of the 5th AIBA World Championships in Moscow, an outrageous verdict that in no way reflected Carruth’s performance, or, for that matter, Otto’s implied dominance.
However, the Irish skipper exacted sweet revenge in the rematch, the Drimnagh BC southpaw forcing Otto into a standing count in the first en route to a 35-22 decision and at least a bronze medal.
Next up was Arkon Chenglai in the semi-finals. He was dispatched on a score of 11-4, Carruth recalling that he got the impression that the Thai didn’t fancy meeting a Cuban – Hernandez went through Puerto Rico’s Anibal Acevedo for a short cut in the other semi-final – in the final and seemed happy enough with bronze.
Ireland had another boxer through to the finals, but the odds, according to the bookies, and various boxing pundits, who were giving Carruth about as much chance as a goldfish thrown into a bathtub with a barracuda, looked bleak.
However, the Dubliner had other ideas and edged a tactical opening frame 4-3. Carruth dropped points after receiving a public warning for holding in the second and trudged back to his corner expecting to be in arrears – but the scores were locked at 8-8.
It was to be decided final frame. Herdandez’s corner had given their man, a silver medal winner at the Seoul Olympics, an earful during the interval and he came out with all guns blazing. However, Carruth was still drawing him down his southpaw alley and was still picking up precious points on the counter. Over in his corner, his dad and coach, Austin, and Ireland’s Cuban coach, Nicholas Cruz, were screaming out instructions.
After the final bell, the signals coming from various unofficial sources at ringside were indicating Carruth had it by a three point margin, but the official score had yet to be announced. The tension was palpable, and the MC rambling on in Spanish wasn’t exactly conducive for anyone (Irish) of a nervous disposition.
Finally, it was announced that Carruth had won 13-10 and and the place erupted. Ireland’s long wait for a gold medal in boxing was over, and the 36-year gap between Ronnie Delaney’s gold medal win in the 1,500m at the 1956 Games in Melbourne had been bridged.
Paul Douglas also came close to winning a medal at the Barcelona Games.Wins against John Peterson and Alexei Tchoudinov seeing the Holy Family BC heavyweight into the quarter-finals, but he was then beaten by Holland’s Arnold Vanderlijde in the last-eight.
Vanderlijde was beaten in the semi-finals by Cuba’s legendary Felix Savon, who many consider the greatest amateur boxer of all time.
Paul Griffin had secured a European gold in in the featherweight class in Gothenburg in 1991 – Paddy Barnes was to bridge that 19-year gap to win gold in Moscow in 2010 – but the Dubliner, also of the Drimnagh BC, went out to Steven Chubgu of Zambia in Barcelona.
Paul Buttimer, the second Sunnyside BC boxer to appear at the Olympics after Kieran Joyce, also went out in the preliminaries. Boxing at flyweight, Buttimer lost to Nigeria’s Moses Malagu, who lost to eventual silver medallist, Raul Gonzalez of Cuba, in the next phase.
Kevin McBride fell at the first hurdle. The Smithboro BC super–heavyweight lost to Peter Hrivnak. Thirteen years after that defeat, McBride caused a sensation when he beat Mike Tyson in Washington.Tyson announced his retirement after that loss.
Cuba took home seven gold medals from the 12 weight categories in Barcelona – but they didn’t take the welterweight gold back to Havana. That, along with Wayne McCullough’s silver, was on its way back to Ireland.
Cuba’s dominance did, however, ensure that the 1992 Irish finished in the highest ever position for an Irish team in the medals table at the boxing event at the Olympic Games.
Cuba claimed seven of the twelve gold’s, Germany two, Ireland, North Korea and USA one apiece. But McCullough’s silver medal, combined with Carruth’s gold, meant that Ireland finished fourth ahead of North Korea. The top five in the medals table were, Cuba, Germany, USA, Ireland and North Korea.
Likewise, the 1992 squad finished one place ahead of the London 2012 squad, who matched the 1992 gold and silver and surpassed Barcelona team with two bronze and finished joint fifth in the medals table with Kazakhstan, two places ahead of the 1956 Irish side who also claimed four medals.
Sean Horkan was Irish team manager in Barcelona.
A qualification system was introduced for the first time for Barcelona. A new word entered the boxing lexicon, the dreaded “countback”.
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) 13-10Heavyweight: 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
Wayne NcCullough in action at the 1988 Olympics versus Canada’s Scott Olsen
Ireland’s seven-strong boxing squad headed east to Seoul, South Korea in 1988 searching for an 8th Olympic medal.
Hughie Russell had been the last Irish fighter to finish in a podium position eight years previously in Moscow.
Unfortunately, politics once again denied boxing fans the opportunity to see the great Cuban class of 1988, as the Caribbean Island, who had boycotted the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, also stayed away from the Seoul Olympiad.
However, the USSR, who had also boycotted the 1984 Games, were back in the Olympic fold, and one of their boxers, Timofei Skriabin, denied Ireland’s Joe Lawlor.
Lawlor made a winning start, stopping Archer Fausto of Mozambique in frame two of his opening bout, but the Darndale BC flyweight bowed out on a unanimous decision to the Soviet, who would progress to secure bronze.
Joe Lowey was the only Irish boxer to register a double in Seoul, positive decisions over Iraq’s Mustafa Saleh and Nigeria’s Shana Mohammed seeing the Ledley Hall BC bantamweight through to the last-16.
But Lowey went out on a split decision to Nurshan Altankhuyey of Mongolia, who would drop a unanimous decision to Phajol Moolsan of Thailand in the quarter-finals.
Wexford’s Billy Walsh, the former Irish head coach, had beaten Korea’s Kyung-sup Song in a pre Olympic tournament in Seoul a few months prior to the Games, Walsh dropping and stopping the Asian.
Both men were drawn against each other again at the Olympics, but this time Song got the decision after Walsh was forced to retire with a cut over his left eye in the second round. The Irish corner pleaded with the ringside doctor to allow the welterweight bout to continue, but the pleas fell on deaf ears.
Song reached the quarter-finals, but was shaded on a split decision by eventual silver-medallist, Laurent Boudouani of France.
Kieran Joyce, appearing in his second Olympiad, once again got off to a victorious start, this time out beating Fili Vaka in the opening frame. However, the Leesider then lost 3-2 to Uganda’s Fred Wanyama in the last-16, while Paul Fitzgerald beat Emilio Villega of the Dominican Republic but was then beaten by Great Britain’s Dave Anderson.
Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth also won their opening contests in Seoul.Positive verdicts over Uganda’s Frederick Mutewata and Japan’s Shinju Higashi saw both men have their hands raised in triumph.
But the Irish duo were eliminated in the next phase following reversals to Canada’s Scott Olson and Sweden’s George Cramne, who would take home silver from Seoul.
However, the experience of competing at the Seoul games proved invaluable for McCullough and Carruth as they would return for their second Olympics four years later.
The 1988 Games was the scene of probably the most outrageous decision in the entire history of Olympic boxing.
Roy Jones of the USA beat of Park Si-Hun of South Korea from here to Calcutta and back by way of the Treaty Stone in Limerick in the light-middleweight final – Jones actually found the target with 86 punches to Si-Hun’s 32.
But despite all the protests, consternation and clear cut evidence of daylight robbery, Si-Hun still stood on top of the podium, a silver medal winner with a gold medal around his neck.
The three judges that voted against Jones were later suspended and the American was presented with the Val Barker trophy as the best stylistic boxer of the 1988 games, one of only three occasions when they award did not go to a gold medal winner.
The other big controversy in Seoul concerned Ben Johnson. The Jamaica-born sprinter won gold for Canada in the 100m in a world record time, but he then failed a drugs test.
One Canadian newspaper ran with the headline: “Canadian Sprints To Gold” after Johnson’s win. But after he failed the drugs test the same paper ran with the headline: “Jamaican Immigrant Fails Drugs Test”!
Meantime, the uproar over Jones’ final with Si-Hun would see the old scoring system scrapped and a new computerised scoring system, “to make judges’ officiating more objective”, introduced in the lead up to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona
The new scoring system was first used at the 5th AIBA World Championships in Moscow in 1989. Michael Carruth had to settle for bronze after being beaten in the semi-finals by East Germany’s Andreas Otto in the Russian capital. Carruth and Otto would renew acquaintances at the Barcelona Olympiad three years later!
The Irish squad in Seoul won seven bouts and lost seven.
Light-flyweight: Wayne McCullough (Albert Foundry)
Beat Frederick Mutewata (Uganda) 5-0
Lost to Scottie Olson (Canada) 0-5
Flyweight: Joe Lawlor (Darndale)
Beat Archer Fausto (Mozambique) KO2
Lost to bronze medalist Timofei Skriabin (USSR) 0-5
Bantamweight: John Lowey (Ledley Hall)
Beat Mustafa Saleh (Iraq) 5-0
Beat Shana Mohammed (Nigeria) 4-1
Lost to Nurshan Altankhuyey (Mongolia) 2-3
Featherweight: Paul Fitzgerald (Transport)
Beat Emilio Villegas (Dominican Republic) 4-1
Lost to Dave Anderson (Great Britain) 0-5
Lightweight: Michael Carruth (Drimnagh)
Beat Shinju Higashi (Japan) 5-0
Lost to eventual silver medalist George Cramne (Sweden) TKO1
Welterweight: Billy Walsh (St Joseph’s)
Lost to Kyung-sup Song (Korea) TKOI2
Middleweight: Kieran Joyce (Sunnyside)
Beat Fili Vaka (Tonga) TKO1
Lost to Fred Wanyama (Uganda).
Los Angeles 1984
Cork’s Kieran Joyce, pictured with his late Sunnyside BC coach Albie Murphy, made an explosive start on his Olympic debut at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
The Sunnyside BC champion, boxing in the welterweight class, KO’d Basil Boniface of the Seychelles in the second round of his opening bout on August 1st of that year, but then lost 4-1 to Finland’s Joni Nyman – who claimed bronze after beating Dwight Frazier of Jamaica in the quarter-finals – five days later. In 2014, Joyce was presented with the Cork Boxer of the century Award.
Paul Fitzgerald was the only Irish boxer to win two bouts in LA. The Arklow man hammered out a unanimous decision (5-0) over Sudanese featherweight Tobi Pelly before earning a split decision (3-2) over Canada’s Steve Pagendam to reach the last-16 where he dropped a split decision to Uganda’s Charles Lubulwa, who was beaten in the quarter-finals.
Gerry Hawkins and Phil Sutcliffe, appearing in successive Olympiads, bowed out in the preliminaries to Italian opponents, both of whom finished amongst the silverware.
Hawkins lost to Salvator Todisco, who was beaten by Paul Gonzalez of the USA in the light-flyweight final, and Sutcliffe was eliminated by Maurizio Stecca in the bantamweight class.
Stecca, who beat Hector Lopez of Mexico in the final, eventually turned professional and secured the vacant WBO featherweight title in 1991, a belt he successfully defended twice. It was the second Olympics in-a-row in which Sutcliffe lost against an opponent who would go on to win three World titles in the pro ranks.
“What I remember about the LA Games was the organisation, recalled Sutcliffe, who has the distinction of winning two European bronze medals for Ireland at two different weight classes (light-flyweight and bantamweight) on both sides of the former Iron Curtain in East (Halle) and West (Cologne) Germany in 1977 and 1979.
Of course, I was very disappointed to lose there as my target was to win a medal. My hand was broken at those Olympics.
“Los Angeles was a great tournament and we were really looked after well. We had a strong team going to the USA and we all fancied our chances of winning a medal but it wasn’t to be.
“I felt that I didn’t get a good run at Stecca, I drew him in the first round and he won and went on the win the gold.”
Sam Storey, a silver medal winner at the Commonwealth Games for Northern Ireland, was in against Italian light-middleweight Romolo Casamonica in his opening bout. Storey was on top in the opening two rounds, but then, exhausted, lost out in the final frame, Casamonica went out to Frank Tate of the USA in the next phase.
Tate progressed to win a controversial gold medal against Shawn O’Sullivan. The Canadian forced Tate into two standing counts in the 1984 decider, but the American was bizarrely handed a unanimous decision.
Even Tate’s coach the late Emanuel Steward, who once coaches Andy Lee, Ireland’s only boxer at the 2004 Olympics, admitted that O’Sullivan may have won.
“Although Frank is my fighter, I kind of feel sorry for O’Sullivan,” he said at the time.
Meanwhile, Tommy Corr, a bronze medal winner for Ireland at the 1982 AIBA World Championships in Munich, earned an impressive unanimous decision over Zimbabwe’s Arigoma Mayero in his opening contest in LA, but then lost to Jeremiah Okorodudu of Nigeria. Okorodudu went out to eventual gold medalist, Joon Sup Shin of Korea, in the next phase.
The USA took full advantage of the USSR’s and Cuba’s boycott of the 1984 Games to deliver nine gold medals and finish on top of the medals podium at the Memorial Sports Arena.
The LA Games saw the introduction of a 12th weight category (super-heavyweight). Likewise, Tyrrell Biggs of the USA became the first ever Olympic champion in this weight class following his win over Italy’s Francesco Damiani.
Henry Tillman, who had beaten a young man by the name of Mike Tyson in the Olympics trials for the USA heavyweight vest, also won gold, but Evander Hollyfield lost in the semi-finals to Kevin Barry of new Zealand on a disqualification.
Korea lost a number of quarter-finals on disputed decisions in LA. The lingering resentment at those results appears to have been a factor in one of the most scandalous verdicts in the history of the sport in Seoul four years later, a decision which almost cost boxing its Olympic status and led to the changing of the scoring system for Barcelona 1992.
John Treacy, the current CEO of the Irish Sports Council, won silver in the marathon at the LA Games in a time of 2:09:56. It was Ireland’s 13th medal since 1924.
Meantime, the wearing of head guards in boxing was made compulsory for the first time at the 1984 Olympics.
Light-flyweight: Gerry Hawkins (Holy Trinity)
Lost to Salvatore Todisco (Italy) 5-0
Bantamweight: Phil Sutcliffe (Drimnagh)
Lost to eventual gold medalist Maurizio Stecca (Italy) 0-5
Featherweight: Paul Fitzgerald (Arklow)
Beat Tobi Pelly (Sudan) 5-0
Beat Steve Pagendam (Canada) 3-2
Lost to Charles Lubulwa (Uganda) 2-3
Welterweight: Kieran Joyce (Sunnyside)
Beat Basil Boniface (Seychelles) TKO1
Lost to eventual bronze medalist Joni Nyman (Finland) 1-4
Light-middle: Sam Storey (Holy Family)
Lost to Romolo Casamonica (Italy) TKO3
Middleweight: Tommy Corr (Clonoe)
Beat Arigoma Mayero (Zimbabwe) 5-0
Lost to Jeremiah Okorodudu (Nigeria) 1-4
Hughie Russell,pictured, wrote another illustrious page in the history of Irish boxing at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
Prior to Russell’s trip behind the former Iron Curtain, his fellow Belfast fighter, the great Jim McCourt, claimed lightweight bronze in Tokyo, and Russell, who boxed out of the Holy Family BC, bridged that 16-year gap at the Games officially known as the XX11 Olympiad.
The Ulster flyweight’s path to the semi-finals, a finish that was enough to secure at least bronze, saw him dispatch Samir Khiniab of Iraq and Emmanuel Mlundwa of Tanzania in the preliminaries and last-16, both wins by way of unanimous (5-0) decisions.
That left Ryon-sik Yo standing between the Irish champion and at least bronze. It proved to be a tough one, the Holy Family man earning a split decision (3-2) over the North Korean to ensure that an Irish athlete would occupy one of the podiums in the Russian capital.
Russell lost out at the semi-final stage to Bulgaria’s eventual gold medallist, Petar Lessov. Both men met up again – outside the ring – 21-years later when Belfast hosted the 2001 AIBA World Men’s Championships – where James Moore claimed Ireland’s only medal (bronze). Lessov was a coach with the Bulgarian team in Belfast.
“I know you hear a lot of glossy stuff about it (the Olympics) but it definitely is the biggest show on Earth, and, as I say to any of the kids that go to the Olympics, it changes your life,” said Russell, a bronze medal winner for Northern Ireland at the 1978 Commonwealth games.
“I always remember going back down the next day to get my medal and this girl, obviously Russian, behind a counter, and a wee chat that you gave her, and she flicked through all these medals, and she gave you your medal, and you took it out and there was your medal. Your name was on it.”
Barry McGuigan KO’d Issack Mabushi of Tanzania in his opener, but was then beaten by Winfred Kabunda of Zambia – who was defeated by the eventual gold medallist (Rudi Fink, East Germany) in the next round.
McGuigan broke his hand in the lead up to the Games and admitted that the injury had not healed up fully and that he was having difficulty with his timing and accuracy in Moscow. The Kabunda reversal was only his third loss in the senior ranks.
Five years after his trip to the 1980 Games, McGuigan claimed the WBA World featherweight title on a glorious night at Loftus Road in London.
Russell’s Irish team-mate Gerry Hawkins received a bye from the first phase in Moscow, but then lost out in his first fight to Bulgaria’s Ismail Moustafov, who would go on to win bronze in the light-flyweight class.
Two-time European medallist, Phil Sutcliffe, who also had to contend with hand injuries and fight through the pain barrier in Moscow, also lost his first bout, the Dubliner losing to Mexican bantamweight Daniel Zaragoza.
Zaragoza, nicknamed “Mouse”, didn’t medal at the 1980 Olympics, but he certainly made an impression in the pro ranks, winning three WBC World bantamweight and super-bantamweight titles between 1985/92.
Meanwhile, Sean Doyle, trading leather in the lightweight class at the Olympski Sports Complex Stadium, KO’d Nelson Trujillo Trujillo of Venezuela, but was then beaten by Romania’s Florian Livadaru, while Martin Brereton went out a eventual bronze medallist, Jose Aguilar of Cuba.
PJ Davitt, the second Phoenix BC boxer to represent Ireland at an Olympiad, was beaten by Ionel Budusan of Romania.
Cuba won an astonishing 10 medals (six of which were gold) from the eleven weight categories to command top spot in the medals table in Moscow. The USSR, despite having home advantage, finished second. Ireland, thanks to Russell, finishes in joint 12th spot in the medals table with Czechslovakia, Great Britain, Guyana and North Korea.
Ireland’s David Wilkins and James Wilkinson, competing in the Flying Dutchman Class (sailing), won silver in Moscow.
The USA did not enter the 1980 Olympics in protest at the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The Cold war between East and West was still in full swing four years later, the Soviet Union, along with Cuba and a host of other Eastern Bloc countries, returned the “compliment” and didn’t attend the Los Angeles Games.
Light-flyweight: Gerry Hawkins (Holy Trinity)
Lost to eventual bronze medallist Ismail Moustafov (Bulgaria) 0-5
Flyweight: Hughie Russell (Holy Family) – Bronze
Beat Samir Khiniab (Iraq) 5-0
Beat Emmanuel Mlundwa (Tanzania) 5-0
Beat Ryon-sik Yo (North Korea) 3-2
Lost to eventual gold medalist Petar Lessov (Bulgaria) 0-5
Bantamweight: Phil Sutcliffe (Drimnagh)
Lost to Daniel Zaragoza (Mexico) 0-5
Featherweight: Barry McGuigan (Smithboro)
Beat Issack Mabushi (Tanzania) TKO3
Lost to Winfred Kabunda (Zambia) 1-4
Lightweight : Sean Doyle (St Joseph’s)
Beat Nelson Trujillo (Venezuela) TKO2
Lost to Florian Livadaru (Romania) TKO2
Light-welterweight : Martin Brereton (Edenderry)
Lost to Jose Aguilar (Cuba) TKO1
Welterweight: PJ Davitt (Phoenix)
Lost to Ionel Budusan (Romania) 0-5
Gerry Hamil and Charlie Nash at the National Stadium in the mid 1970s
Brendan Dunne has the distinction of being the first Irish light-flyweight to compete at the Olympic Games.
AIBA introduced the light-flyweight class at the Mexico City Games in 1968, and Dunne, of the Phoenix BC inDublin, wore the Irish 48kg vest in the lightest of the weight categories in Canada eight years later..
The three-time Irish Elite champion, father of Irish champion and former European and WBA World title holder Bernard Dunne, made an impressive start in Montreal after stopping Asian Games silver medallist Noburu Uchiyama of Japan in round two at the Aréna Maurice Richard, an ice hockey revamped for boxing.
But the Dubliner was then beaten by eventual bronze medalist, Orlando Maldonado of Puerto Rico, in the last-16 stage.
Belfast’s Davy Lamour, who, along with 1972 Olympian John Rogers, lined out for Ireland at the inaugural AIBA World Men’s Championships in Havana, Cuba in 1974 – Lamour was beaten by eventual bronze medallist Constantin Gruiescu (Romania) at the 1st AIBA World Championships – was drawn against Robert Masuka (Swaziland) and Augustin Martinez (Nicaragua) in Montreal.
However, Lamour received walkovers, although Martinez wouldn’t have been allowed box anyway after it was discovered he was just 16-years-old, one year shy of the minimum age requirement.
It’s probable that Martinez was barred because he was underage, while Swaziland. although not listed, appears to have been one of the numerous African nations who boycotted the Games because of New Zealand’s sporting (rugby) ties with South Africa which was banned from the Olympics because of apartheid.
Either way, the Shankill flyweight, a gold medal winner for Northern Ireland at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, got byes straight into the last-eight where he was lost on points by Leo Randolph of the USA, who went on to win gold.
Gerry Hamill, Christy McLoughlin and Brian Byrne also represented Ireland in Montreal, but all three went out at the first phase of the competition, Hamill losing out to the aptly named Ace Rusevski of Yugoslavia, who took home a bronze medal from the Games.
Hamill, the 1978 Commonwealth champion, looking back on his defeat to Rusevski, had a few words of advice for young boxers – and the older ones as well.
“In 1976, I made the mistake of not listening to Gerry Storey as he had told me exactly how to handle Rusevski. I was fighting the wrong fight and not keeping him at the end of my left hand and at distance and that was to cost me in the end.
“The most important thing I tell my lads today is to listen to your corner and I know that all too well.”
The USA boxing team, which included the talents of Sugar Ray Leonard and brothers Leon and Michael Spinks, helped America to five gold, one silver and one bronze to finish on top of the medals table in Montreal.
Leon Spinks would go on to beat Muhammad Ali for the WBC/WBA World heavyweight titles in Las Vegas in 1978. However, he was stripped of the WBC belt because he didn’t defend it against the mandatory challenger, Ken
Norton, and Ali won the rematch (for the WBA title) between the 1960 and 1976 Olympic champions in New Orleans.
Cuba finished second in the medals table at the 1976 Games.
Meantime, Irish boxing would be back in the USSR four years later searching for a 7th Olympic medal.
Light-flyweight: Brendan Dunne (Phoenix)
Beat Noburu Uchiyama (Japan) TKO2
Lost to eventual bronze medallist Orlando Maldonado (Puerto Rico) TKO1
Flyweight: Davy Larmour (Albert Foundry)
Beat Robert Masuku (Swaziland) W/O
Beat Augustin Martinez (Nicaragua) W/O
Lost to eventual gold medallist Leo Randolph (USA) 1-4
Lightweight: Gerry Hamill (Holy Family)
Lost to eventual bronze medallist Ace Rusevski (Yugoslavia) 1-4
Welterweight: Christy McLoughlin (British Rail)
Lost to Colin Jones (Great Britain) 0-5
Light-middleweight: Brian Byrne (Transport)
Lost to Wilfredo Guzman (Puerto Rico) 2-3
All of the Irish squad at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich recorded at least one win, with four of the Ireland panel only losing to eventual medalists.
Mick Dowling, appearing in successive Olympiads, Charlie Nash, pictured above, and Jim Montague were eliminated by Cuba’s Orlando Martinez, Poland’s Jan Szczepanski and Ray Seals of the USA, who all finished on top of the bantamweight, lightweight and welterweight podiums.
For his second Olympics in-a-row, Dowling found himself within touching distance of at least bronze only to be edged out, this time on a split decision, by Martinez in the quarter-finals.
Neil McLaughlin, meantime, lost to Uganda’s Leo Rwabwogo, who secured silver in the flyweight class at the first Olympics to introduce a white punching surface on gloves.
Nash, who won a European title in the professional ranks and challenged for a WBC belt, and McLaughlin, both of the St Mary’s and St Eugene’s clubs in Derry, also advanced to within one win of claiming at least bronze at the Boxhalle venue in Munich.
Nash beat Denmark’s Erik Madsen and KO’d Antonio Gin before losing to Szczepanski in the lightweight class, while McLaughlin saw off the challenge of Sudanese flyweight Mustafa Safid and KO’d Egypt’s Mohamed Selim in the second before losing to Rwabwogo.
McLaughlin, as quoted in Barry Flynn’s Legends of Irish Boxing, admitted that his first love was gymnastics – until he stepped between the ropes.
“I really only got into boxing by mistake. I loved gymnastics and was all set to give to try and go on and take it very seriously when I had a bit of a falling out with the teacher at the club, so I decided to leave the sport behind, he said.
“I was at a loose end and someone suggested that I go up to the St Eugene’s boxing club in the city and give the fight game a try. Well, the next thing I know I am in the ring sparring under the watchful eye of the trainer Patsy Havern and I began to realise that boxing came naturally to me.”
Jim Montague, John Rodgers and Christy Elliot also recorded wins for Ireland at the Munich Games.
The Cuban boxing team finished on top of the medals table in Munich, toppling the USSR into second place.
The legendary Cuban heavyweight, Teófilo Stevenson Lawrence, won his first Olympic gold in Germany, the first of a hat-trick. The 1972 Games were completely overshadowed by the murder of Israeli athletes and coaches by Islamic terrorists.
Flyweight: Neil McLaughlin (St Eugene’s, Derry)
Beat Mustafa Safid (Sudan) 5-0
Beat Mohamed Selim (Egypt) KO2
Lost to eventual silver medalist Leo Rwabwogo (Uganda) in the quarter-finals. TKO3
Bantamweight: Mick Dowling (British Rail)
Beat Ove Lundby (Sweden) 4-1
Lost to to eventual gold medalist Orlando Martinez (Cuba) 2-3
Lightweight: Charlie Nash (St Mary’s, Derry)
Beat Erik Madsen (Denmark) 5-0
Beat Antonio Gin (Mexico) TKO1
Lost to eventual gold medalist Jan Szczepanski (Poland) TKO3
Light-welterweight: Jim Montague (Star)
Beat Nosra Vakil Monfared (Iran) TKO3
Lost to eventual gold medalist Ray Seales (USA) 0-5
Welterweight: John Rodgers (Lisburn)
Beat Ib Botcher (Denmark) TKO3
Lost to Anatoliy Khohlov (USSR) )-5
Light-middleweight: Christy Elliott (Port of Dublin)
Beat Farouk Kesrouan (Lebanon) 5-0
Lost to Emeterio Villanueva (Mexico) TKO3
Mick Dowling with Ken Egan and RTE southpaw Jimmy Magee
Mexico City 1968
Jim McCourt, a bronze medal winner at lightweight at the previous Olympics, moved up a notch to light-welterweight for the Ciudad de Mexico Olympics in 1968.
The Irish squad that headed to the high altitude of Mexico City that year also included the formidable talents of the Arbour Hill BC trio of Mick Dowling, Eddie Tracey and Brendan McCarthy and the St John Bosco BC duo of Martin Quinn and Eamonn McCusker.
Two-time European bronze medallist Dowling – the first Irish boxer to win eight consecutive Elite titles at the same weight – won two contests in the bantamweight class.
His first outing was against Bernd Juterzenka, and the Kilkenny man made a spectacular Olympic debut, dropping the East German twice before the ref saw enough and called a halt to proceedings in the first.
He then beat John Rakowski, who was also left occupying a large area of floor space after being felled by thudding right from the Irish bantamweight in the second frame. The Australian was disqualified in the third for using his head.
That win left Dowling just one positive verdict away from winning at least bronze, but the Irish champion lost 4-1 to Japan’s Eiji Morioka, two unfair warnings tipping the balance in favour of the Asian from a very close contest. Morioka was beaten in the last-four by Valerian Sokolov of the USSR, who TKO’d Eridadi Mukwanga of Uganda in the final to finish on top of the 54kg podium.
Meanwhile, Dowling’s Arbour Hill team-mate McCarthy lost to eventual gold medallist, Mexico’s Ricardo Delgado, and Quinn, who KO’d Inoua Bodio in the first round of his opening contest, was beaten by defending Olympic champion, Josef Grudzien of Poland, who went on the claim silver.
Quinn actually floored Grudzien in the third, but the Polish fighter got back up off the canvas – after an inordinate delay of nearly 40 seconds – to have his hand raised in victory on a 4-1 decision.
Tracey beat Jamaican featherweight Errol West 4-1 in his opener but then lost 4-1 to Mexico’s Antonio Roldan in front of a very partisan crowd – and that’s putting it mildly. Roldan advanced to win one of two gold medals for the host nation.
Both McCourt and Eamonn McCusker, who lost to Cuban silver medallist Ronaldo Garbey, were beaten in their opening bouts.
Chris Finnegan won middleweight gold for Great Britain at the 1968 Olympics. Finnegan’s dad was from Liverpool and his mum from Newry.Also at the 19th Olympiad, George Foreman secured gold for the USA in the heavyweight class.
The USSR finished on top of the medals table for the second Olympics in-a-row in 1968, but their table-topping exploits were now under serious threat as the emerging amateur boxing nation of Cuba secured two silver medals to leave their calling card in Mexico City.
The double podium finish proved the springboard for the Caribbean island to emerge as one of the dominant forces in the world of amateur pugilism for the remainder of the century, and beyond.
The light-flyweight class was introduced for the first time at the 1968 Olympics. Its introduction increased the weight categories to eleven.
Flyweight: Brendan McCarthy (Arbour Hill)
Lost to eventual gold medallist Ricardo Delgado (Mexico) 0-5
Bantamweight: Mick Dowling (Arbour Hill)
Beat Bernd Juterzenka (East Germany) KO1
Beat John Rakowski (Australia) DSQ3
Lost to Eiji Morioka (Japan) 1-4
Featherweight: Edward Tracey (Arbour Hill)
Beat Errol West (Jamaica) 4-1
Lost to eventual gold medalist Antonio Roldan (Mexico) 1-4
Lightweight: Martin Quinn (St John Bosco)
Beat Inoua Bodio (Cameroon) KO1
Lost to defending champion and eventual silver medallist Josef Grudzien (Poland) 1-4
Light-welterweight: Jim McCourt (Immaculata)
Lost to Gert Puzicha (Germany) 0-5
Light-middleweight: Eamonn McCusker (St John Bosco)
Lost to eventual silver medallist Rolando Garbey (Cuba) TKO1
In the same year that the Beatles released their third album, A Hard Hard Day’s Night, Belfast’s Jim McCourt followed in the footsteps of the boxer he believes was the greatest to come out of Ireland.
McCourt, of the Immaculata BC, claimed bronze at the Tokyo Olympics eight years after the athlete he described as an inspiration, Johnny Caldwell, also of the Immaculata BC, won bronze at the 1956 Melbourne Games.
The Ulster southpaw, a bronze medal winner for Ireland at the 1965 European Championships in Berlin and a gold medal winner for Northern Ireland at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, wore the Irish lightweight vest with distinctionat the 1964 Games at the Korakuen Ice Palace in Tokyo.
A hat-trick of victories over Bun-am Sug of Korea, Ghulam Sarwar of Pakistan and Domingo Barrera of Spain saw McCourt reach the last-four, thus guaranteeing a 6th medal for Ireland from four Olympics since 1952.
Vellikton Barannikov of the USSR awaited in the semi-final, but McCourt, who had won all of his bouts 4-1 up to the semi-finals, was shaded on a split decision. Barannikov, who also edged out McCourt in the 1965 European semi-finals in Berlin, went on the reach the final, where he dropped a unanimous decision to Polish legend Jozef Grudzien, who also won silver at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
One year later, McCourt was given the opportunity to exact a measure of retribution at the National Stadium in Dublin when Ireland hosted Poland.
McCourt was slated to meet Grudzien, who was to find out that while Olympic champions are accorded the utmost respect at the home of Irish boxing they can expect no quarter at the South Circular Road venue.
McCourt recalled: “The place was heaving that night in expectation of the fight with Grudzien. I felt I had something to prove from Tokyo. I fought a great fight and I had him all over the ring, but the roars of the crowd spurred me on and I felt so happy when I got the decision.”
St John Bosco ace Sean McCafferty, who at 19 was the youngest member of the Irish 1964 squad, won his first bout against Sulley Shittu of Ghana in Toyko, but then lost to eventual Olympic champion, Fernando Atzori of Italy in the quarter-finals.
Smokin’ Joe Frazier, who was only selected after Buster Mathis withdrew injured, claimed a solitary old for the USA after blasting his way into the finals where he decisioned Germany’s Hans Huber.
The host nation celebrated after Takao Sakurai won their first Olympic gold medal in boxing at bantamweight.
But boxing at 18th Olympiad was marred by protests at poor decisions, with two fighters, Spain’s Valentin Loren and Argentina’s José Roberto Chirino receiving lifetime bands for striking referees and Korea’s Jo Dong-Gi protesting his defeat with a sit down protest – in the middle of the ring – which lasted almost an hour.
The USSR topped the medals table. Ireland finished in joint 10th position in the medals table with Bulgaria, Finland, Ghana, Mexico, Nigeria, Tunisia and Uruguay in Toyko.
Flyweight: Sean McCafferty (St John Bosco)
Beat Sulley Shittu (Ghana) 3-2
Lost to eventual gold medallist Fernando Atzori (Italy) 0-5
Bantamweight: Chris Rafter (North City)
Lost to Abel Cesar Almaraz (Argentina) 0-5
Featherweight: Paddy Fitzsimons (St Matthew’s)
Lost to Piotr Gurman (Poland) 0-5
Lightweight: Jim McCourt (Immaculata) – Bronze
Beat Bun-am Suh (Korea) 4-1
Beat Ghulam Sarwar (Pakistan) 4-1
Beat Domingo Barrera (Spain) 4-1
Lost to Vellikton Barannikov (USSR) 2-3
Light-welteweightr: Brian Anderson (Middle Row)
Lost to Touch Nol (Cambodia) 0-5
Clay v Pietrzykowski – 1960 Olympic light-heavy final
Irish boxing travelled to Rome for the 1960 Olympics with optimism after finishing in four podium positions at the 1956 Games.
Five medals had been secured from the last two Olympiads, two silver and three bronze. Confidence was high ahead of competition at the Palazzo dello Sport venue.
But there was no joy for Irish pugilism in the Eternal City as none of the ten-strong squad, Ireland’s biggest ever Olympic boxing panel, medalled.
Bernie Meli, at 20 the youngest member of the Irish squad, beat Greek light-welterweight Michail Dememtre in his opening bout, but then lost to Bohumil Nemecek of Czechoslovakia, who went on to win gold.
Omagh BC lightweight Danny O’Brien also opened his account with a win, beating Esteban Aguilar from the upcoming boxing nation of Cuba. However, he then went out to the eventual silver medallist, Sandro Lopopolo of Italy, in the next round.
The great Harry Perry, a multiple Irish champion, came unstuck. The Dubliner, appearing in back-to-back Olympics and a bronze medal winner at the 1959 European Championships in Switzerland, dropped a split decision to Korea’s Ki-soo Kim in his opening bout.
Cork’s Paddy Kenny, Ando Reddy, Mick Reid and Eamonn McKeon chalked up victories in Rome.
Colin McCoy was beaten in the light-heavyweight class by Finland’s Matti Aho, who was eliminated by Bulgaria’s Petar Stankov in the last-16.
Stankov was subsequently beaten by Zbigniew Pietrzykowski in the last-eight, but the Polish fighter, who saw off the challenge of Italy’s Giulio Saraudi in the semi-finals, had to settle for silver after ending up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision to a charismatic 18-year-old American sensation named Cassius Clay.
Clay, later to change his name to Muhammad Ali, was one of three American boxers to claim gold medals in Rome, but that wasn’t enough to secure top spot of the USA in the medals table.
Clay, who endured a strong challenge from the experienced Pietrzykowski, a three-time Olympic medallist and four-time European Elite champion, in the first round of their 81kg final, was the only boxer of Irish descent to medal in Italy.
According to Thomas Hauser’s critically acclaimed Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times, Clay’s mother, Odessa Grady Clay, was the granddaughter of Abe Grady who emigrated from Clare, Ireland soon after the American Civil War and married a “freed coloured woman whose name is unknown.”
Hosts Italy, with three gold, three silver and one bronze medal, were boxing’s table-toppers at the 1960 Games.
The Rome Olympiad was the first Olympics to be televised and would mark the last time that South Africa would compete at the Games because of its policy of apartheid. Thirty two years later South Africa was readmitted to the Games by the IOC.
There was a slight change to the scoring system for boxing at the 1960 Olympiad with five judges scoring bouts instead of three.
Flyweight: Adam McLean (Crown)
Lost to Karimu Young (Nigeria) 1-4
Bantamweight: Paddy Kenny (Cork News Boys & Coventry Irish)
Beat Emile Anner (Switzerland) 5-0
Lost to Jerry Armstrong (USA) 2-3
Featherweight: Ando Reddy (Sandymount)
Beat Andre Juncker (France) 3-2
Lost to Abel Bekker (Rhodesia) 0-5
Lightweight: Danny O’Brien (Omagh)
Beat Esteban Aguilar (Cuba) 5-0
Lost to to eventual silver medallist Sandro Lopopolo (Italy) 0-5
Light-welterweight: Bernie Meli (Immaculata)
Beat Michail Demetre (Greece) 5-0
Lost to eventual gold medallist Bohumil Nemecek (Czechoslovakia) 0-5
Welterweight: Harry Perry (British Rail)
Lost to Ki-soo Kim (Korea) 2-3
Light-middleweight: Mick Reid (Crumlin)
Beat Helio Crescencio (Brazil) 4-1
Lost to Henryk Dampe (Poland) 0-5
Middleweight: Eamonn McKeon (Crumlin)
Beat Mohammed Ben Gandoubi (Tunisia) 5-0
Lost to Frederik van Rooyen (South Africa) 0-5
Light-heavyweight: Colin McCoy (Kilcullen)
Lost to Matti Aho (Finland) 1-4
Heavyweight: Joe Casey (Arbour Hill)
Lost to Obrad Sretenovic (Yugoslavia) 0-5
John Caldwell and Freddie Tiedt
Irish boxing took home its greatest ever haul of Olympic medals – a haul which was later, as in over half a century later, matched at London 2012 and surpassed in terms of the quality of the medals (one gold, one silver and two bronze) – from the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne – but once again Ireland was denied gold following a controversial split decision.
Fredt Tiedt, John Caldwell, Freddie Gilroy, who sadly passed away this week, and Tony Byrne plundered one silver and three bronze medals Down Under.
Dublin-born Tiedt, boxing in the welterweight class, went all the way to the final but was on a receiving end of a highly controversial split decision reversal to Nicolae Linca of Romania.
Linca was awarded a 3-2 verdict amid hoots of derision at the West Melbourne Stadium.
Even an official Olympic dispatch specifically mentioned the 1956 welterweight final.
It read: “Probably the most unlucky boxer was Tiedt (Ireland) who lost a close final to Linca (Romania) after he had come through three very hard fights in his division against Aeleskra (Poland), Lane (USA) and Hogarth (Australia).”
But despite the protests, Tiedt, a great stalwart of the Trinity College Boxing Club, had to settle for silver.
Meanwhile, Belfast’s Freddie Gilroy found himself under the spotlight because of politics
The 1956 Games took place amid the backdrop of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary and any contest between a boxer from the “West” and the USSR was attracting the attention of the media.
Gilroy, of the St John Bosco BC, was in against Boris Stepanov of the USSR and provoked an international sensation after flooring his opponent in the third.
“He was a hot favourite to lift the gold, but I caught him with a sweet left hook in the third round and I knew he was not getting back up,” said Gilroy, who went on the beat Italy’s Mario Sitri in the quarter-finals – a win that secured at least bronze – before losing to Germany’s Wolfgang Behrendt, the eventual gold medallist, in the semi-finals.
Belfast flyweight Caldwell also took the early route to victory in his opening bout, a third round KO of Wi Yaishwe of Burma setting up a quarter-final with Warner Bachelor of Australia, which the Immaculata BC man won to guarantee Ireland at least another bronze. He then lost out to Mircea Dobrescu of Romania for a place in the final.
“I was so overjoyed to be representing Ireland and wearing the green vest on such a stage. Just being there at such a young age was something special and I still find it hard to explain that feeling, “said Caldwell, who, at 18, was the youngest member of the Irish 1956 boxing squad.. Caldwell turned professional in 1958 and won the World bantamweight title in London three years later.
Drogheda’s Tony “Socks” Byrne also claimed bronze in Melbourne. The Ireland team captain, who carried the Irish flag in Melbourne, beat Josef Chovanec of Czechoslovakia and Louis Molina (USA) before losing to German lightweight Harry Kurschat in his semi-final.
On the same day, December 1st, 1956, that Tiedt was controversially beaten by Linca, Ronnie Delaney left the rest of the world in his slipstream to claim 1500m gold at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, setting a new Olympic record in the process.
The Irish Olympic 1956 Olympic team arrived home through Shannon Airport in early December with one gold, one silver and three bronze medals. Martin Smyth, Harry Perry and Patrick “Pa” Sharkey, who was living in Australia, lost their first bouts in Melbourne, with Smyth losing to Finland’s Pentti Hamalainen, who beat John McNally in the 1952 Olympic final.
The USSR finished on top of the medals table in the boxing event at the 1956 Games. Ireland finished in 7th position. The 1956 Games marked the first Olympic in which Ireland won more bouts (9) than it lost (6).
Flyweight: Johnny Caldwell (Immaculata) – Bronze
Beat Wi Yaishwe (Burma) KO3
Beat Warner Batchelor (Australia) 3-0
Lost to Mircea Dobrescu (Romania) 0-3
Bantamweight: Freddie Gilroy (St John Bosco) – Bronze
Beat Boris Stepanov (USSR) KO3
Beat Mario Sitri (Italy) 3-0
Lost to eventual gold medallist Wolfgang Behrendt (Germany) 0-3
Featherweight Martin Smyth (Star)
Lost to Pentti Hamalainen (Finland KO2
Lightweight: Tony Byrne (Tredagh) – Bronze
Beat Josef Chovanec (Czechoslovakia) DQ3
Beat Louis Molina (USA) 3-0
Lost to Harry Kurschat (Germany) 0-3
Light-welterweight: Harry Perry (British Rail)
Lost to Claude Saluden (France) 0-3
Welterweight: Fred Tiedt (South City) – Silver
Beat Tadeusz Walasek (Poland) 3-0
Beat Pearce Lane (USA) 3-0
Beat Kevin Hogarth (Australia) 3-0
Lost to Nicolae Linca (Romania) 2-3
Heavyweight: Paddy Sharkey (Sydney)
Lost to Thorner Ahsman (Sweden) KO3
It appears to be generally accepted that Gentleman John McNally, pictured above with his historic Olympic silver medal, wrote Irish boxing into the history books after he beat Korea’s Joon-Ho Kang in the bantamweight semi-final at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki on August 1st of that year.
That win secured at least silver, a first Olympic medal for Irish boxing.
But because the 1952 Games was the first Olympiad in which beaten semi-finalists were assured of bronze, the Belfast bantam actually guaranteed Ireland a first medal – at least bronze – twenty four hours earlier after seeing off Italy’s Vincenzo Dall’osso in the quarter-finals.
Before the 1952 Games beaten semi-finalist boxed off for bronze, but immediately prior to the Helsinki Olympics it was decided, at an AIBA Congress, to eliminate bronze medal box-offs. However, no bronze medals were awarded at the 15th Olympiad in the Finnish capital. The losing semi-finalists were presented with diplomas and their national flags raised.
The bronze medals, however, were presented retrospectively in the early 1970s at a ceremony in Helsinki, but only a handful of the beaten semi-finalist from 1952 showed up to collect their medals. Apparently, there’s quite a number of unclaimed Olympic bronze medals out there!
It was all of academic interest to McNally, as he upgraded to silver after beating Kang to set up the 54kg final with Finland’s Pentti Hamalainen at the Messuhalli Stadium on August 2nd, 1952. The stage was set, but it wasn’t to be for the Ulster ace, who had beaten Alejandro Ortuoste of the Philippines in the preliminaries, as Hamalainen was handed a controversial split decision.
John McNally at 1952 Games
“The fight took place in a packed and partisan arena and when the split decision was called in favour of the Finn the place erupted in celebration, recalled McNally, as quoted in Barry Flynn’s “Legends of Irish Boxing” (Appletree Press).
“It was the last day of the Games and the host nation had not yet won a gold medal so there was a lot of pressure on the Finn’s shoulders to deliver. The Finn had been cautioned at least eight times during the bout for hitting with the inside of the glove and for using his head to open up my eye, which in today’s rules would have cost him points.
“When the bell rang we were all convinced that that I had got the decision. It came down to the three judges and the British judge gave it to me, while the American and Austrian gave it to Hamalainen. I could not believe it when his hand was raised.”
After the final, McNally had to receive treatment to his back for ropes burns. He recalled that the doctor warned him that he would be applying pure alcohol to his wounds and that it would sting.
McNally, a bronze medal winner at the 1953 European Championships, added: “I recall that there was a boxer lying meditating on the bench beside me preparing himself mentally for his own final bout and he held out his hands for me to grip. The alcohol really did hurt so I squeezed that boxer’s hands very hard in reaction to the pain.”
“Only later did I realise that the man who offered to hold my hands was the legendary Floyd Patterson, future heavyweight champion of the world. It was an act of kindness that I have never forgotten.”
Lightweight Kevin Martin and light-welterweight Terry Milligan also recorded wins in Helsinki and Dublin brothers Ando Reddy and Tommy Reddy, Peter Crotty, Willie Duggan and John John Lyttle also lined out for Ireland. Milligan won two bouts in 1952.
Meanwhile, McNally’s silver medal was the first pieces of silverware that Ireland had won at the Olympics since Bod Tisdall and Pat O’Callaghan struck double gold in track and field at the 1932 Games.
The USA finished on top of the medals table in boxing at the 1952 Games with five gold medals, one of which went to Patterson. Irish boxing, courtesy of McNally’s podium finish, finally made the Olympics medals table, finishing in 13th position.
“I cherish the great times that I had representing Ireland and this award has been most welcome,” said the modest Belfast bantamweight, who also carved out a successful career as a musician, after he was inducted into the IABA Hall of Fame in 2008.
And, finally, at the fifth time of asking, courtesy of McNally, an Olympic medal. Four more medals were in the post.
Flyweight: Ando Reddy (Sandymount)
Lost to Aristide Pozzali (Italy) 0-3
Bantamweight: John McNally (White City) – Silver
Beat Alejandro Ortuoste (Philippines) 3-0
Beat Vincenzo Dall’osso (Italy) 3-0
Beat Joon-Ho Kang (Korea) 3-0
Lost to Pentti Hamalainen (Finland) 1-2
Featherweight: Tommy Reddy (Sandymount)
Lost to Stefan Redli (Yugoslavia) KO2
Lightweight Kevin Martin (Mount Street)
Beat Marcel van de Keere (Belgium) 2-1
Lost to Gheorghe Fiat (Romania) 0-3
Light-welter: Terry Milligan (Shortt and Harland)
Beat Ebraham Afsharpour (Iran) 3-0
Beat Pieter van Klaveren (Holland) 3-0
Lost to Bruno Vistinin (Italy) 0-3
Welterweight: Peter Crotty (Clonmel)
Lost to Harry Gunnarsson (Sweden) KO2
Middleweight: Willie Duggan (Crumlin)
Lost to eventual silver medallist Vasile Tita (Romania) DQ3
Heavyweight: John Lyttle (St George’s)
Lost to Jean Lansiaux (France) 0-3
Boxing venue 1948 Olympics
Irish boxing had high hopes medalling at the 1948 Olympic Games in London following a number of confidence-boosting performance in top international competition.
Prior to the first Olympiad after WW2, Ireland had made notable progress and entered its first major tournament besides the Olympics at the 1937 European Elite Championships in Milan.
Four Irish athletes, Ernie Smith, James Healy, Frank Kerr and Lydon (first name unrecorded) lined out in Italy. The quartet failed to get beyond the last-eight stage at the 5th edition of the tournament.
Two years later, however, Irish boxing announced its arrival on a international stage and medals podium at the 1939 European Elite Championships at the National Stadium in Dublin.
The Stadium, the first purpose build boxing venue in the world, was officially opened amid great pomp and ceremony that year and the then Irish Amateur Boxing Association, now the Irish Athletic Boxing Association, proudly hosted its first major tournament at the South Circular Road venue.
The Boys in Green didn’t disappoint on home turf, with Jimmy Ingle and Paddy Dowdall winning flyweight and featherweight gold and Charles Evenden securing bronze after a box-off victory.
The haul saw Ireland finish in second spot in the medals table behind Italy. Ingle was 17-years old, and, along with Rio 2016 Olympian Joe Ward, who won European Elite gold aged 17 in 2011, is the youngest ever Irish European Elite champion.
Meantime, the IABA also hosted the 1947 European Championships, the first European Championships after WW2 (although Germany, of all nations, hosted an unofficial European Championships in Germany in 1942. The results were annulled by AIBA after WW2), at the National Stadium.
Gearoid O’Colmain won gold after beating England’s George Scriven in the heavyweight decider and Pete McGuire secured silver in Dublin to help Ireland finish in third spot in the medals table.
O’Colmain was named on an eight-strong Irish squad for the 1948 Olympics, but the Dubliner, who worked as a blacksmith, dropped a points decision to Italy’s Uber Baccilieri in his first bout.
Maxie McCullagh fared better, beating Finland’s Tauno Rinkinen and Great Britain’s Ronnie Cooper before losing to Danish lightweight Sven Wad in the quarter-finals.
Ireland’s injury jinx struck again in the middleweight class. Mick McKeon won three bouts in this division, beating Canada’s John Keenan, Iran’s Hossein Toussi and France’s Aime Joseph-Escudie before losing to Johnny Wright of Great Britain in the semi-finals. Wright was beaten by Hungary’s Laszlo Papp in the final.
But the Dubliner, whose brother Eamonn represented Ireland, also at middleweight, at the 1960 Olympics, picked up an injury in his last-four duel with Wright and had to withdraw from the box-off for bronze with Italy’s Ivano Fontana.
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 WW2.
The weight limits in each division, which had remained static since 1920, were adjusted to metric measurements for the 1948 Games, e.g., 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 (pictured above). 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).
Meantime, Ireland’s wait for that elusive Olympic medal in boxing would last another four years when a young man from Belfast punched his way into the history books.
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
Lost 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
Irish athletics legend Bob Tisdall
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 receivd 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 Carstenes (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 publication, particularly in the USA, have reported that Ireland boycotted the 1936 Olympiad because of objections to Nazi Germany.
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).
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
The Irish Athletic Boxing Association, then the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, informed the media that they had ratified their squad for the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam in June of that year.
Myles McDonagh, Frank Traynor, George Kelly, Willie O’Shea, PJ Lenehan, Jack Chase, WJ Murphy and Matt Flanagan would represent Irish boxing at the 9th Olympiad. All were current Irish Elite champions from the 1928 Irish Championships.
A record entry of 84 boxers, surpassing the previous year’s entry of 54, registered to compete at the 1928 Seniors in Dublin. Two of the titles, flyweight and welter, were vacant as defending champion George Kelly moved up to bantam and TJ Finn withdrew with an illness. The weigh-in was held between 8am and 12.30pm at Portobello Barracks. The IABA advised boxers – which they are still doing nearly a 100 years later – to weigh-in as early as possible to facilitate the draw.
Most of the 1928 Irish champions were included on an international team that won ten of eighteen bouts against Scotland at Portobello Barracks in 1928. The Olympic team also won seven of the eight bouts against Denmark at Dalymount Park in April of that year.
Matt Flanagan, who was selected as Irish flag bearer for the 1928 Games by the Olympic Council of Ireland, was the only Irish boxer not to win. His heavyweight bout with Niels Andreasen, described as a gigantic southpaw with a gap-toothed smile, was ruled a draw. The Irish Independent and Irish Times reported that just over 9,000 attended the meeting between Ireland and the Danes at the home of Irish football. Denmark also lost to the Irish Olympic reserve team at the Curragh a few days later.
Tipperary’s Paddy Dwyer, who had reached the semi-finals at Paris 1924, was Irish head coach for the 1928 Games which marked the first occasion that entries were limited to one boxer per weight division per nation. 144 boxers from 29 countries competed.
Dublin-born Frank Traynor also reached the last-four in Amsterdam on August 10th, 1928.
The St Paul’s BC champion blasted his way into the last-four at the Krachtsportgebouw venue after recording wins over Fuji Okamato (Japan) and Carmelo Robledo (Argentina) before losing out to Italy’s Vittorio Tamagnini in the semi-finals.
He also lost out on points to Jewish bantamweight Harry Isaacs (South Africa) in the box-off for bronze.Willie “Boy” Murphy (Garda), who had won his first bout at the Paris Games in 1924, once again got off to a winning start in Amsterdam, this time out via a sensational first round KO of Spain’s Jose Montilor Pastor.
But Murphy, who represented the Army at middleweight in Paris, exited after dropping a points decision to Germany’s Ernst Pistulla, who went on to claim silver, in the next phase.
PJ Lenihan and Jack Chase also secured wins for Ireland in the welterweight and middleweight classes, while Flanagan lost to eventual gold medallist, Arturo Rodriguez Jurado of Argentina.
As in Paris four years previously, boxing at the 1928 Games was contested across eight weight classes – flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light-heavyweight and heavyweight.
The Amsterdam Olympiad marked the first time that an Olympic flame was lit at the modern Games and all athletes were given strict guidelines by the Federation International De Boxe Amateur (FIBA) and the Intrnational Olympic Committee as to what what exactly constituted an amateur.
“An amateur is one who has never competed for a money prize, staked bet or declared wager, who has not competed with or against a professional for any prize (except with the express sanction of the Amateur Boxing Association of the nation of which he is a member), and who has never taught, pursued or assisted in the practice of athletic exercises as a means of obtaining a livelihood or pecuniary gain.”
There was no World Series of Boxing or AIBA Pro Boxing in 1928!
Italy finished on top of the medals table in the boxing event after claiming three gold medals and one bronze.
The legendary Pat O’Callaghan won gold at the 1928 Games in the hammer throw, Ireland’s first gold medal at the Olympics.
Ireland’s boxer helped shoulder our first Olympic champion, who was a good friend of Willie “Boy” Murphy, onto the boat home from the 1928 Games, but the search for Ireland’s first boxing medal would extend to Los Angeles 1932.
Meantime, Irish boxing won 9 and lost 17 bouts from both the Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928.
Flyweight: Michael “Myles” McDonagh (Army)
Lost to Brian Bril (Holland) Pts
Bantamweight: Frankie Traynor (St Paul’s)
Beat Fuji Okamato (Japan) Pts
Beat Carmelo Robledo (Argentina) Pts
Lost to Vittorio Tamagnini (Italy) Pts
Bronze medal box-off
Lost Harry Isaacs (South Africa) Pts
Featherweight: George Kelly (North City)
Lost to Rasmus Madsen (Denmark) Pts
Lightweight: Willie O’Shea (Army)
Lost to Jorge Diaz Hernandez (Chile) Pts
Welterweight : PJ Lenihan (St James)
Beat Arne Sande (Denmark) Pts
Lost to Ray Smillie (Canada) Pts
Middleweight: Jack Chase (Garda)
Beat Alfred Wilson (South Africa) Pts
Lost to to Leonard Steyaert (Belgium) Pts
Light-heavyweight: Willie ‘Boy’ Murphy (Garda)
Beat Jose Montilor Pastor (Spain) KO1
Lost to eventual silver medallist Ernst Pistulla (Germany) Pts
Heavyweight: Matt Flanagan (Garda)
Lost to eventual gold medallist Arturo Rodriguez Jurado (Argentina) Pts
Tipperary’s Paddy Dwyer wrote Irish boxing into the history books after recording our first win at the Olympic Games on July 15,1924.
Ireland entered the Olympics for the first time as an independent nation at Paris 1924, and Dwyer, nicknamed Rocky, beat Great Britain’s Richard Basham in the preliminaries and followed that up with a positive decision over Dutch welterweight Anton Cornelius.
He then KO’d Francois Stauffer (Switzerland) in round three of their quarter-final before being stopped in the third frame by Argentina’s Hector Eugen Mendez – who was beaten by John Delarge of Belgium in the final – in the last-four.
Dwyer’s loss is offically recorded as a TKO3, but, according to reports, the Irish fighter had to retire with a deep gash in his forehead because of his opponent’s illegal use of his head.
The last-four finish 92 years ago would have been enough to have earned the man from the Premier County a bronze medal under today’s rules governing the awarding of Olympic silverware.
However, prior to the 1952 Games, losing semi-finalists had to box-off for bronze and Dwyer lost to Douglas Lewis (Canada) in the contest for third place on a walkover because of his injury from the semi-finals.
Cork’s Willie “Boy” Murphy, a boxing coach in Clonmel, also recorded a win for Ireland at the 1924 Games, the Army middleweight beating Poland’s Jerzy Nowak before losing to Leslie Black of Canada in the quarter-finals.
Dwyer, Murphy, Myles McDonagh, Robert Hilliard, Mossy Doyle, PJ Kelleher and JC Kidley represented Ireland in the boxing event in Paris. Doyle was beaten by Jackie Felds, who was advised to change his name by his coach as his real name, Jacob Finkelstein, didn’t sound “tough enough”.
Fields, who has been confirmed as the youngest Olympic champion of all time aged 16 by the International Boxing Association, has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and Jewish Boxing Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, the middleweight final at the 1924 Games was not without controversy as Great Britain’s Harry Mallin, who had won gold at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, was beaten in the quarter-finals by Roger Brousse of France.
However, Brousse was disqualified on appeal after medical evidence suggested that Mallin had been bitten during their last-four clash. Mallin, who retired unbeaten as an amateur and never turned pro, then advanced to beat John Elliot, also of Great Britain, in the final. Nations could enter more that one boxers in each weight in Paris.
Robert Hilliard was one of the more colourful characters with the Irish squad. The Irish Olympian and Trinity College student was the only non-army boxer with Team Ireland.
The Killarney-born Irish Elite champion was, at varying times, a Church of Ireland pastor, Republican, Marxist, Atheist, journalist, boxer and soldier in his short life. He volunteered for the Connolly Column for the Spanish Civil War and died fighting for the International Brigades in 1937 aged 32.
Ireland’s first bantamweight at the Olympics is mentioned in the Christy Moore song Viva la Quinca Brigade, a tribute to the men who fought in the Spanish Civil War.
“Bob Hilliard was a Church of Ireland pastor; From Killarney ‘cross the Pyrenees he came,” sang Moore.
Scotland-born James ‘Tancy’ Lee, an army instructor and former British champion, was Irish head coach at the Paris Olympics. Ireland’s chief seconds said his job was to “teach men to fight without bullets.”
Paddy ‘Rocky’ Dwyer died in 1948 in Thurles and is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery. A plaque was erected to the first Irish boxer to reach an Olympic semi-final on Limekill Lane in 2002. Rocky finished in fourth spot at the 1924 Games.
Twenty seven nations, represented by 181 boxers, competed across eight weight categories in the boxing event at the 1924 Olympiad.
The USA finished on top of the medals table after claiming two gold, two silver and two bronze medals in the boxing ring in the French capital.
All of Ireland’s athletes at the 1924 games received participation medals.
Flyweight: Michael “Myles” McDonagh (Army)
Lost to Ruperto Bieta (Spain) Pts
Bantamweight: Robert Hilliard (Trinity College BC)
Lost to Benjamin Pertuzzo (Argentina) Pts
Featherweight: Mossy Doyle (Army)
Lost to eventual gold medallist Jackie Fields (USA) Pts
Lightweight: PJ Kelleher (Army)
Lost to Ben Rothwell (USA) KO2
Welterweight: Paddy Dwyer (Army)
Beat Richard Basham (Britain) Pts
Beat Anton Cornelius (Holland) Pts
Beat Francois Stauffer (Switzerland) KO3
Lost to Hector Eugen Mendez (Argentina) TKOI3
Bronze medal Box-Off between losing semi-finalists
Lost to Douglas Lewis (Canada) W/O
Middleweight: Willie ‘Boy’ Murphy (Army)
Beat Jerzy Nowak (Poland) KO1
Lost to Leslie Black (Canada) Pts
Light-heavyweight: John Kidley (Army)
Lost to eventual bronze medallist Sverre Sorsdal (Norway) TKO1