Ireland’s Olympic Boxing History
By IABA Press Officer Bernard O’Neill
Irish boxing made its Olympic debut at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris 88 years ago this month.
Tipperary’s Paddy Dwyer wrote Irish boxing into the history books after recording Ireland’s first ever win at Olympic level at the 1924 Olympiad in Paris.
Dwyer, nicknamed Rocky, beat Great Britain’s Richard Basham in the prelims 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 semi-finals.
That last-four finish 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-finalist had to box-off for bronze, and Dwyer, from Thurles, lost out to Douglas Lewis (Canada) in the contest for third place.
Willie “Boy” Murphy 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.
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.
Twenty seven nations, represented by 181 boxers, competed across eight weight categories in the boxing event at the 1924 Olympics.
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.
Irish Boxers at the 1924 Olympics – Paris
Flyweight: Myles McDonagh (Army) lost to Ruperto Bieta (Spain)
Bantamweight : Robert Hilliard (Trinity) lost to Benjamin Pertuzzo (Argentina).
Featherweight: Mossy Doyle (Army) lost to eventual gold medallist Jackie Fields (USA).
Lightweight: PJ Kelleher (Army) was knocked out in two rounds by Ben Rothwell (USA).
Welterweight: Paddy Dwyer (Army) beat Richard Basham (Britain), Anton Cornelius (Holland) and, in the quarter-final, Francois Stauffer (Switzerland), before being stopped in three rounds by Hector Eugen Mendez (Argentina) in the semi-final. Beaten by Douglas Lewis (Canada) in the box-off for bronze medal.
Middleweight : Willie ‘Boy’ Murphy (Army) beat Jerzy Nowak (Poland) before losing to Leslie Black (Canada) in the quarter-finals.
Light-heavyweight heavy: JC Kidley (Army) was beaten by eventual bronze medallist Sverre Sorsdal (Norway). Sorsdal won silver at the 1920 Olympics.
The Irish defence forces were out in force at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam with five of the Irish boxing squad coming from the ranks and files of the Army and Gardai.
Dublin-born Frank Traynor – like Tipperary’s Paddy Dwyer four years previously at in Paris – reached the semi-finals in the Dutch capital on August 10th, 1928.
The St Paul’s BC champion blasted his way into the last-four at the Krachtsportgebouw venue with wins over Fuji Okamato (Japan) and Carmelo Robledo (Argentina) before losing out to Italy’s Vittorio Tamagnini in the semi-final.
He then 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, 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, bowed out 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.
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.
The 1928 Games also marked the first occasion that entries were limited to one boxer per weight division per nation. 144 boxers from 29 countries competed.
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 medal at the Olympics. However, the search for Ireland’s first boxing medal continued.
Irish boxers at the 1928 Olympics – Amsterdam
Flyweight: Mick McDonagh (Army) was beaten by Brian Bril (Holland).
Bantam: Frankie Traynor (St Paul’s) beat Fuji Okamato (Japan) and Carmelo
Robledo (Argentina) in the quarter-finals before losing to Vittorio
Tamagnini (Italy) in the semi-final. He was then beaten by Harry Isaacs
(South Africa) in the box-off for the bronze medal.
Featherweight: George Kelly (North City) lost to Rasmus Madsen (Denmark).
Lightweight: Willie O’Shea (Army) lost to Jorge Diaz Hernandez (Chile).
Welterweight : PJ Lenihan (St James) beat Arne Sande (Denmark) but was thenbeaten by Ray Smillie (Canada).
Middleweight: Jack Chase (Garda) beat Alfred Wilson (South Africa) before losing to Leonard Steyaert (Belgium) in the quarter-finals.
Light-heavy: Willie ‘Boy’ Murphy (Garda) knocked out Jose Montilor Pastor
(Spain) in the first round but then lost to eventual silver medallist Ernst Pistulla (Germany) in the quarter-finals.
Heavyweight: Mattie Flanagan (Garda) was stopped in the first round by eventual
gold medallist Arturo Rodriguez Jurado (Argentina).
The Irish Amateur Boxing Association sent a four-strong squad to the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Paddy Hughes was the first into the ring for Ireland 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 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 Los Angeles, while Jim Murphy, boxing in the light-heavyweight class, was the only Irish boxer to record a victory.
Murphy beat John Miller of the USA in the quarter-finals, but was then forced to pull out of his semi-final with Italy’s Gino Rossi – who lost to David Carstenes (South Africa) in the final – through injury.
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 great 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 400 meter 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.
Ireland did not participate in the 1936 Games in Berlin.
Irish boxers at the 1932 Olympics – Los Angeles
Bantamweight: Paddy Hughes (Corinthians) was beaten by Carlos Alberto Pereyra(Argentina).
Featherweight : Ernie Smith (St Andrew’s) received a bye into the quarter-finals but was then beaten by the eventual gold medalist Carmelo Robledo(Argentina).
Welterweight: Larry Flood (Army) was beaten by Robert Barton (South Africa).
Light -heavy: Jim Murphy (Army) beat John Miller (USA) in the quarter-finals but was then forced to withdraw through injury from his semi-final against Gino Rossi (Italy). He also had to pull out of the box-off for the bronze medal.
Irish boxing had high hopes of winning a medal(s) at the 1948 Olympic Games in London.
A strong looking 8-man squad, which included the current European heavyweight champion and multiple Irish champion Gearoid O’Colmain and Maxie McCullagh, were dispatched to the English capital.
One year prior to the London Olympics, O’Colmain beat England’s George Scriven to claim gold at the 1947 European Championships at the National Stadium in Dublin.
But the Dubliner, who worked as a blacksmith, lost out in his first bout at the 1948 Games following a points reversal to Italy’s Uber Baccilieri.
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 McKeown 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.
However, McKeown 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.
Willie Lenihan, who won two bouts, Kevin Martin, Peter Foran, who was beaten by eventual silver medalist, Horrace Herring (USA), and Hugh O’Hagan also registered victories at the 1948 Games.
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 the Association Internationale de Boxe Amateure (AIBA), who had replaced the Fédération Internationale de Boxe Amateur (FIBA) in 1946.
According to reports, FIBA was dissolved because it had 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 bridge laid out over the Empire Pool at Wembley (pictured above).
You can only imagine what 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes, who will compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London along with Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan, John Joe Nevin, Adam Nolan and Team Captain Darren O’Neill, would have to say about that!
Earls Court was also used as a venue for boxing at the 1948 Olympiad.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s wait for that elusive Olympic medal in boxing would last another four years.
Irish boxers at the 1948 Olympics – London
Flyweight: Alf Barnes (Windsor) lost to Frantisek Majdloch (Czechoslovakia).
Bantamweight: Willie Lenihan (Arbour Hill) beat R.G. Behm (Luxembourg) and
Olavi Ouvinen (Finland) before being stopped in the third round of the quarter-finals by Giovanni Battista Zuddas (Italy).
Featherweight: Kevin Martin (Mount Street) beat Nicholas Linneman (Holland)
but then lost to eventual gold medallist Ernesto Fermenti (Italy).
Lightweight: Maxie McCullagh (Corinthians) beat Tauno Rinkinen (Finland) and
Ronnie Cooper (Britain) but then lost to Sven Wad (Denmark) in the quarter-finals.
Welterweight: Peter Foran (St Andrew’s) beat Gareeb Afifi (Egypt) but then lost to eventual silver medallist Horace Herring (USA).
Middle: Mick McKeon (ITC) beat John Keenan (Canada), Hossein Toussi (Iran) Aime-Joseph Escudie (France), before losing to Johnny Wright (Britain) in the semi-finals. He was then forced to withdraw through injury from his scheduled bronze medal box-off against Ivano Fontana (Italy).
Light-heavyweight: Hugh O’Hagen (Corinthians) beat Hans Schwerzmann (Switzerland) before losing to Adrian Holmes (Australia) in the quarter-finals.
Heavyweight: Gearoid O’Colmain (North City) was beaten by Uber Baccilieri (Italy).