However, the colour and the amount of these medals could have been greater if it weren’t for a few dubious decisions over the years.
Below Irish-Boxing.com takes a look at the unfortuante instances throughout history which have denied Irish boxers at sport’s biggest global event.
The Tipperary welterweight was desperately unlucky at the 1924 Paris Games. ‘Rocky’ Dwyer became the first man to win a bout at the Olympics for Ireland, and followed it up with two more to reach the semi finals. Here he was ‘knocked out’ in the third round by Argentinian Hector Eugene Mendez due to a deep cut caused by a deliberate headbutt. In those days there was just one bronze medal and the two losing semi-finalists had to box-off for it – however, due to the knockout cut Dwyer suffered in the semis, he was forced to concede a walkover to Canadian Douglas Lewis and go home empty-handed.
The teenage bantamweight was the first man from Belfast, and the first Irish boxer, to win an Olympic medal for Ireland – but it could have been so much more. McNally stormed to the final of the 1952 Games in Helsinki but was defeated in a split-decision by home favourite Pentti Hämäläinen. McNally recalled in Punching Above Their Weight that “all Pentti did was to hang on. He even opened a cut near my eye with his head. He was warned at least eight times but never lost a point.”
The Dublin welterweight was denied in the final of the 1956 Melbourne Games by Romanian Nicolae Linca. Across the five judges, the Dub had accumulated more points, but would lose a 3-2 split decision. Linca had also won another dubious decision over Britain’s Nicholas Gargano in the semi finals. The loss for Tiedt was widely derided and was described by Ring Magazine editor Nat Fleischer as “the most disgraceful decision I have ever witnessed.”
Although it was overshadowed by his namesake’s loss to Linca the following day, the recently departed Gilroy was also on the end of a dubious decision at the Melbourne Games. The Belfast bantamweight, who had knocked out Russian favourite Boris Stepanov, lost to German eventual gold medalist Wolfgang Behrendt in the semi-finals. The 2-3 split decision loss was widely booed in the arena.
The Dublin heavyweight was narrowly denied in his light heavyweight final in Beijing in 2008. The Neilstown fighter strolled through his first four bouts, with an aggregate score of 50-7, before taking on home fighter Zhang Xiaoping in the decider. The somewhat unheralded Xiaoping took a dubious 11-7 win in front of an ecstatic Chinese crowd, however a substantial number of scoring shots landed by Egan were not acknowledged by the judges. So questionable was the scoring, Paddy Power paid out on all bets on Egan to win gold.
Photo: John McNally v Pentti Hämäläinen – Antrim Boxing Board