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How Irish boxing team performed in 1928 and 1926 Olympics

Courtesy Of IABA 

Amsterdam 1928

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.

Irish boxers at the 1928 Olympics – Amsterdam

Flyweight: Mick 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) in the semi-finals. Pts
Lost Harry Isaacs (South Africa) in the box-off for the bronze medal. Pts

Featherweight: George Kelly (North City)
Lost to Rasmus Madsen (Denmark).

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

Ireland: Won 5. Lost 9

Paris 1928

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.

Irish Boxers at the Olympics – Paris 1924

Flyweight: 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) Pts

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) Pts.
Lost to Leslie Black (Canada) Pts

Light-heavyweight: JC Kidley (Army)
Lost to eventual bronze medallist Sverre Sorsdal (Norway) PTS

Ireland: Won 4. Lost 8


Integral part of the Irish boxing community for over 13 years