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Ireland at the 1948 London Olympics

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Irish boxing had high hopes to medal at the 1948 Olympic Games in London after a number of confidence-boosting performances in the run-up.

Alas, injuries and the old medal system again saw Ireland, who brought an eight-strong squad to the Games, denied a bronze medal.

It was middleweight Mick McKeon this time round. McKeon won three bouts, beating Canada’s John Keenan, Iranian Hossein Toussi, and France’s Aime Joseph-Escudie before losing to Johnny Wright of Great Britain in the semi-finals.

Wright was beaten by Hungarian legend 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 semi final and had to withdraw from his bronze medal box-off with Italyian Ivano Fontana.

Gearoid O’Colmain came into the Games as the 1947 European champion, but the Dublin heavyweight who worked as a blacksmith, dropped a points decision to Italy’s Uber Baccilieri in his first bout.

Mullingar’s Maxie McCullagh fared better, defeating Finland’s Tauno Rinkinen and Great Britain’s Ronnie Cooper before losing to Danish lightweight Sven Wad in the last eight.

Similarly, bantamweight Willie Lenihan also reached the last eight, overcoming Luxembourger RG Behn and Finnish fighter Olavi Ouvinen before being stopped by Italian Giovanni Battista Zuddas.

Featherweight Kevin Martin scored a win over Dutch boxer Nicholas Linneman but was undone by eventual gold medallist Ernesto Fermenti in the following round

Welterweight Peter Foran won his opening bout against Egyptian Gareeb Afifi but lost to eventual American silver medallist Horace Herring

Hugh O’Hagen also had an opening day win in the light heavyweight class against Swiss fighter Hans Schwerzmann, but then lost to Aussie Adrian Holmes.

The London Games set a new record for boxing entries with 205 fighters from 39 nations competing across eight weight divisions.

The Games also took place under the authority of the Association Internationale de Boxe Amateure (AIBA), who replaced the now-defunct Fédération Internationale de Boxe Amateur (FIBA) in 1946. FIBA was dissolved because it had, according to reports. lost credibility because of the questionable 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. Earls Court was also used as a venue for boxing.

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) PTS

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

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: