Jim McCourt, a bronze medalist at lightweight at the previous Olympics, moved up to light welter for the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.
The Irish squad that headed to the high altitude of Mexican capital that year included the formidable talents of the Arbour Hill BC trio of Mick Dowling, Brendan McCarthy, and Eddie Tracey, as well as the St John Bosco BC duo of Martin Quinn and Eamonn McCusker.
Two-time European bronze medalist 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, quickly dropping the East German twice before the ref saw enough and called a halt to proceedings in the opening round.
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 before the Australian was disqualified in the third for using his head.
That win left Dowling just one victory away from a guaranteed bronze, but the Irish champion lost 4-1 to Japan’s Eiji Morioka, with two unfair warnings tipping the balance in favour of the Asian in a very close contest. Morioka was beaten in the semis by Valerian Sokolov of the USSR, the eventual Olympic champion.
Dowling’s Arbour Hill clubmate McCarthy lost to eventual gold medallist, Mexico’s Ricardo Delgado in his opening bout.
Martin Quinn, who stopped Inoua Bodio in the first round of his opening contest, was beaten by defending champion, Josef Grudzien of Poland, who went on the claim silver.
Quinn actually floored the Polish legend in the third, but Grudzien 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 split 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 partisan crowd en route to a second gold medal for the hosts.
Both McCourt and Eamonn McCusker, who lost to Cuban silver medalist 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 while his mum hailed Newry. Finnegan would go on to win British, Commonwealth, and European honours, as well as unsuccessfully challenging Bob Foster for the World title in 1972 in the Ring Magazine fight of the year – all while wearing a shamrock on his trunks in honour of his Irish roots.
Big George Foreman also claimed gold for the US in the heavyweight class at the ’68 Games.
The USSR finished on top of the medals table for the second consecutive Olympics, but their table-topping exploits came under threat from the emerging amateur boxing nation of Cuba who secured two silvers to announce their arrival on the World scene.
The light flyweight class was introduced for the first time at the Mexico City Games, increasing the number of 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 medalist 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 medalist Rolando Garbey (Cuba) TKO1