Ireland at the 1976 Montreal Olympics
Bernard O’Neill – IABA Press Officer
At Montreal in 1976 Brendan Dunne has the distinction of being the first Irish light flyweight to compete at the Olympic Games.
The AIBA introduced the light flyweight class at the Mexico City Games in 1968, and Dunne, of the Phoenix BC in Dublin, wore the Irish 48kg vest in the new lightest weight category eight years later..
The three-time Irish Elite champion, father of Irish champion and former European and WBA World title holder Bernard Dunne, made an impressive start in Canada after stopping Asian Games silver medallist Noburu Uchiyama of Japan in round two at the Aréna Maurice Richard, an ice hockey revamped for boxing.
But the Dubliner was then beaten by eventual bronze medalist, Orlando Maldonado of Puerto Rico, in the last 16 stage.
Belfast’s Davy Lamour, who, along with 1972 Olympian John Rogers, lined out for Ireland at the inaugural AIBA World Men’s Championships in Havana, Cuba in 1974 – Lamour was beaten by eventual bronze medallist Constantin Gruiescu (Romania) at the 1st AIBA World Championships – was drawn against Robert Masuka (Swaziland) and Augustin Martinez (Nicaragua) in Montreal.
However, Lamour received walkovers. It’s probable that Martinez was barred because he was underage, while Swaziland. although not listed, appears to have been one of the numerous African nations who boycotted the Games because of New Zealand’s sporting [rugby] ties with South Africa which was banned from the Olympics because of apartheid.
Either way, the Shankill flyweight, a gold medal winner for Northern Ireland at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, got byes straight into the last eight where he was lost on a split decision to Leo Randolph of the USA, who went on to win gold.
Gerry Hamill, Christy McLoughlin and Brian Byrne also represented Ireland in Montreal, but all three went out at the first phase of the competition, Hamill losing out to the aptly named Ace Rusevski of Yugoslavia, who took home a bronze medal from the Games.
The USA boxing team, which included the talents of Sugar Ray Leonard and brothers Leon and Michael Spinks, helped America to five gold, one silver and one bronze to finish on top of the medals table in Montreal ahead of Cuba.
Leon Spinks would go on to beat the legendary Muhammad Ali for the WBC and WBA World heavyweight titles via split decision in Las Vegas in 1978 in just his eighth pro fight. The pair rematched seven months later for the WBA title and it was the 1960 Olympic gold medalist who this time prevailed to win reclaim his title for a record second time.
Light Flyweight: Brendan Dunne (Phoenix)
Beat Noburu Uchiyama (Japan) TKO2
Lost to eventual bronze medalist Orlando Maldonado (Puerto Rico) TKO1
Flyweight: Davy Larmour (Albert Foundry)
Beat Robert Masuku (Swaziland) W/O
Beat Augustin Martinez (Nicaragua) W/O
Lost to eventual gold medalist Leo Randolph (USA) 1-4
Lightweight: Gerry Hamill (Holy Family)
Lost to eventual bronze medalist Ace Rusevski (Yugoslavia) 1-4
Welterweight: Christy McLoughlin (British Rail)
Lost to Colin Jones (Great Britain) 0-5
Light Middleweight: Brian Byrne (Transport)
Lost to Wilfredo Guzman (Puerto Rico) 2-3