Olympic Boxing – The Medals That Never Were

Bernard O’Neill

Irish boxing prides itself on winning sixteen medals at the Olympics. 

However, the count would now be twenty if the current rules governing the awarding of Olympic boxing medals were in place at the 1924, 1928, 1932 and 1948 Games.

The overlooked men of Ireland’s Olympic boxing story, Tipperary’s Patrick Dwyer, Cork’s Jim Murphy and Dublin’s Frank Traynor and Mick McKeon, were the first Irish boxers to reach Olympic semi-finals before and immediately after WW2.

But the 1952 Olympiad in Helsinki marked the inaugural occasion where losing semi-finalists were awarded bronze. Before Helsinki, losing semi-finalists had to box-off for third place and bronze.

The Finnish Boxing Federation instigated the move to abolish brone medal box-offs and the motion was tacitly approved by the International Olympic Committee.

Dwyer beat Great Britain’s Richard Basham, Anton Cornelius of the Netherland’s and Francois Stauffer of Switzerland to reach the last-four at Paris 1924, Ireland’s first Olympics as an independent nation.

But he controversially lost his semi-final to Argentina’s Hector Mende and had to cede a walkover to Canada’s Douglas Lewis in the bronze medal box-off because of a facial injury.

At Amsterdam 1928, Traynor toppled Fuji Okamoto of Japan and Argentina’s Carmelo Robledo to make the semi-finals but was beaten in the last-four by Italy’s Vittorio Tamagnini, the eventual gold medallist. 

Traynor lost the box-off to Harry Isaacs of South Africa on points.

Murphy reached the light-heavy semi-finals at Los Angeles 1932 after outpointing John Miller of the USA but had to retire injured in the first round versus Italy’s eventual silver medallist Ginno Rossi in the last four.

The injury kept the Leesider, who received a bye into the last 16, out of the bronze medal box-off against Peter Joergensen of Denmark.

McKeon beat John Keenan (Canada), Hossein Toussi (Iran) and Aime-Joseph Escudie (France) on his way to the business end of the tournament, but lost to Great Britain’s eventual silver medallist Johnny Wright. 

McKeon ceded a walkover in his box-off with Ivano Fontano of Italy because of an injury sustained versus Wright.

Four years later in Helsinki – where the great John McNally won Ireland’s first Olympic boxing medal (silver) – the rules were changed, and losing semi-finalists were awarded bronze.

Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan, Darren Sutherland, Hugh Russell, Jim McCourt, Freddie Gilroy, John Caldwell and Tony Byrne reached the semi-finals of the Olympics Games, and all took home bronze, Barnes winning two medals.

But Dwyer, Traynor, Murphy and McKeon also reached the semi-finals at the Olympics and had to settle for 4th place finishes.

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com