24
Nov
2020

USA Boxing Olympic Champions: 50 Golds – Part 1 (1904-1924)

Phil Jay 04/02/2020
USA Boxing Olympic Gold Medals

The USA Boxing Team has enjoyed a love affair with the Olympics since inception and remains the most successful country to ever participate.

A total of 50 gold medals have been won since it all began in 1904 when all 18 competitors hailed from the USA for the St. Louis inception.

Oliver Kirk was the star of the show, winning the top prize in two categories. The only pugilist in history to do so.

Just 20 years old at the time, Kirk won gold at featherweight before dropping ten pounds in a fortnight to do the same at bantamweight.

World Boxing News has now decided to go through the other 48 champions to find out whatever became of those listed on a special American roll call.

1904

Flyweight (105lbs) – George Finnegan

Finnegan turned pro, having just six pro contests and winning three. The Californian retired in 1906 after being knocked unconscious by Jimmy Carroll. He died seven years later.

Bantamweight (115) – Oliver Kirk

Featherweight (125) – Oliver Kirk

Kirk, like Finnegan, struggled with the pro side of the sport. In eleven bouts, Kirk won just three and was KO’d five times.

Lightweight (135) – Harry Spanjer

No information regarding Spanjer continuing a boxing career.

Welterweight (145) – Albert Young

Young became a promoter after retiring following his Olympic triumph. He was involved in a well-known San Francisco operation until his death in 1940.

Middleweight (158) – Charles Mayer

Mayer turned over in 1906, losing twice before bowing out in 1907.

Heavyweight (158+) – Sam Berger

Berger entered the paid ranks in early 1905 and scored three early KO’s before challenging Philadelphia Jack O’Brien for the light-heavyweight title. There were newspaper conflictions regarding the winner of the fight, which officially went down as a draw.

After taking a beating against Al Kaufman despite a good start to their October 1906 battle, Berger would never fight again.

Turning to management, Berger famously handled Jim Jeffries’ side of the contract for the historic clash with Jack Johnson in 1910.

1908

No United States boxers participated at the Games held in London. Only four nations competed.

They were Australasia, Denmark, France, and Great Britain.

1912

Boxing was banned under Swedish law at the 1912 Games in Stockholm.


1916

No Games due to the First World War.

1920

Held in Antwerp, a total of 12 Nations took part, making this the biggest competition yet.

Flyweight (112lbs) – Frankie Genaro (WORLD CHAMPION)

The first of our winners to go on to become world champion, Genaro turned pro in 1920.

Despite an early setback in his sixth outing, the New Yorker lost just two of his next seventeen and fought and won the American title in 1923.

Genaro held the strap for two years until running into fellow-Olympian Fidel LaBarba. It would take another 72 bouts for Genaro to finally win the world title in 1928.

He beat Frenchy Belanger for the honor. A unification followed in 1929, but Genaro lost to Emile Pladner in Paris. Just over a month later, revenge was sweet at the same venue.

With two world titles in his possession, Genaro would rule until 1931.

Regarded as one of the best flyweights of all-time, Genaro would retire three years later with a record of 79 wins in over 100 contests.

Lightweight (135) – Samuel Mosberg

Mosberg had fought for the Navy whilst serving during the war until 1918. Despite numerous offers to turn pro immediately after the war, Mosberg wanted to compete at the Olympics first.

Beating Gotfred Johansen for the gold, Mosberg then turned pro with varied results over the next few years. Despite fighting into contention, Mosberg never managed to land a lightweight world title.

Light Heavyweight (175) – Eddie Eagan

Eagan holds the honor of being the only American to win gold at the Summer and Winter Olympic Games having won the 175-pound gong in 1920. He followed it up with a Bobsled triumph in 1928 after missing out on the podium in 1924.

He never turned pro.

1924

27 Nations competed.

Flyweight (112) – Fidel LaBarba (WORLD CHAMPION)

Despite winning the Olympics at the tender age of 18, LaBarba was off and running in the pros that same year. On the back of a bumpy first few months, LaBarba won the world flyweight title against Frankie Genaro a month shy of his 20th birthday.

After vacating the flyweight title in 1927 to attend Stanford, he steadily rose through the weights upon resuming his career a year later.

Attempts to claim the featherweight crown in 1931 and lightweight strap in 1932 were both thwarted before a final fight in 1933.

Featherweight (126) – Jackie Fields (WORLD CHAMPION)

Six victories into his career without a vest, Fields was pitched in against the more experienced Jimmy McLarnin in Los Angeles. Defeated in just two rounds, Fields bounced back to win 16 contests on the spin.

Just two more defeats in over 20 further bouts saw Fields pitted against Young Jack Thompson for the world welterweight title in 1929. He won via unanimous decision in Chicago.

Losing to Young Corbett III in 1930 and a rematch against Thompson that same year, Fields would regain the crown in 1932 beating Lou Brouillard.

In 1933, Corbett came calling again and took the 147-pound strap at Seals Stadium to send Fields into retirement three months later.

Look out for Part Two of the new series on World Boxing News ahead of the 2020 Games.

Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. An Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay