04
Apr
2020

USA Boxing Olympic Champions: 50 Golds – Part 3 (1956 – 1968)

Phil Jay 05/03/2020
USA Boxing Olympic Gold Medals

World Boxing News continues to look at the success of Americans at the Olympics with the gold medalists spotlighted from 1956 to 1968.

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.

1956

Australia hosted the Games, with boxing taking place at West Melbourne Stadium.

JIM BOYD

Competing at light-heavyweight, Jim Boyd saw off Romanian Gheorghe Negrea in the final to pick up yet another gold medal for the USA.

Boyd, the 1956 Golden Gloves champion, fought just seven bouts as a pro with only two victories.

PETE RADEMACHER

Rademacher won the heavyweight crown in Australia by defeated Lev Mukhin of the Soviet Union in the final.

Amazingly, Rademacher was enticed to turn pro with a shot at the world heavyweight title immediately. Taking on Floyd Patterson in 1957, it proved a huge step too far.

Dropped six times in the bout at Sicks’ Stadium in Seattle, Rademacher was put out of his misery in the sixth.

After almost a year out, Rademacher returned. shockingly losing again. This time to Zora Folley. Another thirteen months passed before the Washington native graced the ring in anger.

Six straight wins gave Rademacher some hope of success, although he’d subsequently lose five and draw one of his next fifteen. He retired in 1962.

1960

Rome, Italy staged the next Olympiad.

WILBERT McCLURE

One of three now famously pictured gold medalists from the Rome Olympics, McClure took the title at light-middleweight.

Sadly, his pro career didn’t mimic the success of his amateur days. McClure lost eight pro bouts from 33 and never contested a world title. He did score a creditable draw with Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter in 1966.

EDDIE CROOK JR.

The second man on one of the most notable Olympic photographs of all time, Crook won his medal at middleweight.

Crook boxed out of the Army and is reported to be only ever gold medalist coming directly from the forces.

Heading back into the ranks after his boxing success, Crook served two terms in the Vietnam War. He died in 2005.

1960 USA Boxing Olympics

MUHAMMAD ALI (Won medal as Cassius Clay)

We all know about this man. That third and most recognizable face on the picture.

A little-known fact about Ali was that he took gold in the light-heavyweight division. His slight frame allowed him to get down in weight sufficiently enough.

Ali defeated Zbigniew Pietrzykowski in the final and went on an immediate drive to super-stardom.

Turning pro just months after Rome, the 18-year-old lit up the sport for the next two decades and more. Known as ‘The Greatest’, Ali’s career really needs no explanation.

The man was pure class inside and outside of the ropes and will forever be remembered as long as this world keeps turning.

1964

Tokyo hosted in 1964. Despite the emergence of Ali, USA Boxing had only one solitary success four years on.

As it turned out, that man would become one of Ali’s greatest rivals.

JOE FRAZIER

Frazier beat Hans Huber to claim USA Boxing’s single gold against three bronzes in the Land of the Rising Sun.

‘Smokin’ Joe’ stood side-by-side with Ali through his most brutal battles. In an era where the heavyweights were king, Frazier was crowned on more than one occasion.

With his place in the Hall of Fame secure for all times, Frazier was another example of the Olympics being a solid platform for future greats.


1968

Mexico City hosted the 1968 Games.

RONNIE HARRIS

Harris took home the lightweight gold and proceeded to embark on a successful pro run. At 27-0 in 1978, Harris earned a unified world title shot at champion Hugo Pastor Corro’s home of Argentina.

Contesting the WBA and WBC middleweight belts, Harris lost a controversial and hotly-debated split decision. It was his first reverse in eleven years.

Attempting to push his way back into contention, Harris was beaten again in 1980 and retired in 1982 despite winning his final bout at the Philadelphia Spectrum.

GEORGE FOREMAN

Continuing the Muhammad Ali rival them, which was present through the 1960s and beyond, Foreman claimed Olympic gold before firmly becoming a household name in America.

It would be just under a year before Foreman made a professional appearance but he soon garnered a fearsome reputation.

Foreman knocked out his first seven opponents within three rounds and went 37-0 before getting a shot at Joe Frazier for the world crown.

‘Big George’ demolished Frazier before continuing a powerful reign until his ‘Rope-a-Dope’ loss to Muhammad Ali in 1974.

Struggling to deal psychologically with the stoppage loss to Ali, Foreman reclused for ten years between 1977 and 1987. He emerged with a renewed vigor and made history in 1994 at the MGM Grand when becoming the oldest top division ruler of all time.

Retiring in 1997, Foreman has two standout reigns as a true champion to look back on fondly.

Look out for Part four of the ongoing 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