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2016 RIO OLYMPICS: HISTORY OF BOXING IN THE SUMMER GAMES PART III


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In London in 1948 very strong southpaw fighter Laszlo Papp made his Olympic debut where he won the first of his three successive Olympic golds. The Hungarian also grabbed the light middleweight gold medals in the 1952 and 1956 Games, becoming the first athlete to win three Olympic boxing titles which was later equalled by Cubans Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon. Papp was the first Soviet bloc fighter to turn professional. He once said, "I fight for money, but I am not greedy. How many steaks can one man eat?"

During the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, 17-year-old Floyd Patterson, fighting from Brooklyn, New York, won four bouts en route to the finals. In the gold medal match, Patterson knocked his opponent Romanian Vasile Tita out in just 74 seconds with an uppercut to the chin. Patterson turned pro and became the youngest heavyweight champion in the world at age 21 until Mike Tyson broke the record at age 20.

In the 1956 Melbourne Games, an American soldier named Pete Rademacher from Yakima, Washington, faced mighty Soviet Russian Lev Mukhin in the finals. Mukhin won all three of his bouts by knockout or TKO, and was a heavy favorite to win the gold medal. But Rademacher reversed the outcome as he knocked down Mukin in 50 seconds, then twice more in the next 80 seconds. When he turned professional Rademacher would face Floyd Patterson in his debut. He floored Patterson in the second round, but lost the fight in Round 6.

Winning the light heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Cassius Clay began a step toward becoming the most popular and quotable athlete in the world. Clay, then age 18, gave the world a preliminary glance of his extraordinary skill in the ring and likewise his speaking finesse, when a Soviet journalist asked him about racial descrimination in America he answered: "Russian, we got qualified men working on that problem. We got the biggest and the prettiest cars. We got all the food we can eat. America is the greatest country in the world, and as far as places I can't eat goes, I got lots of places I can eat, more places I can than I can't." Four years later, Clay, this time named Muhammad Ali, won his first world heavyweight title.

Joe Frazier at first was not included in the US boxing team to the 1964 Tokyo Games, Asia's first Olympic Games. But a broken knuckle caused Buster Mathis to withdraw, so Frazier came as a substitute. The Philadelphia native heavyweight boxer, won a decision by a slim margin over West German Hans Huber in the final match, despite fighting hurt with a broken hand. Smokin' Joe Frazier was the only boxing finalist for the United States in the 1964 Games and later became a world heavyweight champion as a professional.

In the 1968 Games in Mexico, George Foreman was practically a beginner in the sport of boxing with only 18 matches in his experience. But he came out the heavyweight gold medal winner. After the Games, Foreman was on the headlines as a professional boxer in a colorful career that included a first world title in 1973, a historic bout with Muhammad Ali in the "Rumble in the Jungle" in 1974, and as an unbelievable world champion in 1994 at age 45.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Maloney L. Samaco.


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