AMERICAN men remain top of the boxing medal table at the Summer Olympics. Cuban men dominate the World championships medal haul; while England’s men reign supreme in the Commonwealth Games ring medal tally. Women only competed, for the first time, in the boxing ring at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.
Australia’ Gold Coast, situated in Brisbane, hosts the XX1 Commonwealth Games in April 2018. The Commonwealth Games as they are now known, take place every four years. Let us reflect for a moment or two on a brief history of the Games. They started in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in August 1930 and were known as the British Empire Games until 1950. From 1950 until 1966 they were cast as the British Empire and Commonwealth Games; while in 1970 and 1974 they were called the British Commonwealth Games. From 1978 they have simply been recognised as the Commonwealth Games (or overall for the purpose of these columns simply described as the “Games”).
Boxing has been included in the Games sporting programme since the inaugural days. It is a core sport and must be included in the sporting programme of each Games. At the inaugural Games in 1930, England won five of the eight titles and apart from a few barren Games, England has remained in that pole medal position.
Nine separate countries have hosted the Games as follows: Australia 5 times (including 2018); Canada 4; New Zealand 3, Scotland 3; England 2; India 1, Jamaica 1; Malaysia 1 and Wales 1.
As with other major international sporting events, the Games have not been without political or racial controversy. For instance, the second Games of 1934 were originally awarded to Johannesburg in South Africa, but were eventually switched to London, following concern about how South Africa would treat black and Asian competitors. South Africa took part in the Games from 1930 to 1958 and then from 1994 to date. Because of this country’s then apartheid policy, South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth in 1961, but was re-admitted in 1994.
In 1978, Nigeria boycotted the Edmonton Games in Canada, because of New Zealand’s sporting links with the then apartheid South Africa. Uganda also stayed away but for other political reasons.
However, the 1986 Games in Edinburgh, were to use the Scottish word were blighted by a huge “kerfuffle” with 32 countries, mainly African, Asian and Caribbean countries staying away out of a total of 59 eligible to participate. They objected to the then Thatcher Government policy of keeping sporting links with the then apartheid South Africa in preference to participating in the general sporting boycott of that country. In the event, only 86 actually competed out of an original entry of 168. It was also understood that the issue was further complicated in that the South African runner Zola Budd and swimmer Annette Cowley , who had obtained British passports, were included in the English team.
A very sad situation, but one illustrating, yet again, the power of politics in sport and how it can affect an individual event and of course, the sporting careers of those “would be competitors” at that time. Boycotts, for whatever reason are sad because they deny competitors the right to demonstrate their skills and let us not forget on a four year Games cycle, many will not have had another chance to take part in a subsequent Games.
Four countries have at times been suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations, two of them, Pakistan and Fiji on two occasions. Nigeria was suspended in November 1995, its suspension ended in May 1999; Zimbabwe was suspended in March 2002 and then left the Commonwealth family in December 2003.
Pakistan was first suspended in October 1999 which then ended in May 2004 and then again in November 2007 which was then lifted in May 2008. Fiji’s initial suspension occurred in June 2000 ending in December 2001 and its second suspension took place in December 2006 and was ended in September 2014. However, their participation in activities of the Commonwealth Family were not necessarily affected; although Nigeria was suspended from the Games in 1998 and Fiji likewise in 2010. Fiji did however attend the Games in Glasgow in 2014.
When Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth of Nations in December 2003, they had achieved a ring medal tally of 14 medals – 1 gold, 8 silver and 5 bronze. The gold medal was won in 1954, in Vancouver, by the classy southpaw lightweight, Pieter Van Staden from Southern Rhodesia, the predecessor state of the modern Zimbabwe.
It seems that home advantage does not really aid boxing medallists at the Games as only two host countries have so far come out as best medal winning nations on their own turf. England in the second ever Games in 1934 and Canada in 1994. The best nations with their respective medal triumphs are as follows: England 7 times, South Africa 3 times (perhaps quite surprising given their many absences from the Games); Kenya 3 times; Canada 2 times; Ghana 2 times; Australia, Northern Ireland and Uganda each once.
So now to the hard stuff, the medal winning countries and later on those many outstanding performers in individual weight categories from their respective countries.
Starting with top six countries on the medal table in gold, silver and bronze order we find: England 54, 27, 37 (118); Canada 25, 22, 35 (82); Scotland 17, 16, 30 (63); Australia 15, 15, 32 (62); South Africa 15,8,11 (34); Northern Ireland 13, 13, 27 (53).
Then going down the table as follows we have: Nigeria 13, 6,17 (36); Kenya 12, 13, 23 (48); Ghana 9, 10, 13 (32); Uganda 8, 10, 15 (33); New Zealand 6, 6, 20 (32); India 5, 9, 14 (28); Wales 4, 13, 20 (37). Zambia and Jamaica each have two gold along with various silver and bronze.
There are eight countries with one gold and medals of other colours namely: Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Pakistan, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Guyana and Malaysia; while Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a solitary gold. At least 16 other countries have attained medals of a hue other than gold. Many of them achieving both silver and bronze successes.
England, Scotland and Northern Ireland triumphs are sporting successes to savour, long may this important trend continue.
Now comes the really difficult part of this exercise, choosing many of the Games medallists, some known just for their amateur exploits; others for their subsequent successes too in the professional ring. Remember please it is only an opinion even if it is mine, at least it should open up debate and discussion. Boxing is nothing without that is it?
So here goes – all those listed are Commonwealth Games gold medallists, unless they achieved either silver or bronze which is documented thus. For ease of reference the boxers are listed in weight categories, some of which are no longer contested these days at the Games. The predominance of boxers from the four home countries reflects their success to some extent in the overall medal table. Often some other outstanding medal achievements are also documented, although not necessarily obtained in the specific weight categories in which they achieved their Games successes, nor on similar dates. No discourtesy is intended towards any boxers left out of my choices, it is pure and simply my own opinion, for what it may or may not be worth.
I hope that many of our readers will forgive me for not listing all of the formal achievements of my choices, although for special interest it has been done so in some cases.
GOLD MEDALLISTS AT THE GAMES UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED:
Light Fly – Mickey Abrams (Eng – bronze) and 3 times ABA champion at this weight. 1970 was the first time that this weight had been introduced in the Games and one year later for that matter into the National Senior ABA Championships.
Stephen Muchoki (Kenya – Twice champion)
Darren Langley (Eng –Twice silver) 3 times ABA champion
Paddy Barnes (NIR – Twice champion) Also 2 Olympic bronze medals
Jackie Brown (Scot)
Hughie Russell (NIR –bronze)
John Lyon (Eng) also achieved silver at Light Fly in 1982. Eight times ABA champion (4 light-fly, 4 fly). Arguably the best English amateur boxer in domestic competition in modern era.
Wayne McCullough (NIR)
Johnny van Rensburg (South Af)
Howard Winstone (Wales)
Eddie Ndukwu (Nig) Two golds one at featherweight
Pat Cowdell (Eng)
Barry McGuigan (NIR)
Michael Conlan (NIR) Gold at Worlds and Bronze at Olympics
Philip Waruinge (Ken) Two golds also Olympic bronze (plus Val Barker Trophy) and silver medal
Peter Konyegwachie (Ghana) also Olympic silver in 1984
Azumah Nelson (Ghana)
Alex Arthur (Scot)
Stephen Smith (Eng)
Dick McTaggart (Scot), also Olympic gold and bronze and also silver too at Games at light-welter. 5 times ABA champion spanning lightweight and light-welterweight titles. Arguably the greatest amateur boxer ever to come from these islands – did not turn professional
Ayub Kalule (Uga)
Frankie Gavin (Eng) also gold at World Championships – still England’s only male World amateur champion
Darren Barker (Eng)
Josh Taylor (Scot) also silver at lightweight at previous Games
Nicky Gargano (Eng), bronze at Olympic Games in 1956, three times ABA welterweight champion. An outstanding amateur who never turned professional
Mike McCallum (Jam)
David Defiagbon (Nig) later won silver at Olympics in 1996 under the flag of Canada at heavyweight
Callum Smith (Eng)
Lottie Mwale (Zam)
Shawn O’Sullivan (Can) also silver at 1984 Olympics and gold at World championships
Richie Woodhall (Eng) and also bronze at 1988 Olympics
Chris Bessey (Eng) Six times ABA champion (different weights)
John Conteh (Eng)
Rod Douglas (Eng) 3 times ABA light-middle champion
James Degale (Eng) Bronze and later Olympic champion in 2008 also 2 ABA titles
Anthony Ogogo (Eng) Silver and Olympic bronze in 2012
Vijender Singh (Ind) 2 silvers and 1 Bronze; Bronzes at both Worlds and Olympics. Arguably, India’s most prolific male international boxing medallist.
Tony Madigan (Aus) 2 golds and a silver, bronze at the 1960 Olympics and an ABA title with the then Fulham ABC while residing in London
Fatai Ayinla (Nig) also 2 silver and a Bronze at Worlds
Dale Brown (Canada) also silver and 2 bronze at Worlds
Daniel Bekker (South Af) Silver at 1960 Olympics
Dave Thomas (Eng) Silver, beaten in the Games final by Dan Bekker. London’s “Fighting Dustman” won 3 ABA heavyweight titles
Willie de Wit (Can) also silver at Olympics
James Peau (NZ aka Jimmy Thunder )
Lennox Lewis (Can) Inaugural Games champion at this weight, also Olympic inaugural champion at this weight in 1988
Paea Wolfgramm (Tonga) Bronze and Silver at 1996 Olympics outpointed by none other than Wladimir Klitschko in the final
Audley Harrison (Eng) also Olympic champion in 2000 and also 2 ABA titles
David Dolan (Eng) won 3 ABA Heavyweight titles
David Price (Eng) Olympic bronze medallist and Team captain for boxing, also won 3 ABA super heavyweight titles
Joe Joyce (Eng) Silver at 2016 Olympics, also bronze at Worlds and won 2 ABA super heavyweight championships
Women’s boxing was included at the Games in Glasgow in 2014 for the first time, only three weights being contested. England won two gold. As she did at London 2012, England’s flyweight Nicola Adams won the Games first ever women’s boxing gold medal. English middleweight, Savannah Marshall also claimed gold while, Australian, Shelley Watts took gold in the lightweight division.
Silvers went to Northern Ireland, India and Canada, with bronze medals being claimed by: India, Canada, Northern Ireland, Mozambique, Wales and Nigeria.
Well, our journey is almost complete, the Games have played a very important part in amateur boxing over almost 90 years. They have helped establish some as fine amateurs who went on to greater World and Olympic glory and also for some they have proved a trusted pathway to world professional championship glory. Let’s give three rousing cheers for the Games, long may they continue.