IT’S arguably boxing’s ultimate dress rehearsal. A showcase of competitors from a variety of backgrounds warring for the most privileged prize that the amateur game offers: the Olympic gold medal. As well as providing significant proof of superiority, the Games gong also enhances a fighter’s strength at the negotiating table as meetings with potential promoters become far more frequent once the Games wind down.
Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather were all Olympic medallists and each later served as the face of boxing for sustained periods during the best part of their careers, but Olympic success or participation does not always equate to championship reigns and lavish luxury when the vest comes off.
The 2000 Games, held in Sydney, Australia, came during a positive period for boxing. Expectation was rife as the new millennium dawned, the close of the nineties bringing hope via a stellar cast of performers. Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield had delivered huge numbers for their heavyweight two-parter, whilst Felix Trinidad and the aforementioned De La Hoya enjoyed vast earnings at 147lbs. It should be highlighted that scoring controversies surrounded these meetings, but boxing’s appeal was strong in 1999 and that allure was not only projected by a handful of star fighters.