Canada and the Olympic Games

Lennox Lewis
Action Images/Richard Heathcote
Chris Kempson on Canada's history in the Olympic Games

CANADA, a country of around 36 million people, has won 17 medals in the Olympic boxing ring, three gold, seven silver and seven bronze. Not a bad return for a country which does not list boxing among its favourite pastimes, which include ice hockey, lacrosse and a host of other sports. It has appeared on another site that the country had acquired ten bronze medals, but I have only been able to identify seven which concurs with the official Canadian Olympic boxing site itself; so I will leave it there.

Gold medals have been won by the east London born Lennox Lewis at super-heavyweight in 1988, in 1932 at bantamweight with Horace Gwynne and in 1920, at welterweight by Bert Schneider. Of course, Lewis is by far the most famous, going on as a professional to become at present the last undisputed world heavyweight champion, he retired as such in 2004. Lennox has dual British and Canadian citizenship.

Lewis boxed at super-heavyweight in the 1984 Games, when the American, Tyrell Biggs outpointed the Canadian and went on to claim gold against Francesco Damiani of Italy. Biggs and Lewis were later to meet as professionals in1991 with Lennox a stoppage winner He won a gold at super-heavyweight in the Commonwealth Games in 1986, which helped him prepare for Olympic super –heavyweight glory in 1988.

Winning gold in 1988, was Lewis’ s key to fame and fortune in the paid ring. He triumphed in Seoul as follows: second series a second round stoppage of Kenya’s, Chris Odera, in the quarter final, he took a mere 34 seconds to dismiss Ulli Kaden of the then GDR and in the semi-final he received a walk over against Poland’s Janusz Zarenkiewicz. In the final he stopped America’s, Riddick Bowe in the second round and he was Olympic champion. The two never went on to meet in the ring as professionals. Lennox Lewis has been awarded the following two honours, CM from Canada and CBE from Britain, his country of birth.

Canada’s first Olympic champion was welterweight, Bert Schneider in 1920 in Antwerp where he beat GB’s Alexander Ireland in the final. Twelve years later in 1932 in Los Angeles, Horace Gwynne won a bantamweight gold medal beating Germany’s Hans Ziglarski in the final. They may not be as well known as Lennox Lewis; but they were Olympic champions in their own era and will be remembered as such. It all depends on the time, place and opponent as indeed it does today.

There were seven Olympic silver medals gained by Canadian boxers as follows: in 1920 Clifford Graham at bantamweight and middleweight Georges Prud’Homme; in 1984 Shawn O’Sullivan at light-middleweight and heavyweight, Willie de Witt; in 1988 Egerton Marcus at middleweight; in 1992 Mark Leduc at light-welterweight and finally in 1996, at super-heavyweight David Defiagbon.

Here is how they came about those medals: In 1920 Clifford “Chris J” Graham lost in his final to South Africa’s Clarence Walker; while middleweight Georges Prud’Homme lost in his final to legendary GB middleweight Harry Mallin who won the first of his two gold medals.

Many, many years later in 1984, Shawn O’Sullivan lost on points to American great, Frank Tate; while Willie De Witt lost on points in the heavyweight division to America’s Henry Tillman.

In 1988, Egerton Marcus lost on points to Henry Maske of the then GDR; light-welterweight, Mark Leduc was outpointed in 1992 by Cuban legend, Hector Vinent; while heavyweight, David Defiagbon was outscored by defending Olympic champion, Cuba’s legendary, Felix Savon.

Now, on to the bronze medal winners and let us agree that there are at present just seven. Bronze medals up to and including the London “Austerity” Olympics in 1948 were awarded to the winner of the box-off between the losing semi-finalists. From the Helsinki Games of 1952, losing semi-finalists each received a bronze medal. You can argue the case for and against this in that competition justifies and determines third place or that at the risk of prolonging the tournament so to speak, the award of bronze medals to losing semi-finalists is a fair recognition of their individual endeavours. That said, it is the rule and we must abide by it, whatever we may think. Some sporting tournaments today, do still have a third place play-off slot, so the case still exists therefore; if not in the Olympic boxing manual of rules. For me, for what it is worth, I do favour the notion of a “single third place competitor, but my own view doesn’t count in any case, perhaps just as well.

Here is the tally of bronze medals for Canada: 1920 Clarence Newton at lightweight, who defeated Richard Beland of South Africa in their box–off, and Moe Herscovitch at middleweight who defeated Norway’s Hjalmar Stromme; 1924 saw Douglas Lewis at welterweight who took bronze via a walk over against Ireland’s injured Patrick Dwyer and in 1928 when Raymond Smillie defeated France’s Robert Galataud.

In their semi-finals, Newton lost to Denmark’s Gotfred Johansen, the eventual silver medallist; Herscovitch lost to GB’s eventual gold medallist Harry Mallin; Lewis lost to Belgium’s eventual gold medallist, Jean Delarge and Smillie lost to Argentina’s eventual silver medallist, Raul Landini.

Moving on to 1984 we had bantamweight Dale Walters who lost out on points to eventual silver medallist Hector Lopez from Mexico; in 1988 light-middleweight Raymond Downey lost on points to the eventual gold medallist from Korea, Park Si-Hun and finally in 1992 middleweight Chris Johnson lost on points to America’s eventual silver medallist Chris Byrd.

Canada has been loyal to the Summer Games since 1900 only following the USA led boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980.

Turning our attention to Rio 2016, Canada has three qualifiers, one male boxer and two female boxers. Let’s see how they get on in Brazil.

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