IN recent times we have had two Olympic gold medallists at super-heavyweight, namely Audley Harrison at Sydney 2000 and Anthony Joshua at London 2012; while Joe Joyce won silver in Rio 2016, losing very controversially on a split decision to Frenchman Tony Yoka.
Canadian, Lennox Lewis – who campaigned professionally so successfully for much of his time over here in Britain – had set the trend with a gold medal at Seoul Olympics in 1988. Lewis never boxed as an amateur over here, but nevertheless he had an outstanding amateur pedigree and amassed a host of other honours wearing the Canadian vest: Commonwealth Gold (1986); Pan American Games silver (1987); 1985 and 1987 gold at the North American Championships; silver at the 1985 World Cup and Gold at the Junior World Championships in 1983.
Repton southpaw, Audley Harrison on his way to the 2000 summer Games in Australia had landed ABA crowns in 1997 and 1998 and also a gold medal in 1998 at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. Harrison who did not perform that well in the World championships in Houston in 1999 and went to Australia as a bit of an outsider, even though that super-heavyweight division was perhaps not as strong overall as in some previous Games. But he performed so well and had a fantastic 30-16 triumph in the final over Kazakhstan’s Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov to become our first Olympic champion at this weight.
A professional career followed which did not perhaps fulfil the hopes and expectations of his fans in London and beyond. He won the very lightly regarded WBF title, made two successful defences of it; and ultimately won the vacant EBU heavyweight title. The curtain came down on his paid career in Sheffield in April 2013 when he was stopped in the opening round of a scheduled twelve rounder against none other than an unbeaten American prospect by the name of Deontay Wilder. Harrison did not box again. He retired with a record of 31 victories and seven losses
Boxing historians will probably have mixed memories of Harrison. He was a very skilled ring technician in his amateur days, with a very effective southpaw jab and decent fire power in his fists. In the paid ranks he struggled against the big hitters in the heavyweight division. However his Olympic triumph is the defining mark of an interesting career. Perhaps too much was expected of him when he became a professional fighter.
Fast forward twelve years to London 2012 and it was the turn of Finchley’s Anthony Joshua to land gold at super-heavyweight in the Olympic final, on a countback against reigning Olympic champion, Roberto Cammerelle of Italy. Let’s trace Joshua’s path to London 2012 and his ultimate golden glory. Joshua won ABA crowns in 2010 and 20011, also a GB Championship in 2010 and a terrific silver medal at the World Championships in 2011. Losing by one point, 21-22, at the hands of local boxer Magomedrasul Majidov of Azerbaijan, who was competing in his own backyard in Baku. He was thus primed and ready to go for the London Games in 2012 and he did not disappoint. The story thereafter is boxing history as they say.
The 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, saw Earlsfield’s Joe Joyce win a silver medal, losing in the final to Frenchman, Tony Yoka, still a decision disputed by many today. On his way to South America, Joyce had demonstrated fine amateur credentials as follows: securing ABA championships in 2012 and 2014 and a GB title in 2012; bronze medal in European Championships in 2013 in Minsk, Commonwealth gold in Edinburgh in 2014; gold in the European Games in Baku in 2015 (outpointing Yoka in the semi-final) and a bronze medal at the World Championships in Doha in 2015, losing in his semi-final to the eventual gold medal winner, none other than the Frenchman, Tony Yoka. It would seem for better or for worse that the amateur careers of Joyce and Yoka were ultimately entwined at the highest international level.
Joyce remains undefeated today in the professional code. He is 10-0, while Yoka too is still unbeaten, he is 7-0, could they meet yet again, this time in the paid stakes? Only time will tell.
“The Gypsy King,” Tyson Fury had a very impressive amateur career too, although he never got to be an Olympian. Fury won an ABA crown in 2008 with Jimmy Egan’s ABC, a year earlier in 2007 he had secured gold at the EU Junior Championships and also that year a silver medal at the European Junior Championships; with a bronze medal coming in 2006 in the World Junior Championships, wearing the Irish vest.
As they say the rest is history now for Fury, Joyce and Joshua, it will be very interesting to see how their separate careers eventually conclude whenever that may be.