Top 10 great American Olympic boxers: Ali, Foreman, Frazier, DeLaHoya

As US fans hope for Olympic boxing success in London, take a look back at the greatest American boxers in Olympic Games history. Photo: Associated Press

SAN DIEGO, July 30, 2012 – The USA boxing team is off to a promising start after the first weekend of the Summer Olympic Games. The men went four for four. Sensational flyweight Raushee Warren already has a bye into the Round of 16, and two of the women received byes into the quarterfinals.  

Boxing first started to gain popularity in the United States when it became an Olympic sport in 1904. The United States won seven gold medals at the 1904 Olympics. Prior to the London Games, the United States has won more boxing gold medals than any other nation - a total of 48 gold medals since boxing became an Olympic sport.

But only three of those medals have been won in the last 20 years. The last American to win a gold medal was light heavyweight Andre Ward in Athens in 2004. The last medal was a bronze by heavyweight Deontay Wilder in Beijing in 2008.

The Golden Boy, Oscar de la Hoya, won gold in Barcelona in 1992. Photo: AP.

With gold medal hopefuls among both the American men and women in London, they can look to history for inspiration from our list of the Top Ten greatest American Olympic boxers of all time:

1.Muhammed Ali, Rome 1960. Just 18 years old and named Cassius Clay, Ali won gold as a light heavyweight. But he didn’t make his big splash onto the boxing scene until after the Olympics, when he defeated champion Sonny Liston in a shocking upset in 1964. Ali went on to become a worldwide star. His return to the Olympics to light the torch in Atlanta in 1996 is considered one of the all-time great moments in Olympic history.

2. Joe Frazier, Tokyo 1964.  Joe Frazier had a improbable road to the Olympic gold medla. Buster Mathis beat him in the U.S. Olympic trials. When Mathis broke his thumb, Frazier was chosen to replace him. Frazier broke his thumb in the semi-finals and won his gold medal fighting with that broken thumb over Germany’s Hans Huber.

George Foreman remains a popular figure in boxing since his Olympic gold medal victory at age 19 in Mexico City in 1986. Photo: AP.

3. George Foreman, Mexico City 1968 Upon his victory, Foreman endeared himself to fans by walking around the ring waving a small American flag. He went on to become one of the great heavyweight champions, with a 76-5 record including 68 knockouts.

4. Oscar de la Hoya, Barcelona 1992. Two years prior to the Games, De La Hoya promised his mother he would win gold before she died of cancer. The 19-year-old kept his promise. He became boxing’s Golden Boy, winning ten world titles before retiring and starting a new career as a promoter.

5. Floyd Patterson, Helsinki 1952.  Middleweight Floyd Patterson won his gold by knocking out his Romanian opponent in the first round at 17 years old. Four years later, he became the youngest heavyweight champion ever at age 21 by defeating the great Archie Moore. He had a record of 55 wins, 8 losses and 1 draw, with 40 wins by knockout.

6. Pernell Whitaker, Los Angeles 1984.  Whitaker won  his gold as a lightweight. He went on to have a career record of 40-4-1 and held titles as a lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight.

Sugar Ray Leonard didn’t intend to keep boxing after the Olympics. Fortunately for the fans he changed his mind.

7. Sugar Ray Leonard, Montreal 1976. Leonard won his gold but had no plans to turn professional after the Olympics. A scholarship was waiting for him at the University of Maryland. But even in the 1970s, the payday was too tempting. Leonard made the right call, winning nine world titles on his way to becoming one of the most beloved boxing personalities of all time.

8. Andre Ward, Athens 2004. Ward is the current world middleweight champion and ranks among the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He is currently undefeated at 25-0 with 13 knockouts.

9. The 1984 Los Angeles USA Boxing Team: This powerhouse team gets named together, as the group took 11 medals, nine of them gold: On the roster: along with Whitaker, the gold medallists were Paul Gonzalez, Steve McCrory, Meldnick Taylor, Mark Breland, Henry Tillman, Tyrell Biggs, Jerry Page, and Frank Sullivan. Virgil Hill won silver, and heavyweight Evander Holyfield won bronze.

Tyrell Biggs on his way to Olympic gold in Los Angeles in 1984. Photo: AP.

10. Roy Jones Jr. Seoul 1988. Jones won a silver medal in the most controversial decision in Olympic boxing history, on the scale of Tim Bradley over Manny Pacquiao. Hometown favorite Park Si-Hun was given the decision despite Jones outlanding him two to one. The International Olympic Committee later admittedly Jones should have won. Jones got his revenge with a successful professional career. Anyone know where Si-Hun ended up.

Olympic results doesn’t always predict a boxer’s professional success. Floyd Mayweather won bronze as a featherweight in Atlanta in 1996 at age 19. Filipino-American champion Nonito Donaire didn’t even make it to the Olympics in Sydney. He lost during the U.S. Olympic Trials.

 Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +


Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities at” when quoting from or linking to this story.  



Copyright © 2012 by Falcon Valley Group

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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