The Olympic bantamweight (56kg) story

July 29th, 2016 / IBA

The first fourteen Olympic bantamweight champions were shared between twelve nations, but in the eleven editions since 1972, the Cuban team alone has won an impressive five golds. It was back in 1904 that the USA’s Oliver Kirk made history, however, when he became the only boxer ever to win gold at two different weight categories at the same Olympic Games. Kirk first captured the featherweight title before losing ten pounds to drop down to bantamweight. It’s  a feat that would of course be impossible today – following a bye in an already tiny field the American only had to face two boxers for his two gold medals.

The era of Cuban dominance began in 1972 with Orlando Martinez’s gold in Munich, but it is Guillermo Rigondeaux who’s name will be forever associated with the Olympic bantamweight competition. In Sydney 2000, the then 20 year-old southpaw looked highly impressive on his way to defeating Russia’s Raimkul Malakhbekov in the final, but four years later the double world champion was almost untouchable. Five wins, including comfortable victories over a Russian, Uzbek and finally a Thai opponent,  earned the Cuban hero his second successive Olympic gold. In a career of 475 bouts, Rigondeaux suffered just twelve defeats, and is widely considered one of the greatest bantamweight boxers of all time.