The true Olympic boxing heavyweights

August 2nd, 2016 / IBA

The history of the Olympic heavyweight (91kg) boxing category has been one of the most interesting in the 112-years of the competition. Argentina was the first country to dominate, winning three golds in the four editions between 1928 and 1948, but in the 1960s, it was an American duo that truly held court.

Joe Frazier was a hard-working 20 year-old when the Tokyo 1964 Games came around, unhappily edged out of the US team by Buster Mathis. Nevertheless, Frazier travelled to Tokyo and got his break when Mathis was unable to compete, and would fully take advantage of his opportunity.  Neither of his first two bouts went beyond the second round, and with the confidence of two big TKOs under his belt, the imposing Russian Vadim Yemelyanov was then brushed aside in the semi-final. The final against Germany’s Hans Huber was a tighter affair, but the gold medal launched a glittering career that included a famous rivalry with the great Muhammad Ali and the 1968 Olympic heavyweight gold medallist George Forman.

Two Cuban boxers will forever be associated with the Olympic heavyweight title, however: Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon. Of the eight editions held between 1972 and 2000,  the Cuban pair won six, as Stevenson went on an incredible 11-year undefeated run that brought gold in Munich in 1972, Montreal in 1976 and Moscow in 1980. Twelve years later, Felix Savon won the first of his three gold medals in Barcelona, with both athletes joining Hungarian legend Laszlo Papp as the only boxers ever to have won three Olympic titles. Savon’s nephew, Erislandy, will be hoping to follow in his Uncle’s footsteps as he represents Cuba at Rio 2016.