For anyone under 20, Olympic boxing is an afterthought to the Summer Games’ marquee events, including basketball, swimming, track and field and gymnastics. But with a possible boxing revival of sorts in play in Rio de Janeiro, here’s a look back by Lance Pugmire on the distinguished legacy of USA Boxing.
1. Sugar Ray Leonard: He was the most sensational boxing talent among the stacked 1976 Olympic team in Montreal that included the Spinks brothers and Howard Davis Jr. Fighting as a light-welterweight, Leonard avenged one of his rare amateur losses in the Games and won the gold-medal fight over a Cuban by shutout.
2. Muhammad Ali: The Kentucky product, then known as Cassius Clay, set the stage for his burst to fame by winning the light-heavyweight gold medal as an 18-year-old in the 1960 Rome Games.
3. Oscar De La Hoya: The East Los Angeles fighter captured the nation’s attention by fighting in the 1992 Barcelona Games for his late mother, Cecilia, who had died of cancer two years earlier. He upset Mexican Julio Gonzalez and then defeated German Marco Rudolph for the gold.
4. George Foreman: The future heavyweight world champion captured gold as a 19-year-old in the 1968 Mexico City Games despite a light amateur career. The Texan also caused a stir by waving a small American flag in the ring after the black-power medal-stand salutes of American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
5. Andre Ward: He is unbeaten in his 12-year pro career and is a former super-middleweight world champion. Ward also holds the distinction of being the last U.S. boxer to win a gold medal, doing so in Athens in 2004.