With London 2012 upon us, FightHype UK presents it’s “Tales Of Olympic Glory” series. This series will focus on a number of boxers from all over the world who have represented their countries at the Olympic games before progressing to the professional ranks.
Understandably, not all boxing legends went to the Olympic games, but they still went on to have a successful career within the sport. For many, however, the Olympic games proved to be a platform to maximize the exposure of individuals, which ultimately translated to success in the pro ranks. While fight fans will have their eyes firmly fixed on the Olympic games to see if they can identify a superstar in the making, it is important to note that the success of previous athletes is what inspires most of the young prospects today. Names like Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr, Lennox Lewis, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Amir Khan, are just a few of the successful Olympians from both the past and present. You will notice not all of them won Olympic gold, but all went on to have to successful careers as world champions and beyond.
Part two of our “Tales of Olympic Glory” series focuses on the man that many consider the Greatest of All Time…Muhammad Ali.
With the opening ceremony for the Olympics taking place today, it’s time for the second installment of “Tales of Olympic Glory.” This time, we’ve got Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali (known in his early days as “the Louisville Lip”) and his appearance in the 1960 Olympics.
Who doesn’t know of the man’s stunning professional achievements, unparalleled rhetoric and commitment to doing what’s right. His Olympic success is also known, but maybe not as much.
If you wanted to know a bit more about the pinnacle of Ali’s amateur career, then read on.
OLYMPIC GAMES 1960 – GOLD MEDAL
Muhammad Ali started his journey to boxing immortality with his first amateur match in 1954, at the age of 12. The young Cassius Clay, as he was then known, hailed from the racially segregated city of Louisville, Kentucky. He won several prestigious American amateur titles (including the ‘Golden Gloves’) on both a local and national level. Winning the national Golden Gloves champion at light heavyweight in 1959 and as a heavyweight in 1960, the teenager was also the Amateur Athletic Union champion in those years. There was additional amateur success at the local and regional level.
1960 was the year that saw him compete in the greatest amateur tournament in the world, the Olympic games. As an 18 year old on such a stage, he confidently rose to the occasion. Interestingly enough, the youngster was supposedly shy. The teenager apparently displayed his fun-loving side, while still leaving the impression of being a private person.
Entering the Olympics, Ali’s boxing talents were obviously already established. His pugilistic prowess was still maturing, but it was clearly there.
Trained by Vasil “Chuck” Bodak, Ali’s Olympic campaign was at light heavyweight. He displayed his fantastic hand speed, dynamite jab and great movement. Ali himself said in his autobiography, “throughout my amateur days, old boxers think that I’m easy to hit, but I concentrate on defense. I concentrate on timing and motions.”
Muhammad Ali’s Olympic opponents were Yvon Becot of Belgium, Gennady Shatkov of the Soviet Union, Tony Madigan from Australia and Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland.
Ali stopped Becot in the second round, won a clear unanimous decision over the much more experienced Gennady Shatkov in the quarter final, and took a convincing decision over Tony Madigan in the semi’s. Both guys were quality opponents, with Shatkov being the defending Olympic middleweight champion, having won the gold at middle in 1956 and also a European champion. Now all that was standing between the gold medal and the young man from Louisville was Zbigniew Pietrzykowski. The famous Polish southpaw had won a bronze at light heavyweight in the 1956 Olympics and had been a multiple European and Polish champion.
As the match began, Ali looked every bit the equal of his formidable opponent. Pietrzykowski had his moments, but once Ali got into his stride, the writing was on the wall. Left jabs, straight rights, darting in and out. While winning each of the rounds, he also weathered Pietryzkowski’s attack in the third. Ali unleashed several crisp, speedy combinations to thank Pietryzkowski for his attack. The young man even did a little shuffle in the third round.
The cherished gold medal was his and the world started paying attention. From that point onwards, we saw a professional career unlike any other and as they say, the rest is history.
In 1960, the Olympics and Muhammad Ali provided us with yet another tale of glory.
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