Olympic super-heavyweights boost British boxing
PUBLISHED: 15:00 30 March 2020
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In recent times we have had two Olympic gold medalists at super-heavyweight level – Audley Harrison at Sydney 2000 and Anthony Joshua at London 2012.
Joe Joyce went close at the Rio 2016 Games, winning silver after losing very controversially on a split decision (2-1) to Frenchman Tony Yoka.
Canadian Lennox Lewis – who campaigned professionally so successfully for much of his time over in Britain – had set the trend with gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics but never boxed as an amateur over here.
Nevertheless he had an outstanding amateur pedigree and amassed countless other honours wearing the Canadian vest, including Commonwealth gold (1986); Pan American Games silver (1987); 1985 and 1987 gold at the North American Championships; silver at the 1985 World Cup and gold at the Junior World Championships in 1983.
Repton southpaw Harrison, on his way to the 2000 Games in Australia, had landed ABA crowns in 1997 and 1998 and also a gold medal in 1998 at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Harrison, who did not perform that well at the 1999 World Championships in Houston, went to Australia as a bit of an outsider, although the super-heavyweight division was perhaps not overall as strong as in some previous Games.
But he performed so well Down Under and had a fantastic 30-16 triumph in the final over Kazakhstan’s Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov to become our first Olympic champion at this weight.
A professional career followed which did not perhaps fulfil the hopes and expectations of his many fight fans in London and beyond.
He won the very lightly regarded WBF (Federation) world heavyweight title, made two successful defences and ultimately won the vacant EBU heavyweight title.
The curtain came down on his paid career in Sheffield in April 2013 when he was stopped in the opening round of a scheduled 12-rounder against none other than an unbeaten American prospect by the name of Deontay Wilder!
Harrison did not box again, retiring with a record of 31 victories and seven losses, and boxing historians will probably have mixed memories of him.
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A very skilled ring technician in his amateur days, with a very effective southpaw jab and decent fire power in his fists, but in the paid ranks he sometimes struggled against the big hitters in the heavyweight division.
However, his Olympic triumph is the defining mark of an interesting career. Maybe perhaps too much might have been expected of him when he became a professional fighter.
Fast forward 12 to the London Games and it was the turn of Finchley’s Joshua to land gold at super-heavyweight in the Olympic final, albeit on a countback against defending champion Roberto Cammerelle of Italy.
Joshua won ABA crowns in 2010 and 2011, as well as a GB Championship in 2010 and a terrific silver medal at the World Championships in 2011 after losing by one point (22-21) to local boxer Magomedrasul Majidov of Azerbaijan, competing in his own Baku backyard.
Joshua was thus primed and ready to go for the 2012 Olympics and did not disappoint. The rest is boxing history.
The 2016 summer Olympics in Rio saw Earlsfield’s Joyce win silver but his loss to Yoka is still disputed by many today.
On his way to South America, Joyce had demonstrated fine amateur credentials, securing ABA championships in 2012 and 2014 and a GB title in 2012, a bronze medal in the 2013 European Championships in Minsk, Commonwealth gold in Edinburgh in 2014 and gold in the European Games in Baku in 2015 (after outpointing Yoka in the semi-final).
Another bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships in Doha followed, after losing his semi-final to eventual champion Yoka, and it would seem, for better or worse, that the amateur careers of Joyce and Yoka were ultimately entwined at the highest international level.
Joyce remains undefeated today in the professional code at 10-0, while Yoka is 7-0. Could they meet yet again, this time in the paid stakes? Only time will tell but perhaps an opportunity, if they were, for Joyce to rectify that devastating loss in Rio.
Tyson Fury had a very impressive amateur career too, although he never got to be an Olympian.
Fury won an ABA crown in 2008 with Jimmy Egan’s ABC, having won gold at the 2007 EU Junior Championships, silver at the European Junior Championships and bronze in the 2006 World Junior Championships, wearing the Irish vest.
For Fury, Joyce and Joshua, it will be very interesting to see how their separate careers eventually conclude, whenever that may be.
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