5 famous Olympic boxing medallists who went on to become World Champions (Video)
Muhammad Ali (right)Few sports are as physically, mentally or emotionally wearying as boxing. Those who dare to enter its domain must first endure the severity of the training regime, and then combat somebody who has been honing themselves to vanquish them in the basest form of competition. Most boxers start as amateurs, representing themselves, their city, district or state in three or four round matches. This variant of the sport, challenging as it is, is a world apart from professional boxing. The stakes are higher, the fights are longer and more punishing.But there are those who reached the pinnacle of amateur boxing, and despite the rigours, etched their names in the annals of professional boxing. Here is a list of the most famous boxers who won Olympic medals and went on to become world champions:
#1 Muhammad Ali
The man who would become known to the world as Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky, USA on January 17th, 1942. He was introduced to boxing by a policeman who found a 12-year-old Ali seething over his stolen bicycle.
Ali’s amateur success would culminate in a light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Aged 22, he would become the youngest man to defeat a reigning champion when he beat Sonny Liston via seventh round TKO. He would win the rematch by knockout, later that year.
#2 \"Sugar\" Ray Leonard
Leonard won the gold in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, as a member of the American team that many consider to be the greatest assemblage of pugilists in Olympic boxing history. He won his first belt, the WBC Welterweight Championship, on November 30th ,1979, by beating 2-division champion Wilfred Benitez.
Sugar Ray would go on to become the greatest of “The Fabulous Four”, an ‘80s quartet that consisted of him, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler. Leonard was the first boxer to breach the $100 million mark in fight purses, and the first to conquer five weight classes.
#3 Floyd Mayweather
Mayweather’s bronze medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – the first win by an American over a Cuban – indeed seemed propitious. “Pretty Boy” Floyd would brush aside the ensuing controversial semifinal loss and take his considerable skills into the world of professional boxing, and the rest is history.
Two years later, Mayweather would defeat Genaro Hernandez to win his first professional title, the WBC Super Featherweight Championship. His list of defeated opponents is analogous to a collection of expensive sports cars, with names like Diego Corrales, Arturo Gatti, Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao.
The five-division world champion shrewdly used his carefully cultivated public persona of an irreverent, money-minded bad boy to become the highest paid athlete in the world 4 times in his career. Mayweather is now retired with a perfect 49-0 record, and says the reason behind him calling it a day is his desire to be acute and devote time to his family.
#4 Oscar De La Hoya
Nicknamed “The Golden Boy”, De La Hoya won gold in the lightweight category in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, fulfilling his recently-deceased mother’s wish. In the same year, he would win his first professional world title, the WBO Super Featherweight championship, by beating Jimmy Bredahl.
That would be the first of 10 world championships in six different weight classes in a sixteen-year career. De La Hoya showed that his talent wasn’t restricted to the boxing ring when his eponymous Latin pop CD was nominated for a Grammy in 2000.
#5 Lennox Lewis
Lewis was born in London in 1965 but moved to Canada aged 12, in 1977. Undeterred by a quarterfinal loss to Tyrell Biggs in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Lewis would soldier on, eventually winning the gold in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
He was heralded as “a great new heavyweight” in 1992 when he beat Razor Ruddock and having dual Canadian-British citizenship, became the first British heavyweight champion of the 20th century when Riddick Bowe relinquished his title over financial haggles.
Lewis has also defeated renowned heavyweights Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko. He is considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.