- 02 Aug 2008
- IOC News
Boxing: Acosta hot on the heels of Cuban legends
Boxing may be the only Olympic sport that is still strictly amateur but it has been responsible for launching the professional career of many a great champion. The list of previous winners reads like a who’s who of sport.
Muhammad Ali (as Cassius Clay) won the light-heavyweight title in 1960; heavyweights Joe Frazier and George Foreman followed him four and eight years later respectively; 1976 was Sugar Ray Leonard’s year; and in 1992 a young Mexican-American by the name of Oscar de la Hoya won the lightweight title in Barcelona.
The all-time Olympic podium is shared by three men who have each won three Olympic gold medals. The first was Hungary’s László Papp, who won at middleweight in 1948 and then at light middleweight at the two subsequent Games. His feat was emulated by two Cuban heavyweights, Teófilo Stevenson in 1972, 1976 and 1980 and, two decades later, Felix Savon. Papp eventually turned professional but neither Cuban ever did and, to this day, Cuba has a fine tradition in Olympic boxing.
World junior champion
Hoping to carry that tradition on for Cuba in Beijing will be the 23-year-old heavyweight favourite Osmay Acosta, the 2002 world junior champion. Other countries expected to perform strongly include a very powerful Russian team, who are looking to medal at every weight; the USA, who will be out to improve on just one gold in the last two Games; and Thailand, who as a nation are pinning their hopes on their boxers.
Hosts China will be banking on light flyweight Zou Shiming, who won the world amateur title in Chicago last year after beating Harry Tanamor of the Philippines in the final. Tanamor, a southpaw who reached the last 16 in Athens four years ago, was twice a world amateur bronze medallist before taking silver behind Zou last year, and the pair could meet again in Beijing. Zou will be favourite but Tanamor, who celebrates his 31st birthday during the Games, will be trying to become the first ever Filipino to win an Olympic gold medal.