There are times when the best athletes in the world search for a just little more inspiration. Some find it in the fervour of support, others in their own desire to prove their excellence to the world.
Welterweight boxer Julius Torma, born in Hungary but fighting for Czechoslavakia, was inspired by what he considered as the poor manners of his opponent. Before his second-round match, he went to shake hands with the other boxer, the Canadian Cliff Blackburn. And yet, as Torma held out his hand, Blackburn refused to shake it. It was, perhaps, a gesture of defiance, or perhaps an effort to win the upper hand in what is now known as “the mind game”. But rarely has such an attempt at machismo backfired quite so badly.
An angry Torma won the fight when the referee stopped the contest in the second round, with the Czech having delivered a boxing lesson to his rival. His fury nearly cost him dear, though, for his final destructive left hook broke a bone in his hand. For a while, it looked as if Torma might have to withdraw, but he decided instead to persevere, hide his injury, and box clever.
Fortunately, the 26-year-old shop assistant was not just a fine attacking boxer, but also a master of defence. The official report of the Games described him as “probably the best defensive boxer in the competitions” and he regularly swayed out of the way of punches just as they seemed about to land.
And so, with that skill, he managed to hide his injury from his next three opponents, winning with that superb defence and constant use of his right hand, beating the agile American Hank Herring.
It was Torma's finest hour. He would lose in the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games in both 1952 and 1956.