Was the 1976 Olympic Boxing Team the Best Ever?

By Ken Hissner - 02/14/2024 - Comments

The 1976 Olympic Boxing team was the best the USA ever produced. Some say the 1984 team had more medals, being the best. That is because Russia and Cuba, two of the best, didn’t participate in 1984 due to the USA not participating in the 1980 Olympics, thanks to President Jimmy Carter.

Let’s examine the Montreal 1976 Olympic team as amateurs and professionals. The only member of the team who didn’t turn professional was Sgt. Charles Mooney, who made a military career instead.

Heavyweight “Big” John Tate from Knoxville, TN, lost to Philadelphia’s Marvin Stinson but defeated him in a box-off. In the Olympics, he won two bouts before losing to Cuba’s Gold Medalist, Teofilio Stevenson, in the semi-final by stoppage. He was 21-7, winning 4 bouts after the Olympics, including two matches in Poland and a final meeting over a Russian in Las Vegas, Nevada.

As a professional, Tate improved to 20-0, winning the WBA title, defeating by decision the first African to win a world title in Gerrie Coetzee, 22-0, in October of 1979 before 86,000 in attendance in South Africa. Mike Weaver and future world champ Trevor Berbick stopped him in his next two fights. He won his next sixteen fights, losing his final one to Neal Quarless, 16-9, of the UK in London. His final record was 34-3 with 23 stoppages.

Light Heavyweight Leon Spinks went 5-0, stopping Cuban Sixto Soria by stoppage for the Gold Medal. He was 42-10 in the amateurs from St. Louis, MO.

As a professional, he was 6-0-1 when he upset WBA and WBC champion Muhammad Ali, 55-2, by split decision in Las Vegas, Nevada in February of 1978. He showed no fear of the great champion. In the rematch, Ali was in much better shape and defeated Spinks seven months later, with 63,350 in attendance at the New Orleans Superdome. His career went south from there ending up with a 26-17-3 with 14 stoppages record.

Middleweight Michael Spinks went 3-0, stopping Uzbekistan’s Rufat Riskiev for the Gold Medal, ending with a 30-9 record in the amateurs.

Spinks won the WBA light heavyweight title, defeating Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, 38-5-1, in Las Vegas, NV. He made five defenses and then added the WBC title, defeating Dwight “The Camden Buzzsaw” Muhammad Qawi, 19-1-1, in Atlantic City, NJ, in March of 1983. Adding the IBF title by defeating Eddie Davis, 27-3-1, in Atlantic City in February of 1984.

In September of 1985, Spinks became the first light heavyweight champ to win the heavyweight title, defeating IBF champ Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, 48-0, in Las Vegas, NV. After two defenses, he was knocked out by “Iron” Mike Tyson, 34-0, in the first round in Atlantic City in June of 1988 and retired with a 31-1 21 stoppages record.

Light Middleweight Chuck “White Chocolate” Walker, of Mesa, AZ, lost a disputed decision to Poland’s Jerry Rybicki, who would go on to win the Gold medal.

I saw Walker stop All-Service champ Keith Broom for the 1975 AAU title on Wide World of Sports. Afterwards he was asked “outside of boxing what do you do for a living?” He replied “I’m a professional tap dancer!” He had appeared on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and Ed Sullivan show. He moved to Cut and Shoot, Texas, turning pro. He was 19-6 as an amateur.

As a professional, Walker went 9-1-1, though he said it was 11-1-1. In talking to Michael Spinks at a show in Philly, he told me, “I hated sparring with Chuck!” Walker would go on to the movie film direction business, living in Conroe, Texas, with his wife, Karyn.

Meeting “Sugar” Ray Leonard at “Smokin” Joe Frazier’s Philly gym I asked him, “You just fought in Arizona did you see Chuck there?”

In the group, the Olympic Alternate Marvin Stinson, standing behind Leonard, said, “When Chuck hit you, he made your d*** stiff!” In an interview with Walker, he laughed and said I never sparred with Marvin, but he was a good friend. The only white member on the team earned him the nickname “White Chocolate”.

Welterweight Clink “The Sheriff” Jackson from Nashville, Tennessee, went 2-1, losing to Pedro Gamarro of Venezuela. His amateur record was 102-14.

Jackson was 18-1 as a professional when he lost to Philly’s Frank “The Animal” Fletcher for the USBA title. He lost to a pair of Philly boxers back-to-back with future IBF Light Middle champ Buster Drayton, 14-6-1, and James “Black Gold” Shuler, 18-0, for the NABF title. He was 25-7 with 19 stoppages as a pro.

Light Welterweight “Sugar” Ray Leonard went 5-0 and defeated all opponents 5-0, including in the final Cuba’s Andres Aldama. His final record was 57-5 as an amateur from Palmer Park, Maryland.

Leonard would become the most famous member of the team as a professional, winning the WBC Welterweight title, stopping Wilfred Benitez, 38-0-1, in Las Vegas, Nevada, in November of 1979, improving his record to 26-0.

Two fights later, Leonard lost to Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, 71-1, fighting Duran’s fight, not boxing him. Five months later, he stopped Duran, who quit in the corner. In June of 1981, he won the WBA Super Welterweight title, stopping Uganda’s (out of Denmark) Ayub Kalule, 36-0, at the Houston Astrodome.

In Leonard’s next fight he defended his welterweight title coming from behind to stop Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, 32-0, in the fourteenth round in Las Vegas, Nevada in Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year!”

In April of 1987 returning from a detached retina Leonard won the WBC Middleweight title defeating “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, 62-2, in Las Vegas, Nevada, by split decision sending Hagler into retirement. I’m one of the few that felt Leonard won.

In November of 1988, Leonard won the WBC Super Middle and light heavy titles, stopping Canada’s Lonny Lalonde, 31-2, in Las Vegas, NV. Next, in a rematch, he drew with Hearns, 46-3, in a fight most felt he lost, but not this writer.

Next, in his third meeting with Duran, 85-7, he won by decision. He ended his career losing his last two fights to “Terrible” Terry Norris, 26-3, and Hector “Macho” Camacho, 62-3-1, in March of 1997, ending with a 36-3-1 with 25 stoppages.

Lightweight Howard Davis, Jr., went 4-0, defeating Romania’s Simion Cutov, winning the Gold Medal. He ended with a 55-4 record as an amateur.

In an interview with Davis I made the mistake saying “I thought you lost in the Olympic trials to Aaron “Hawk” Pryor. He wasn’t happy with that. He mentioned he played half a dozen instruments during the interview.

In June of 1980, Davis was 13-0 when he lost to Scotland’s Jim Watt, 36-7, for the WBC lightweight title in Scotland. He was 26-1 when he lost in his second attempt at that title, losing to Edwin Rosario, 23-0, by split decision, in San Juan, PR. In a third attempt at a world title, he was stopped by IBF Super Light champ Buddy McGirt, 37-1-1, at the Felt Forum, NY, in July of 1988. He ended with a 36-6-1 with 14 stoppages record.

Featherweight Davey Armstrong was 2-1 losing to Cuban Angel Herrera in the quarter finals. He was 97-15 as an amateur from Puyallup, Washington.

As a pro Armstrong was 23-3 when he won the NABF lightweight title in his next to last fight defeating Nick Furlano, 27-6-1, in Toronto, Canada, losing his next and final fight two years later.

Bantamweight Charles Mooney was 5-1, losing in the final to North Korea’s Gu Yong-Ju. He went onto become a trainer after retiring from the US Army after 22 years. One he trained was heavyweight champ Chris Byrd.

Flyweight Leo Randolph was 4-0 winning the Gold Medal defeating Cuban Ramon Duvalon ending with a 35-6-1 amateur record, from Spanaway, Washington.

Randolph was 16-1 when he won the WBA World Super Bantamweight title, stopping Colombia’s Ricardo Cardona, 21-4-1, in Seattle, Washington. In his first defense in his next fight, he lost to Argentina’s Sergio Palma, 37-3-4, in Seattle. His final record was 17-2 with 9 stoppages.

Flyweight Louis Curtis lost to Poland’s Henryk Srednicki in the opening round. He was 22-14 as an amateur from Washington, D.C.

Curtis was 15-0-1 as a pro when he lost to the IBF USBA champ Kelvin Seabrooks, 21-13, in Alexandra, Virginia, in March of 1987. He was 15-6-1 with 7 stoppages as a pro.

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