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Greatest Boxers That Failed to Win Gold at the Olympics

| November 1, 2021 1:10 pm PDT

When discussing the best boxers that never won gold at the Olympics, there are a few big names that come to mind. 

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Gennady Golovkin are the two highest-profiles of the bunch. But beyond Mayweather and Golovkin, some guys went on to have huge careers despite leaving the games with less than they wanted. 

Regardless of your age or boxing knowledge, this list of the greatest boxers that failed to win the Olympic gold medal might throw a few surprises that you weren’t previously aware of. At the very least, it’s an entertaining read for fans of boxing at the Olympics.

Ike Quartey

Ike Quartey
  • Representing: Ghana
  • Games: Rome 1960
  • Division: Light-Welterweight
  • Medal: Silver

Although he is the first Ghanaian to win a medal at the Olympics, Quartey makes the list of the greatest boxers never to win gold.

Quartey was an excellent light-welterweight that appeared in the 1960 games in Rome, Italy. Although these games are famous to boxing fans as the Olympics where Muhammad Ali won the light heavyweight tournament for the United States, this one was a big one for both Ghanaians and Africans, as a whole.

Born in the West African country’s capital, Accra, Quartey became a standout on the amateur scene in his homeland. Eventually, he made it to Italy where he wrote himself into the record books as the first black African to win a medal at the Olympics. 

Quartey is regarded as a tough and ready warrior with one of the best jabs of all time. He is also one of the top boxers who never won the gold medal at the Olympic games.

Wilfredo Gomez

Wilfredo Gomez
  • Representing: Puerto Rico
  • Games: Munich 1972
  • Division: Flyweight
  • Medal: None

Gomez’s status as one of the best pro boxers never to win gold at an Olympics is unquestionable. 

The greatest Puerto Rican boxer of all time, was just 15 when he flew to Germany to compete in the flyweight tournament. Yes, you have read that right. He was 15.

Although he was defeated in the first round, he earned a huge amount of respect for his bravery. 

Gomez could have opted to feature at the Montreal Olympics four years later, but instead decided to turn professional after the 1974 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Havana. As a bantamweight, he won gold at those games.

It proved to be the right move. He went on to win titles in multiple weight classes before being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995.

Mike McCallum

Mike McCallum
  • Representing: Jamaica
  • Games: Montreal 1976
  • Division: Welterweight
  • Medal: None

McCallum makes my list of the best fighters never to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

Crazily enough, McCallum didn’t even earn a bronze. 

Despite finishing his career in 1997 with a loss to James Toney at cruiserweight, the powerful Jamaican represented his country as a welterweight at Montreal ’76. He beat Damdinjavyn Bandi of Mongolia and Robert Dauer (Australia) before losing out to Reinhard Skricek in the bronze match.

It was a tough pill for “The Bodysnatcher” to take, but one that could have been the catalyst for bigger and better things. Like so many other fighters on this list.

McCallum became the first world champion from the Caribbean nation. He defeated Ireland’s Sean Mannion to win the WBA super welterweight title in 1984 before picking up additional world titles at middleweight and light heavyweight.

Although McCallum is part of a small band of great boxers that never won an Olympic gold medal, his accomplishments in the pro ranks ensure his legend in the sport.

Miguel Cotto

Miguel Cotto
  • Representing: Puerto Rico
  • Games: Sydney 2000
  • Division: Light-Welterweight
  • Medal: None

Future legend Cotto was eliminated at the first round by the excellent Mohamad Abdullaev at Sydney 2000.

The Puerto Rican lost 17-7 on the night with Abdullaev going on to take the gold medal. A well-deserved one, too, for the slick and powerful Uzbekistani.

If you can remember watching Cotto that night, you probably would have struggled to accept the fact that he would end up one of the greatest boxers of all time never to win an Olympic medal. At 19, he was some distance from the wrecking ball he would later become. 

Top pro boxers that didn’t win Olympic golds are common. But fighters of Cotto’s caliber that also competed in the Olympic Games usually have something to show for it. 

Regardless, “Junito” put the disappointment of the loss behind him and carved out a career that saw him become the first Puerto Rican to win world titles in four weight classes.

As fate would have it, Cotto also got his revenge in 2005 when he stopped Abdullaev inside nine to retain the WBO light welterweight title.

Gennady Golovkin

Gennady Golovkin
  • Representing: Kazakhstan
  • Games: Athens 2004
  • Division: Middleweight
  • Medal: Silver

You can’t have a list of the greatest Olympic boxers never to win gold without mentioning Golovkin.

Although his career at the top of the middleweight food chain was pretty much ended by Canelo Alvarez, “GGG” scared the bejesus out of the 160-pound division for years.

The Kazakh went 37-0 until his controversial draw with Canelo in 2017, tearing through the ranks like a man possessed. For a long time, he was considered unbeatable in his weight class.

However, that wasn’t exactly the case in the amateurs. Although very accomplished in the unpaid ranks, Golovkin missed out on top prize at Athens 2004. Having beaten Ahmed Ali Khan Pakistan 31-10 and Ramadan Yasser 31-20, he would go on to face the American Andre Dirrell.

He beat the fellow future world champion 23 – 18 but dropped an 18-28 loss to Gaydarbek Gaydarbekov in the gold medal match. 

Golovkin’s pro career means that he walks into this list of the greatest professional boxers that never won gold at the Olympics.

But with his heart being set on the paid ranks, he was never going to join the greatest Olympic boxers in history.

Kosta Tszyu

Kosta Tszyu
  • Representing: Puerto Rico
  • Games: Seoul 1988
  • Division: Light-Welterweight
  • Medal: None

Add Kosta Tsyzu to the list of top fighters that never won a gold medal at the Olympics.

Representing the Soviet Union in 1988, the future Hall of Famer didn’t pick up a medal at all. Instead, he left South Korea empty-handed. 

A soldier of the Soviet Union, Tszyu’s elite athlete status meant that he wasn’t subject to the duties of the average army man. But this was no average fighter, as we would learn in his thirteen years as a professional. 

Tszyu is one of the greatest boxers that never won an Olympic medal, but that was almost not the case at all. Set to feature at the 1992 games in Barcelona, Tszyu decided to turn pro instead, and following the collapse of the Soviet Union the year before, felt it was time to make some changes in his life.

Encapsulated by Australia, he emigrated, got married, and made a life for himself in Sydney. He turned professional in March 1992, became an Aussie citizen the following year, and the rest, they say, is history.

Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield
  • Representing: United States
  • Games: Los Angeles 1984
  • Division: Light Heavyweight
  • Medal: Bronze

What is with American boxers being robbed at Olympic Games?

At the very least, why are three of the greatest boxers never to win gold at the Olympics from the United States? And why did all three of these fighters lose out in very controversial circumstances?

Anyone wondering how to bet on Olympic boxing should know that, well, these things can happen. With that said, boxing in the Olympics has been cleaned up in recent times, making the sport more respectable and giving us all a bit of hope.

But yeah, there have been some major stinkers over the years.

Evander Holyfield is one of the best examples of how judges can get things wrong and pretty much destroy a fighter’s hopes and dreams.

Holyfield found this out at first hand when he took on Kevin Barry of New Zealand in the semi-final of the men’s light heavyweight tournament.

The Hall of Famer and all-out legend mauled his way through to this stage with some impressive performances, the boxer — who was pretty much an unknown before his two wins over Ricky Womack to earn his spot in the games — was battering the Kiwi.

En route to a potential stoppage over Barry, Yugoslavian referee Gligorije Novicic called a break. Novicic then decided Holyfield hit out after the break and awarded the fight to Barry. 

But credit to Barry, who held the arm of the future “Real Deal” up to gesture who he thought had won the fight. 

Was it a coincidence that fellow Yugoslav Anton Josipovic had already made it to the final? You decide. Either way, Holyfield is one of the greatest never to win a gold medal at the Olympics. 

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.
  • Representing: United States
  • Games: Atlanta 1996
  • Division: Featherweight
  • Medal: Bronze

Of all the top boxers that failed to win gold at the Olympic games, Mayweather’s fortunes — both inside and outside of the ring — are the most glittering.

An icon of the sport, Mayweather retired with a record of 50-0 in the paid ranks. An astute businessman, “Money” created a fortune from shrewd matchmaking and promotion. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time and owns one of the most famous faces of the 21st century. 

But things might have looked much different had the native of Grand Rapids, Michigan found success at the 1996 games in Atlanta. 

Having become the first American boxer to defeat a Cuban in the Olympics for 20 years, Mayweather was expected to follow up on his win over Lorenzo Aragon with gold. He was nailed on, in all fairness. 

The United States star was pitted against Bulgaria’s Serafim Todorov in the semi-final. He landed more clean shots on his opponent and clearly outclassed him, leading to Egyptian referee Hamad Hafaz Shouman raising Mayweather’s hand as the results were announced.

However, Shouman got it wrong. Todorov was awarded the win by 10 points to 9. 

Things really hit the fan. The US team protested the result, and boxing fans around the world shook their heads in disbelief at what they were witnessing.

Mayweather is considered the greatest boxer never to win a gold medal in the Olympic games, but he used the heartbreak of his loss to Todorov to catapult him to a status never seen in the sport before.

It’s worth noting that “TBE” later admitted that his loss to Todorov was the best thing that ever happened to him.

Roy Jones Jr.

Roy Jones Jr.
  • Representing: United States
  • Games: Seoul 1988
  • Division: Featherweight
  • Medal: Bronze

Was Mayweather the best Olympic boxer never to win gold? Or does Roy Jones Jr. deserve that title?

I mean, it’s hard to argue with Mayweather’s case, given his resume, income, and his general dominance of the sport. But when you look at Jones’ performance at the games, it’s tough to see a more astounding example of misfortune.

Pushing things further, it’s one of the biggest Olympic scandals in history.

Of course, this list is dedicated to boxing legends that never won gold at the Olympics. Therefore, it’s not about who was the best, or who got robbed more at Olympic boxing tournaments. But it’s worth pointing out each fighter’s individual story.

When it comes to Jones, you can’t mention his amateur days without bringing up his loss to Park Si-Hun in the final of the light-middleweight tournament.

Park had scraped past Vincenzo Nardiello in controversial circumstances before meeting Jones, who had pretty much torn through everyone en route to the gold match. Having made easy work of the South Korean, the world was stunned when the excellent Jones was robbed by the Asian Amateur Championships gold medalist. 

There was nothing close about the fight, which led to accusations of corruption aimed at the Koreans. 

One of the judges, Hiouad Larbi of Morocco, allegedly admitted to awarding against the dominant Jones to please home country spectators. Two of the judges who voted in favor of Park were banned for life from the sport.

Jones is the greatest boxer that failed to win gold at the Olympics. But the word “failed” doesn’t sit right with me here. Thus, I’ll close this list by referring to the Hall of Famer as the greatest Olympic boxer to never win the gold.

That sounds much better.

Wrap Up of the Greatest Boxers Who Failed to Win Gold

That concludes my list of the greatest boxers that failed to win gold at the Olympic Games.

For the most part, things turned out very well for most of the men on the list. Most of these guys are legends of the sport, at the very least. But what they all share in common is the absence of that Olympic gold medal.

I hope you enjoyed reading this piece. If so, feel free to find more by visiting our sports blog.

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Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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