A total of 48 times an American fighter has won the Gold Medal at the Olympics. Since 1904 the United States has participated in the Olympic sport and utilized it to expose up and coming talent for the pros. Just like with Heisman Trophy winners in NCAA Football going to the NFL, it’s not always a guarantee that a Gold Medalist in the Olympics will become a World Champions when they become professional fighters. They are however but highly revered as prospects before they step foot inside the ring as pro.
The question is; who are the Top 11 Gold Medalist in United States Boxing history? With 48 extraordinary fighters to choose from it’s surely a tough task but here is the list.
11. (156) David Reid 1996, Atlanta, USA
David Reid was the only Gold Medalist of a class which included Floyd Mayweather Jr. He was a gifted boxer who had much to offer the boxing world when he turned pro. As a celebrated Gold Medalist his promoters threw him in with the wolves at a very early age.
He was put in the ring with Felix “Tito” Trinidad in just his third year as a pro with under 15 fights. The fight was a war where David Reid suffered a detached retina. This put an end to his promising career. While Reid tried a comeback, he was never the same again.
10. (178) Andre Ward 2004, Athens, Greece
Andre Ward is the only fighter from the United States that has won a Gold Medal since the turn of the Millennium. Ward went to the Olympic Games at the height of ant- American sentiment due to the war in Iraq. The celebrated amateur is currently the champion at 168 pounds as a professional with dominant wins over Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, Arthur Abraham, Sakio Bika and Carl Froch.
The best part is, Andre Ward isn’t even finished yet…
9. (132) Oscar De La Hoya 1992, Barcelona, Spain
They call him the “Golden Boy” for a reason. De La Hoya was a celebrated amateur and went to the Olympics focused on winning the Gold medal that he promised his mother. After the Olympics he went on to dominate some lighter weight-classes before reaching his prime as a Welterweight. He would go to become a biggest draw in boxing history, outside the Heavyweight Division.
8. (165) Michael Spinks & (178) Leon Spinks, 1976, Montreal, Canada
So this is cheating… a little. But how can you not add the two brothers from St. Louis that went on earn Olympic Gold Medals for the United States? It’s only fitting that they make the list together. Both brothers went on to go and make some serious noise in the pros as well.
Leon Spinks is notorious for his victory over Muhammad Ali in only his 8th pro fight where he captured the Heavyweight title. Michael would have a great reign as a Light-Heavyweight Champion before moving up to take the Heavyweight title from Larry Holmes.
7. (125) Meldrick Taylor, 1984 Los Angeles, USA
Meldrick Taylor used his blazing hand speed to dominate the completion in the Olympics at age 17. With possibly the fastest hands in the sport the celebrated amateur turned pro with a lot of promise and went on to win a world title by dominating opponents with his blazing speed and boxing craft.
The end for Meldrick Taylor began in a unification bout against all-time great Julio Cesar Chavez where he lost by controversial knockout at the end of the 12th round. The body punching that Taylor endured that night changed not only his career but life forever.
6. (178+) Joe Frazier , 1964 Tokyo, Japan
Joe Frazier was a replacement for injured Buster Mathis. He started off the Olympic tournament by knocking his opponents out using his deadly left hook. Despite breaking his thumb he went on to fight through the pain in the final by winning on the judges’ score cards 3-2.
The rest is obviously history. Joe Frazier went on to have a stellar professional career by capturing the World Heavyweight title. He was the first man to defeat the great Muhammad Ali in their first fight which then went on to become perhaps the greatest trilogy of all time.
5. (178+) George Foreman, 1968 Mexico City, Mexico
Big George was 19 years old when he went on to pummel his opponents at the 1968 Olympic Games. It was clear in this Olympics that he was going to be a force to reckon with in the pros because of the thudding power in his shots. Three of his four opponents did not go the distance with the big puncher at the Olympic games, two of the bouts being stopped by the referee. He’s without a doubt the most awesome display of power in Olympic boxing history.
George Forman went on to have two professional careers. His first where he captured the World title from Frazier and then lost the title to Ali then the one in the 90’s when he knocked out Moore to recapture the Heavyweight crown.
4. (132) Pernell Whitaker , 1984 Los Angeles, USA
He’s the best fighter out of the best class in Olympic boxing history. Sweet Pea is one of the greatest lightweight amateur boxers of all time and it showed in the Olympics. Whitaker would tell you he had over 500 amateur fights, but officially only 214 are on the record book. As you should already know Sweet Pea went on to compliment his great amateur career with even a better professional career.
He’s easily one of the greatest Lightweights , Light-Welterweights and Welterweights of all time and is the rightful but unofficial Julio Cesar Chavez conqueror – Everybody knows he won that fight. Many even argue he beat his gold medal counter-part, prime Oscar De la Hoya at welterweight in their fight.
3. (165) Floyd Patterson, 1952 Helsinki, Finland
Floyd Patterson was just 17 years old when he cruised to an Olympic Gold Medal victory. He knocked out his opponent half way through the first round with relative ease in the final. Floyd Patterson’s speed and atheleticism is amongst the greatest in boxing history.
That prowess took him to the pros where he went on to become what was at the time the youngest Heavyweight Champion in boxing history at age 21.
2. (139) Ray Leonard, 1976 Montreal, Canada
America will never forget “Sugar” Ray Leonard’s smile when he easily dismantled and destroyed his opponents in the Olympic Games. His hand speed was something only rivaled by Meldrick Taylor and he had the size, power and craft to go with it. Leonard swept all his opponents 5-0 in the Olympics
Ray Leonard wasn’t even planning on turning pro; could you imagine that? But the rest is history. He went on to have one of the most impressive professional careers in boxing history beating some of the best fighters in the history of the sport such as Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler (sorta).
1. (178) Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), 1960 Rome, Italy
As Ernie Terrel learned the hard way, you better call him Muhammad Ali. The 18 year old, then Cassius Clay, biggest fight was stepping foot inside the plane to make it to the Olympic Games. He went on to defeat some experienced fighters at such a young age and put on a boxing clinic. This is where the career of the Greatest of All time started. This is where the Heavyweight that moved like a Middleweight became known.
Ali claimed to have thrown his Gold Medal into the Ohio River after he was refused service at a “whites only” restaurant. At the Olympics which he lit the torch for, 1996 Atlanta, he received a replacement medal.
He’s the greatest. He’s the greatest Gold Medalist in American Boxing history.
Honorable Mention ; (156) Roy Jones, 1988 Seoul, South Korea
We gotta give Roy Jones some recognition since he should be on this list but isn’t due to getting robbed in Seoul, South Korea.
“…Whoever don’t agree you know what, I guess
Ya’ll Must’ve Forgot
When they stole my gold medals in Seoul, Korea
That’s lookin back at my whole career
Cause, Ya’ll Must’ve Forgot…”