“Not Just Another 1976 vs 1984 Olympic Team Story”!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 14, 2011)
Howard Davis (Photo © Neil Leifer)
This writer started back about 3 years ago interviewing members of the 1976 Olympic team. I thought I had an original idea in matching them against the 1984 Olympic team. I was told there was a story written right after the 1984 Olympics. I discovered others but never found that original one. I have never seen anyone get into interviewing as many as 17 of the 23 Olympians as I have. It doesn’t mean it will be a better read but….

With help from Manny Steward (trainer) and Milt McCrory (brother) on Steve McCrory (deceased) and help from Ace Miller on John Tate (deceased) and Clint Jackson (imprisoned) for whom he trained both at times it increased the number to 18. Tyrell Biggs though interviewed he was the first Olympic super heavyweight and would not have an opponent leaving 17 of the 22 boxers interviewed.

The team comparisons were based on the boxers as amateurs and not as professionals! The “Dream Team” of 1976 went to Montreal and brought back 5 Gold medals, a Silver and Bronze medal. As the norm in Olympic boxing several boxers were not given what seemed deserving wins such as Walker early to the eventual winner from Poland and Jackson in the finals to name a few. Numerous African nations boycotted the games.

The “Gold Team” of 1984 in the Olympics at Los Angeles won 9 Gold medals, a Silver and a Bronze medal. A big factor always brought up were powerhouses Cuba and Russia along with East Germany boycotting the games.

This writer took into consideration the 1975 Pan Am Games in Mexico and the 1983 Pan Am Games in Caracas along with the 1984 duel meet with Cuba. In the 1975 Games the team won 3 Gold, 4 Silver and a Bronze medal. Cuba dominated with 7 Gold medals, 3 Silver and 3 Bronze. In 1983 the team won 2 Gold, 5 Silver and 4 Bronze medals. Cuba dominated with 8 Gold and 2 Silver. In February of 1984 Cuba won a duel meet 8-4 in Reno.

Along with Steward this writer contacted Joe Clough who trained many top amateurs out of the Tacoma Boy’s Club in the state of WA. Boxers like “Sugar” Ray Seales, 1972 Olympic Gold medalist, Davey Armstrong from the 72 and 76 teams, Rocky Lockridge, Brett Summers and Johnny Bumphus who made the 1980 team. He was the coach of the 1983 Pan Am Games team and has since trained boxers from all over the world in such places as Thailand, the Philippines and now heading to China.

This writer attempted to contact all the boxers from both teams for their input. There was little response on their opinions. All comments after the winner’s name were not by this writer. We’ll start with 106 with the 1976 member’s name first.

106: Louis Curtis, DC –vs- Paul Gonzales, LA. Curtis felt the entire 1976 team would defeat the 1984 team. Gonzales won the Val Barker Trophy as the most outstanding boxer in the 1984 Olympics. With a 314-9-2 amateur record Gonzales was voted the winner. “Gonzales was much taller and a better boxer on the outside”.

Leo Randolph (Photo © Neil Leifer)
112: Leo Randolph, Tacoma, WA –vs- Steve McCrory, MI. Randolph was 167-7 compared to McCrory’s 221-17. McCrory won a Bronze at the Pan Am Games. Both won Gold medals at the Olympics. Randolph was voted the winner. “Randolph had more determination”.

119: Charles Mooney, Army/MD -vs- Robert Shannon, WA. Mooney was the only boxer of the 23 to never turn professional. He was a career man in the Army and now a professional trainer. He was only 18-5 compared to Shannon’s 126-26. Shannon also was a 1980 member and a 1984 Golden Glove champ. Mooney won Silver in the Olympics. Mooney was voted the winner. “Mooney was older and stronger”.

Meldrick Taylor
125: Davey Armstrong, WA –vs- Meldrick Taylor, PA. Armstrong was a member of the 1972 and 1976 team’s. He won Gold at the Pan Am in 1975. Taylor was 17 and a Golden Glove winner along with taking Gold at the Olympics. Armstrong lost 3-2 to the Cuban in 1976 and should have gotten the win. Armstrong was voted the winner.

Pernell Whitaker - 1984
132: Howard Davis, NY –vs- Pernell Whitaker, VA. Davis was 125-5, the 1973-74 AAU champ and won the World Games in Cuba in 1974. He won the Val Barker Trophy and Gold at the Olympics. Whitaker was 201-13, Pan Am Gold in 1983 as well as Gold in the Olympics. “Nobody liked Whitaker. But could he box.” They don’t get much closer than this one as Whitaker was voted the winner. He will never win a “popularity” contest but while Davis defeated Aaron Pryor, Hilmer Kenty and Tommy Hearns, Whitaker beat the Cuban Angel Herrera 4 out of 5 who beat Armstrong, Lockridge and Bumphus. In this one Steward stuck to his guns. “Don’t make me pick a winner,” said Steward. And he didn’t. I called Whitaker and he said he would call back. That was over a year ago. I left word on his answering machine twice after that.

Jerry Page
"Sugar" Ray Leonard (© Neil Leifer)
Leonard fights with a photo of his high school sweetheart taped to his shoe)
139: Ray Leonard, MD, -vs- Jerry Page, OH. Leonard was 145-5, 73-74 Golden Gloves champ, 74-75 AAU champ and won Gold at the Pan Am Games and the Montreal Olympics. Page won over 100 of his 130 bouts winning Silver at the Pan Am Games and Gold at the Olympics. Leonard voted the winner. This writer thought Leonard was a better amateur than a pro. “Leonard was a better amateur because he hit harder due to having bad hands as a pro,” said Steward. Page felt he would have defeated Leonard. He couldn’t get any backers on that one.

147: Clint Jackson, TN, -vs- Mark Breland, NY. Jackson was 139-14 winning the Golden Gloves from 74-76 and the AAU 74-77, winning Gold at the Pan Am Games. “Jackson was robbed out of a Gold medal. I was there,” said Clough. Breland was
Mark Breland
the US Champ in 82-83 with a 104-1 record winning the 82 World’s in Munich and Gold at the Olympics. “This is one of those that could have gone wither way,” said Steward. Breland voted the winner. “Both were great but I think Breland would have out boxed Jackson.”

Chuck Walker (Photo © Anthony Rowe)
156: Chuck Walker, AZ, -vs- Frank Tate, MI. This like Davis-Whitaker was so close. Walker won the 1975 AAU and a Bronze at the Pan Am Games. Commentator Howard Cosell covering the Olympics called his defeat to the Pole who would go on to win the Gold as one of the worst at the Montreal games. Tate was 125-5 and won Gold at the Olympics. He won the Golden Gloves in1983 and came off the canvas twice to win the Gold in the Olympics which some called a controversial decision. Both Tate’s amateur trainer (Steward) and professional trainer (Jesse Reid) picked Tate. Clough picked Walker as did Hilmer Kenty who was in the 1975 AAU tourney with Walker. Michael Spinks agreed with the original stories writer on all bouts except Tate over Walker. “I spared many rounds with Chuck Walker and there was no way Tate would beat him,” said Spinks. Walker wins by the narrowest of votes. He was the professional tap dancer that Ray Leonard told this writer “I wouldn’t want to fight Chuck for our styles were so similar it would make for a bad fight.” His teammate Howard Davis said “not to mean anything negative but Chuck was the greatest white fighter I ever saw.”
Michael Spink (© N. Leifer)

165: Michael Spinks, MO, -vs- Virgil Hill, ND. Spinks was 93-7 winning the Golden Gloves from 74-76. He won the Olympic Gold.

Hill was 288-11 and the 1984 Golden Gloves champ and took the Silver at the Olympics. Wikipedia claims he was born in Clinton, MO. The winner is Spinks. “Hill had little international boxing.”

I personally handed Spinks his story and questions at a show. He never got back to me.

Leon Spink (Photo © Neil Leifer)
Evander Holyfield
178: Leon Spinks, MO, -vs- Evander Holyfield, GA. Spinks won the AAU title from 74-76 and the Pan Am Silver in 75. He won a Bronze at 1972 World games. Holyfield was 160-14, 84 Golden Gloves champ, winning Silver at the Pan Am Games and a controversial disqualification in receiving a Bronze at the Olympics. Though this writer didn’t get an interview, Holyfield told me in September at the China –vs- USA match in New York “we would have easily beat the 1976 team”. Don’t know if he’d get too many backers on that one. Winner on votes was Spinks. Like Leonard, Spinks was a better amateur than a pro even though winning the world title from Ali in his eighth fight. “Leon was too strong for Evander”.

+178: John Tate, TN, -vs- Henry Tillman, L.A. Tate defeated the AAU champ Marvin Stinson in the Olympic trials on a controversial decision after reversing a previous loss to Michael Dokes earlier in the trials. Tillman won Silver at the Pan Am Games and defeated Mike Tyson in the Olympic trials final. Winner here is Tate in a close decision.

The judges give it to the 1976 “Dream Team” by 8-3 twice and 8-2-1 over the 1984 “Gold Team. The1976 team of the Montreal Olympics was not only considered an overall winner over the 1984 team of Los Angeles but possibly the greatest USA Olympic team in the history of USA boxing with the 1984 team right behind them. As professionals the 1976 team produced 5 world champions to the 1984 team’s 6. As professionals Davis drew with Taylor and Holyfield defeated Tillman. Hill defeated Frank Tate twice. We will never see the likes of these two teams again!

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