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Boxing History: 30th Anniversary of 'A Night of Gold' Part One

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Thirty years ago tomorrow, six Olympic medalists all turned pro on the same night in front of a packed Madison Square Garden. In part one of two, we look at just why this was such a special night, and just how highly touted these fighters were.

Focus On Sport

Tomorrow, November 15th, marks the anniversary of some of the World's best amateurs all turning pro on the same November evening.

All hailed from the United States of America, who on home turf in the 1984 Olympic Games, won a record nine gold medals, with one silver and one bronze only adding to the glory.

The bill, under the banner of promoter Dan Duva's 'Main Events', televised on the ABC network and known as 'A Night of Gold', featured no less than four gold medal winners, as well as those lagging behind in the runners-up spots.

The fighters who won these medals were of varying quality, all brilliant in their own way, and would go on to differing levels of success in the pro ranks.

But what led to a record haul of Gold for the U.S.A boxing team in the 1984 Olympic games?

And is there any truth to the oft-repeated claim that such glory was facilitated by the boycott of the games by many leading nations in amateur boxing?

Let's take a look at the lead up to this night, as well as the reputations of these fighters going into their professional bows.

The Landscape

The 1984 Olympics were boycotted by both the USSR and Cuba, who were, America aside, the leading nations in amateur boxing at that time. The top boxers East of Germany and from Cuba fought in their own Olympic style tournament as the 'Friendship Games' in Havana, the Communist counterpart to the Olympics.

While the official reason given was that the Soviets felt their athletes were in danger due to "anti-Soviet hysteria" that was "whipped up in the United States", it's just as likely that this was a petty riposte to the USA boycotting the 1980 games, which were in Moscow.

Cuba, also communist, followed suit, and the cold war which saw plenty of posturing and pointing of fingers had spilled into amateur pugilism.

Not that there weren't skirmishes.

Before the Olympics, the continents converged at the World Amateur Boxing Championships in 1982, and in February of 1984 the Cubans had taken on the USA in a series of challenge matches.

If we are to objectively judge whether or not the American boxers would've had such a tremendous winning tally at the 1984 games, we need to see how they matched up to their peers outside of it.

Sports Illustrated published an article prior to the Olympics titled 'A Decline in the Gold Standard'. In it, they detailed which sports would be most heavily affected by the boycott.

"The Soviets don't have any current world champs in boxing, so the quality of the competition won't be ruined," says Leslie King of the U.S Boxing Federation. Ask her about Cuba though, and she gets nervous.

From lightest to heaviest, let's take a look and try to make a hypothesis as to which American athletes were probably fortunate that the Soviets and Cubans refused to compete.

Note that I am excluding gold medallists Paul Gonzales (light flyweight), Steve McCrory (flyweight), Jerry Page (light welterweight) Frank Tate (light middleweight) and Henry Tillman (heavyweight) who, McCrory aside, turned pro subsequent to tomorrow's anniversary.

Meldrick Taylor - Olympic Gold at Featherweight

The super quick Philadelphian had won the national AAU and Golden Gloves championships at bantamweight. He reached the final of the 1983 AIBA World Junior championships, only to be knocked out in the third round by the brilliant Cuban Angel Espinosa.

But that was at light welterweight, and as Taylor matured he dropped down to featherweight, which proved a better fit for him at that time.

Only seventeen years old by the time the games came around, Taylor was like lightning and had gusto to go with his skills. He was a natural fighter, something which would be his downfall in later years.

But would he have won Olympic honours had the Cubans participated? Adolfo Horta, two-time World amateur and Pan-Am champion, had lost to Taylor in the Cuba versus USA 'world series' earlier in the year. The result was described as 'a huge upset'.

Taylor said:

"I had to show everybody that my potential is as good as Horta's potential. I'm one of the best for nomination to the U.S team."

Whether Taylor deserved the decision or not is another matter.

Hurt in all three-rounds and dropped in the second, Taylor's fast hands could not offset Horta's excellent timing, and the Cuban found the target with his right cross more often than not.

Being at home may have seen Taylor win another close one had he fought Horta in the tournament.

The Boston Globe gave a run-down of each weight class before the Olympics, and staked their bets and who was likeliest to medal.

Cuba's Adolfo Horta seems a hundred years old, but...he's still spry enough to dominate.

Taylor would've had an uphill battle if he had to rematch Horta with a medal on the line.

He had to qualify first, and despite his amateur resume and quickness, he lost in the quarter finals of the Olympic trials, in an upset to National Golden Gloves champion Andy Minsker.

Still, Taylor beat Minsker twice after that and qualified for the Los Angeles games, being seen as 'a surprise package' by long time team U.S.A coach Pat Nappi, who had guided the legendary Montreal '76 team to multiple medals.

Taylor won the Olympic games at featherweight against some tough and game fighters. He didn't have the toughest path to the Gold, but Omar Catari of Venezeula won Bronze in the next games, and Peter Konyegwachie was the Commonwealth champion. Still a talented bunch that staying consistent over the weeks against them should be seen as a serious accomplishment.

It is debatable whether or not young Meldrick Taylor could've taken the spoils had the classy Cuban had made his way to Los Angeles. But one thing that is not up for debate is that Taylor was a talent of the highest calibre.

Pernell Whitaker - Olympic Gold at Lightweight

It will be no surprise to anyone that is aware of 'Sweet Pea' that he was a tremendous amateur. The kid that would become arguably the greatest pure boxer of his generation won many amateur titles, and was seen as a lock for Olympic honours.

Known as 'Pete' to his family and friends, and 'Sweet Pete' to amateur boxing aficionados, a journalists typo saw him labelled as 'Sweet Pea', and his most recognisable moniker was born.

A street tough that happened to be blessed with incredible reflexes, Whitaker was a pure fighter that also has sickening skills. He was made to be a boxer.

Although he had to settle for silver in the World amateur championships, his conqueror that time, the outstanding Cuban Angel Herrera, struggled to keep pace with Whitaker in later bouts, losing four in a row.

In the final of the 1983 Pan-Am games, Whitaker pulled away from his Cuban rival.

The first two rounds were close, but Whitaker came on in the third, pummelling the 30-year old Cuban and nearly stopping him.

Whitaker then beat Herrera in the 1984 dual between the USA and Cuba.

Herrera won the Gold medal in the Friendship Games, but Whitaker would've been favourite to beat him again in the Olympics.

Considering Herrera was already a two-time Olympic Gold medallist, and that with his initial win over Whitaker a two-time World champion, this should demonstrate the sheer class of Whitaker.

If it doesn't, consider that Whitaker also beat the second best Cuban lightweight, Ramon Goire, although Whitaker had to get up off the deck to do so.

"He gave me the worst two rounds of my life," said Whitaker, a brash southpaw who has beaten Cuba's two-time Olympic champ, Angel Herrera, in each of their last four meetings. In the third round the boxers slugged for an extra 10 seconds because the bell was drowned out by the cheering. Before the fight Whitaker had said, "I'm looking for a standing ovation," and after his 3-2 decision, he got it.-Sports Illustrated

What isn't common knowledge, is that some thought Whitaker was gifted an Olympic berth in the first place.

The number one ranked amateur in the World, Whitaker had a hard time with Joe Belinc in the Olympic box-offs. Whitaker had won their first encounter, but Belinc avenged the defeat on the first day of the final box-offs.

His Olympic dreams would've been up in smoke had Whitaker lost to Belinc again the next day. Whitaker claimed he wasn't boxing as he should, and promised a different approach in the rubber match:

"I'm going to be more flashy and really cut loose" Whitaker said. "Lately, I've been feeling tight and trying to be a big bully. In these fights, I'll be on my toes moving all the time".

In boxing on the move, Whitaker allowed Belinc to be the aggressor, and a close 3-2 split decision saw the Virginia native squeak into the Olympics. The verdict was 'booed by the crowd at Caesers Palace'.

Belinc wasn't impressed when Whitaker said blisters contributed to his lacklustre performance:

"Those blisters are from running my boy", Belinc said to Whitaker. "We're in boxing, not track and field. Maybe you should try out for the 100-yard dash."

Belinc and his trainer, Troy Summers, suggested that Whitaker was wanted by the commission and that the decision was a political one.

"Pete Whitaker is the World champion. Pete is the one they wanted, and they got him."

Pernell Whitaker was going to the Olympics.

With Herrera out of the Games, Whitaker looked to the next best fighter in his weight class, the no.3 ranked Chun-Chil Sung of South Korea.

"I want to fight the Korean first becaue he's supposed to be the silver medallist, and I want to fight the medal opponents first....He comes straight at you. He's tough like all the Koreans are tough."

As tough and highly-ranked as Sung was, he was no match for Whitaker, who beat him 5-0 in the semi-finals in Los Angeles on his way to the gold.

With his superiority over the best Cuban clear for all to see, and by beating Sung so comprehensively, there should be little doubt that the man who would become known as 'Sweet Pea' didn't win his medal by getting a favourable draw. He was without a doubt the best lightweight in the world, something he would come to prove in the professional ranks.

Mark Breland - Olympic Gold at Welterweight

The hype surrounding Brooklyn boy Breland may be hard to understand if you weren't there at the time. Think of the excitement surrounding Vasyl Lomachenko's professional debut and double it. As a highly successful American amateur, in a decade where boxing was very much still a big deal, Breland's impeccable knockout record made him not only a shoo-in for Olympic honours, but to many a sure fire hit in the paid ranks.

Breland's record was an incredible 110-1. He won a record five consecutive New York Golden Gloves championships, with an unblemished record of 21-0. He knocked out 19 of these opponents, also a record. He hit these pugilists so hard that 14 of them couldn't get out of the first round, also a record.

In 1981 and 1982 he won the national championships, and in 1982 he won the World champioships, dropping and defeating the brilliant Serik Konakbayev of Kazakhstan (then part of the USSR) in the final.

Breland looked simply unbeatable.

So high on Breland were the fans and pundits of the time, that before he'd even secured his qualification Sports Illustrated wrote:

That Mark Breland...will win an Olympic gold medal is as plain as the graffiti on the buildings in Bed-Stuy

Some of the best boxing minds of all time were no less gushing in their appraisal of Breland's talent.

Ray Arcel, the legendary trainer who honed the skills of legends such as Benny Leonard, Barney Ross and Roberto Duran, said of Breland:

"Breland reminds me of the Sugar Ray Robinson I saw fighting as an amateur at the Salem Crescent Gymnasium in Harlem. He's a natural. He can box, he can punch, he knows how to make an opening, he picks off punches good, and he has a grace and rhythm to go with it. And he knows how to relax. Breland has the makings of a truly great fighter."
"Breland reminds me of the Sugar Ray Robinson I saw fighting as an amateur at the Salem Crescent Gymnasium in Harlem."-Ray Arcel

Breland had already sparred with Tommy Hearns, bang in his prime.

The legendary guru of Kronk Gym in Detroit, Emmanuel Steward, was impressed with how Breland adjusted to Hearns, then the WBC junior middleweight champion and just about the most dangerous man in gloves on Earth.

"Tommy's jab had more snap than Marks. He kept knocking Mark off balance. In the next day's session Mark would throw a slow jab, Tommy would throw a snappy jab, and Mark would block it and come back with a fast jab of his own. That's when I saw that Mark was thinking. He had figured it out."

Breland was already a star. He had the unanimous praise of his elders, had a glittering resume, and aside from boxing had already done a bit of acting.

You could've forgiven him for taking his eye off the ball, or resting on his laurels.

While that wasn't the case, Breland, who did as expected and won the gold, was booed, even in his home country.

Expected to slaughter everyone with the first punch he threw, Breland had to box his way to victory in all but two contests. He was tagged a few times in the tournament, but never in serious trouble. He did nothing wrong.

The expectation of him was too high.

Pat Nappi, veteran coach, said to The Los Angeles Times a few years later:

"Brelands problem is that everybody expected him to be a killer, and he never was."

In 1984 though, Breland was undoubtedly the best amateur welterweight in the world. He probably would've won the gold regardless of which countries participated.

Virgil Hill - Olympic Silver at Middleweight

The National Golden Gloves champion, Virgil Hill was a wildcard going into the Olympics. He'd had mixed success at international level, with the high point being a comprehensive victory over touted Cuban, Pan-Am and world champion, Bernardo Comas.

The Boston Globe said that middleweight was a wide open division:

When American Virgil Hill destroyed Cuban Bernardo Comas at the North Americans, the form book became worthless. Hill will have to take Michael Grogan (who missed the Pan-Ams with a freak back injury) to make the U.S team.

As it stood, Hill had to beat another Michael, future professional middleweight champion Michael Nunn. Hill did, and years later, when interviewed by Jaroslaw Drozd for Eastside Boxing wasn't too complimentary to the man who would become known as 'Second To' Nunn:

"Nunn, he couldn't beat anyone at 156 so he thought he could move up to 165 and beat me."

Nunn couldn't, and Hill made the Olympic team.

The possibility of results being rendered to appease the partisan Los Angeles crowd needs to be addressed, and there is no better time to do this than now.

The Korean team had protested several decisions at the Olympics, but none more so than eventual light welterweight gold medallist Jerry Page's victory over Dong-Kil Kim.

The South Koreans threatened an immediate pull-out.

Jack Hairston, writing for the Gainesville Sun, felt no fault could be found with the American officials:

The decisions have been lopsided in favour of the Americans, though it should be pointed out that Americans never serve as referees or judges when the Americans are in action. The bottom line is that foreign judges have been bending to the loud hometown crowd, and how much can American officials do about that?

Hairston went on to say that he felt Page had deserved the victory.

Virgil Hill however, was deemed by the same writer to have been lucky to win his quarter final bout with Yugoslavia's Damir Skaro.

It wasn't only Hairston that felt that way. The L.A crowd booed the decision, and Hill himself wasn't so sure he'd won, although he was disappointed with the crowd reaction.

"The booing by my own people bothers me a bit. Everybody has a bad performance in a long tournament like this, and today I had mine. I'll put on a better performance in the semi-finals."

Hill fought his way into the final, where he met South Korean standout Shin Joon-Sup, the 1983 World Cup winner at middleweight.

Before the bout, the Associated Press gave their prediction:

Hill is not fast afoot or with his hands, but has good power and fights well in the third round. Shin is another rough-tough Korean who keeps punching when hurt. He applies constant pressure and hits hard, and more accurately than Hill. Pick: Shin by decision.

The Associated Press report told of a close fight, with an even first round. In the second round, Joon-Sup outfought Hill in close. In the third they went to war, and it was too close to call.

Two judges scored it for Shin, 60-58 and 59-58. Two others voted 59-58 each for Hill. The fifth scored it 59-59 and then gave the fight to Shin under international amateur boxing rules that require a judge to pick a winner even if he's scored it even. Those rules also dictated the 3-2 result go to an appeals jury, but the verdict was sustained.

Immediately after the bout, Hill was gracious in defeat, if a little self-deprecating. Sports Illustrated quoted Hill as saying:

"Stars give 110 percent, not 100. I only gave 105. I could have pushed more. But I can't take anything away from the Korean. He's really a great champion."

Years later, in the aforementioned interview with Eastside Boxing, Hill talked about how he felt he was the fall guy that suffered in an attempt to appease the South Korean officials who made claims of corruption.

What happened was a couple Americans fought South Koreans and the decisions were a little shaky. It came out in the newspaper that the South Koreans were going to pull out of the 1988 Olympics, because of this. I was the next fighter to fight a South Korean after this happened and I won the fight 3-2. However, that was the first year they had a jury. The decision went to the jury and the decision got overturned 4-1.

Hill's report conflicts with the AP version of events. Another report said that the result did go to a jury, but that they also favoured the South Korean.

Whatever happened, Hill had to settle for a silver. As we'll see in part two, his marketability and potential earnings suffered massively as a result.

The next fighter we will look at didn't even win a silver, yet had none of the issues Hill did turning over. In fact to some, he was the hottest prospect of the team.

Evander Holyfield - Olympic Bronze at Light Heavyweight

A natural fighter with a serious dig, a national champion in two weight divisions, a silver medallist at the world championships, winner of the gold medal at the Olympic trials and said by the Boston Globe to 'do no worse than Silver' at the Los Angeles games.

Manny Steward's Kronk Gym in Detroit certainly knew how to churn out monsters.

Wait, I hear you ask, Evander Holyfield is from Atlanta, Georgia, right? And he didn't team up with Manny Steward until the second Bowe fight in the pro's?

You'd be right on both counts, because I'm talking about Ricky Womack.

Ricky Womack was one of the very best amateurs in the U.S around the time of the Olympics. A two-fisted puncher who avenged a loss to the top Cuban light heavyweight Pablo Romero at the world championships by decimating him inside a round, Womack looked a guarantee to medal in Los Angeles.

Evander Holyfield was pretty much an unknown quantity in the Olympic box-offs.

But not to Ricky Womack, who had beaten Holyfield in the semi-finals of national championships.

At Fort Worth, in the semi-finals of the Olympic Trials, Ricky Womack faced off with Holyfield again.

Clearly these two were well-matched, but when Womack faced Holyfield two nights in a row in the final Olympic box-offs, he was expected to win.

Holyfield used a good jab and accurate head punching to beat Womack and make the Olympics-Associated Press

Holyfield beat Womack 4-1 on Friday July 6th, and by the same score on Saturday July 7th, securing his spot on the Olympic team against one of the very best in the world.

Holyfield was not a complete rank outsider. He'd won the national Golden Gloves that year, the same year Womack had won the 'World Championship Challenge' with his straight-up mugging of Romero.

Whether or not Holyfield could have won top honours had the Cubans gone is another matter. The old adage styles make fights was never more true than here, as although Holyfield had beaten Womack twice, he had twice lost to Romero, once in the final of the Pan-Am Games, which was just about his best international achievement at the time, and in the Cuba vs. USA challenge match earlier in 1984.

As the games progressed, Holyfield looked a guarantee for gold. In a fairly weak division, he was doing what the fans had expected Mark Breland to do, which was throw nuclear bombs into his foe's faces.

His opponents from Ghana, Iraq and Kenya didn't hear the final bell.

Holyfield continued in the same fashion in his semi-final bout with Kevin Barry of New Zealand, scoring a standing eight count in the first round and hurting his man on numerous occasions. Barry, in survival mode, clinched Holyfield and pulled his head down, and received warnings for doing so.

Barry's final clinch didn't bring about a disqualification, but did bring about the end of the fight.

Holyfield tried to create seperation, not realising the referee had seen enough messiness and was about to do the same.

Uncorking a monster left hook, the Georgian cracked through the Kiwi's head and dropped him to the canvas.

The timing of the punch was perfect in the sense of it's deployment and landing. In terms of the action, it was off.

The referee had called for the fighters to break. Barry couldn't continue, Holyfield was disqualified and his dreams of a gold medal went up in smoke.

Misfortune didn't strike again until Novicic thumbed Holyfield out of the Olympics and-as sort of a silver (or bronze) lining-to greater national exposure than if he'd gone on to win the gold medal. "It looked to me like the referee was pulling for him," Holyfield said quietly. "He warned him about nine times for holding, and usually after a couple of those a boxer is disqualified. I don't know why the referee did what he did. I was throwing a combination. Barry even threw a punch. I never heard the referee say anything until after the guy went down. Even if I had heard him, there was no way I could stop a punch in midair. I knew the way we were going that somebody would get a raw deal down the line. I just never thought it would be me."-Sports Illustrated

This short clip from 'Beyond the Glory' shows Holyfield's Olympic KOs and details the controversy over him being disqualified

Barry could not continue into the final, so Yugoslavia's Anton Josipovic won a gold medal on a walk over.

"I knew the way we were going that somebody would get a raw deal down the line. I just never thought it would be me."-Evander Holyfield

Perhaps tellingly,  the gold medalist brought Holyfield up to the highest point on the podium to share the glory.

Going into his pro debut, Holyfield was seen as a cheated champion, and a great bet to be a great pro fighter. Whilst he didn't have the personal satisfaction of such a great achievement, not winning the gold hadn't done any harm to his earning potential or fame as it had to Virgil Hill, who had won a silver fair and square.

The heaviest of the gold medalists was the one who suffered the most criticism.

Tyrell Biggs - Olympic Gold at Super Heavyweight

The Muhammad Ali era was not only arguably the biggest in boxing, or at leat featured its most transcendent star, but it spawned a host of imitators.

Not in the sense that these young men wanted to make a quick buck from a poor imitation of 'The Greatest', but because he was so influential. He showed that a big man didn't need to stand in the centre of the ring and trade punches to get the victory, and could rely on athletic gifts and speed.

That is of course, if you were quick and athletically gifted.

Tyrell Biggs, a 20-year old Philadelphian, was.

Unfortunately, the press at the time felt he lacked something that could take him to the next level.

Like Ali, Biggs can float like a butterfly-but unfortunately he also stings like one. Plus, he lacks the confidence most champions have.-Sports Illustrated

It must have been hard to be filled with confidence when the biggest obstacle in your way was the wiry frame of three-time Olympic gold medalist Teoflo Stevenson, at that point the most famous amateur boxer in the world.

The super heavyweight division, like head guards, was a relatively new addition to the amateur game.

Stevenson, getting on in age, had outgrown the heavyweight division where he had picked up most of his great victories and medals. No longer the slender, lanky boxer-puncher of old, he was now a burlier figure, who relied on his power and accuracy more than his speed.

Biggs had been stopped by Stevenson in '82, but had gotten stronger since then.

In the same year, Stevenson suffered a shocking loss to tough Italian Francesco Damiani in the world championships. Biggs beat Damiani via decision and secured the gold in one of the most coveted competitions in amateur boxing.

Still, the towering figure of Stevenson loomed over him.

In the 1984 challenge between the two countries, Biggs got closer. In a highly competitive bout, a knockdown in the third round seemed to be the difference, with Stevenson edging a 3-2 victory over his younger opponent.

Biggs claimed a foul:

"I couldn't understand why the referee counted it as a knockdown. I think I won the fight. I know I won the first two rounds."

Manny Steward, working with Biggs, was more diplomatic:

"The pressure got to Tyrell, and he kind of collapsed in the third round," says Emanuel Steward, who trains Thomas Hearns and Milt McCrory and has been in Biggs's corner this year. "Tyrell learned a lot. He knows he can beat the man. Stevenson is my favorite heavyweight other than Ali. He was the most perfectly balanced fighter I ever saw. But he has slowed tremendously."

The Boston Globe questioned Stevenson's chances in the Olympics:

Will three-time Olympic champion Teofilo Stevenson go for it once more? Or are the whispers true that he's over the hill at 31? At the moment, the top Cuban is Jorge Gonzalez, who decisioned U.S world champion Tyrell Biggs in Caracas.

That much is true. Biggs had won a bronze in the Pan-Am games. With the Cubans out, Biggs would only have his old rival, Damiani of Italy, to contend with.

In 1984, in the pre-Olympic 'World Championship Chllenge', Biggs defeated the tough Italian in front of the same L.A crowd that would be cheering him on in the Olympics.

Well, you'd think they would've.

Against the 6'1", 220-pound Damiani, a shaggy-haired brawler who has a Kirk Douglas chin and the nose of his favorite heavyweight, Gerry Cooney, Biggs jabbed effectively and made Damiani miss. Yet the crowd of 6,403 applauded Damiani and booed Biggs when the 4-1 decision was announced. Perhaps the knockout-hungry L.A. fans, accustomed as they are to pro fights, were unfamiliar with the tactics and scoring employed in amateur boxing, which stresses the number-not necessarily the power-of punches landed.

"Mi hanno fregato" (I wuz robbed), said Damiani, who lost a 3-2 decision to Biggs in their 1982 World Championship bout in Munich.

Biggs was more hurt by the booing than by Damiani's punches. "What do they want from me?" he said. "I fought my fight. I don't want to make this a racial thing.... Maybe they just didn't enjoy the fight."

It remained to be seen whether Biggs would suffer the same reaction in the Olympics.

Qualifying with a win over the tubby Craig Payne (who was a solid fighter and a top amateur, having beaten Biggs before and some kid called Mike Tyson) Biggs worked his way through the Olympics, winning as expected, by decision.

He had a tough out in the semi-final, having to scrap and box with a young Canadian representative called Lennox Lewis.

Lewis was not at the peak of his amateur form, though as he was already touted as a puncher and would win the gold medal in Seoul four years later, this was clearly a tough out for Biggs.

Biggs would find it no easier in the final, where he again met his Italian rival.

When we look at whether the American boxers would've been so successful if the Communist pugilists had been in L.A, we can't simply assume that the Americans had it easy.

Damiani was the number one ranked super heavyweight in the world. Biggs was ranked second, and Stevenson was ranked third.

So even though the chips may have fallen differently in the Olympics, as they often do when so many high class fighters are forced to fight each other in a short space of time, when Tyrell Biggs fought Francesco Damiani, it was the two best fighters in the world going at it for the biggest prize in the sport.

Biggs won the decision 4-1, the first ever Olympic 'super heavyweight' champion, and the only American to date to earn that honour.

As with every Olympic boxing tournament, people wanted to see how the most talented fighters could get on in the professional ranks.

How would they adapt to the more violent game? Would their stamina hold up over longer distances than three rounds? Would any of these fighters win World championships?

The fans wouldn't have to wait long to find out.

Tomorrow, on the 30th anniversary of the professional debuts of these fighters we will look at the build up to 'A Night of Gold', the action, and what the future had in store for this excellent team.

I'll leave the last word here to veteran broadcaster and journalist Howard Cosell, whose voice is instantly recognisable to anyone who has watched any boxing from the great few decades that saw Muhammad Ali as the most famous fighter in the World and up to Larry Holmes' one-sided drubbing of Randall 'Tex' Cobb:

"Based upon my experience in covering international amateur boxing, I think they (the Cubans) might have won two or three gold medals. In view of the improvement of the other foreign fighters I will not diminish the efforts of these American fighter one bit. I think it's the finest, deepest amateur boxing team ever developed anywhere in the world and that's for the record."