Ireland at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

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By Bernard O’Neill – IABA Press Officer

Ireland brought an eight-strong squad to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, their second time participating in the Games, and as had happened in Paris four years earlier, the old medal allocation system denied Ireland a bronze

Myles McDonagh, Frank Traynor, George Kelly, Willie O’Shea, PJ Lenehan, Jack Chase, WJ Murphy and Matt Flanagan represented Ireland at the 9th edition of the Games. All eight were reigning Irish Elite champions.

With the Olympics on the line, a record entry of 84 boxers, vastly surpassing the previous year’s entry of 54, registered to compete at the 1928 Seniors in Dublin. Two of the titles, flyweight and welterweight, were left vacant as defending champion George Kelly moved up to bantamweight and TJ Finn was forced to withdraw with an illness.

Tipperary’s Paddy Dwyer, who had reached the semi-finals at Paris 1924, was Irish head coach for the 1928 Games which were the first iteration of the Olympics where entries were limited to one boxer per weight class per nation. 144 boxers from 29 countries competed in Holland.

Boxing at the 1928 Olympic Games was contested across the eight traditional weight categories – flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light-heavyweight and heavyweight.

Dublin-born bantamweight Frank Traynor reached the semi finals in Amsterdam.

The St Paul’s BC champion blasted his way into the last four at the Krachtsportgebouw venue with victories over Fuji Okamato of Japan and Argentinean Carmelo Robledo before being defeated by Italian Vittorio Tamagnini in the semi final.

Traynor then also lost out on points to South African bantamweight Harry Isaacs in the bronze medal box-off.

In his second Games, Willie “Boy” Murphy, who had won his first fight at the 1924 Paris Games, again got off to a winning start in Amsterdam, this time with a sensational first round stoppage of Spainiard Jose Montilor Pastor.

However Murphy was eliminated after dropping a points decision to German Ernst Pistulla, the eventual silver medalist

PJ Lenihan and Jack Chase also secured opening round wins for Ireland in the welterweight and middleweight classes.

Matt Flanagan was selected as Irish flag bearer for the 1928 Games by the Olympic Council of Ireland. The heavyweight lost his first bout to eventual gold medallist, Arturo Rodriguez Jurado of Argentina.

1924 Olympian Myles McDonagh competed again, but the Belfast flyweight lost to home fighter Brian Bril in the opening round

The Amsterdam Olympics was the first time that an Olympic flame was lit at the modern Games and all athletes were given strict guidelines by the Federation International De Boxe Amateur (FIBA) and the International Olympic Committee as to what what exactly constituted an amateur.

“An amateur is one who has never competed for a money prize, staked bet or declared wager, who has not competed with or against a professional for any prize (except with the express sanction of the Amateur Boxing Association of the nation of which he is a member), and who has never taught, pursued or assisted in the practice of athletic exercises as a means of obtaining a livelihood or pecuniary gain.”

As you can see, there was no World Series of Boxing or AIBA Pro Boxing in 1928, and certainly no Amnat Ruenrongs or Hassan N’dams

Italy finished on top of the medals table in the boxing event after claiming three gold medals and one bronze.

The legendary Pat O’Callaghan won gold at the 1928 Games in the hammer throw, the first Irishman to win a gold medal for Ireland at the Olympics.

Ireland’s boxers shouldered the nations first Olympic champion, who was a close friend of Willie “Boy” Murphy, onto the boat home to Dublin.

Flyweight: Myles McDonagh (Army)
Lost to Brian Bril (Netherlands) PTS

Bantamweight: Frankie Traynor (St Paul’s)
Beat Fuji Okamato (Japan) PTS
Beat Carmelo Robledo (Argentina) PTS
Lost to Vittorio Tamagnini (Italy) PTS

Bronze medal box-off
Lost Harry Isaacs (South Africa) PTS

Featherweight: George Kelly (North City)
Lost to Rasmus Madsen (Denmark) PTS

Lightweight: Willie O’Shea (Army)
Lost to Jorge Diaz Hernandez (Chile) PTS

Welterweight : PJ Lenihan (St James)
Beat Arne Sande (Denmark) PTS
Lost to Ray Smillie (Canada) PTS

Middleweight: Jack Chase (Garda)
Beat Alfred Wilson (South Africa) PTS
Lost to to Leonard Steyaert (Belgium) PTS

Light heavyweight: Willie Murphy (Garda)
Beat Jose Montilor Pastor (Spain) KO1
Lost to eventual silver medallist Ernst Pistulla (Germany) PTS

Heavyweight: Matt Flanagan (Garda)
Lost to gold medal winner Arturo Rodriguez Jurado (Argentina) PTS

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: [email protected]