Ireland at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

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By Bernard O’Neill – IABA Press Officer

Ireland got back among the medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic through Jim McCourt.

The Immaculata BC man claimed bronze eight years after the athlete he described as an inspiration, Johnny Caldwell, also of the Immaculata BC, won bronze at the 1956 Melbourne Games.

The Ulster southpaw, later a bronze medal winner for Ireland at the 1965 European Championships in Berlin and a gold medal winner for Northern Ireland at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, wore the Irish lightweight vest at the 1964 Olympiad at the Korakuen Ice Palace in Tokyo.

A hat-trick of victories over Bun-am Sug of Korea, Ghulam Sarwar of Pakistan, and Spaniard Domingo Barrera saw McCourt reach the semis and guarantee bronze.

Vellikton Barannikov of the USSR awaited in the last four, but McCourt was edged out on a split decision. In the final Barannikov, who also squeaked by McCourt in the 1965 European semi-finals in Berlin, dropped a unanimous decision to Polish legend Jozef Grudzien.

McCourt was given a glimpse of what could have been the following year at the National Stadium in Dublin when Ireland hosted Poland and he overcame Grudzien in a famous fight.

St John Bosco starlet Sean McCafferty, who at 19 was the youngest member of the Irish squad, won his first bout against Sulley Shittu of Ghana in Toyko, but then lost to eventual gold medalist, Italian Fernando Atzori in his quarter final bronze medal match.

Smokin’ Joe Frazier, who was only selected after Buster Mathis withdrew injured, claimed the only gold for the USA.

The hosts celebrated after Takao Sakurai won their first Olympic gold medal in boxing at bantamweight.

The USSR topped the medals table in the Far East. Ireland finished in joint 10th position in the medals table with Finland, Uruguay, Ghana, Mexico, Bulgaria, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

Flyweight: Sean McCafferty (St John Bosco)
Beat Sulley Shittu (Ghana) 3-2
Lost to eventual gold medallist Fernando Atzori (Italy) 0-5

Bantamweight: Chris Rafter (North City)
Lost to Abel Cesar Almaraz (Argentina) 0-5

Featherweight: Paddy Fitzsimons (St Matthew’s)
Lost to Piotr Gurman (Poland) 0-5

Lightweight: Jim McCourt (Immaculata) – Bronze
Beat Bun-am Suh (Korea) 4-1
Beat Ghulam Sarwar (Pakistan) 4-1
Beat Domingo Barrera (Spain) 4-1
Lost to Vellikton Barannikov (USSR) 2-3

Light welterweight: Brian Anderson (Middle Row)
Lost to Touch Nol (Cambodia) 0-5

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]