IN THE summer time of 1984, the gaze of the sporting world was on the Olympics that happened in Los Angeles. America aimed to ship a spectacle that would strike an ideological blow in its Chilly Struggle with the communist, Soviet Union, who led a boycott of the occasion in reply to America staying away from the Moscow video games, 4 years earlier than. Their withdrawal was adopted by Cuba, East Germany, Bulgaria, and different Jap Bloc nations.
Carl Lewis was the star-spangled famous person who dominated the headlines as America received behind his audacious try and emulate the good Jessie Owens and win 4 gold medals in observe and area. Lewis delivered in model and his nation lavished reward on him, viewing his feat as heroic and better of breed, like Owen had been within the face of Nazism on the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
On the boxing facet there was the anticipation of extra American dominance, particularly with the absence of Cuba and the Soviet Union. It appeared most eyes have been centered on Mark Breland, who had been the most celebrated novice on this planet for 2 years main as much as the Olympics. Such was Breland’s brilliance within the amateurs and the expectations that he would graduate to superstardom so lofty, he had already been solid in a Hollywood film, The Lords of Self-discipline.
World audiences additionally received their first prolonged viewing of future legends, Pernell Whitaker and Evander Holyfield and world champions in ready, Meldrick Taylor, Frank Tate and Virgil Hill.
Amongst such wealthy expertise the British workforce appeared to have little hopes of successful a medal, and so it turned out. However I saved an in depth eye on the progress of the British consultant at super-heavyweight, a lanky 23-year-old known as Bobby Wells. The division has served as fertile floor for members of Workforce GB within the 21st century; Audley Harrison and Anthony Joshua have received gold, whereas David Value, Joe Joyce, and Frazer Clarke, have bagged bronze, silver, and bronze medals. However it was Bobby that received the ball rolling for Britain’s super-heavyweights on the Olympic stage.
Bobby and I had boxed in the identical Southwest Divisional Championships, in Battersea, 5 months earlier than the Olympics; He received it beating Gary Mason, who was my Wandsworth ABC clubmate, and I misplaced within the heavyweight finals by disqualification. Gary and I entered these championships believing we have been the most effective and most dynamic heavy and super-heavyweights within the nation and might make a late push for the GB Olympic workforce. Youthful hubris typically gives the rosiest tinted glasses.
After my disappointing loss to Graham Greatest, a fighter who I had stopped within the first spherical, just a few months prior, I was sure that Gary would win his closing, and for the primary two rounds it appeared probably that he would, as he dropped Bobby closely and battered him with speedy and heavy combos. However to his credit score Bobby weathered the storm and got here firing again, and in third spherical Gary was bent over from exhaustion and gasping for breath, unable to proceed.
That humbling night served as an actual eye opener for Gary and me, even extra so once we noticed Bobby on tv combating for a spot within the Olympic closing. It turned out that we hadn’t actually grasped how shut a spot on the ’84 Olympic workforce really was. Again then an ABA title was sufficient to qualify for main event. Bobby went on to win the ABAs that yr and guide his seat on the airplane to Los Angeles. Gary and I have been left to spend our summers weighing up whether or not to show skilled or wait for one more Olympic cycle. We made our skilled debuts in October 1984.
Bobby didn’t have his first battle till the quarter-finals – after receiving a bye – successful it by knocking out Tonga’s Viliami Pulu, which assured him the bronze medal. I believed he may really go all the way in which, however the rugged Italian, Francesco Damiani, who was the world primary going into the video games, proved too robust within the semi-finals.
On reflection, Bobby did handle to go additional in the event than Lennox Lewis (albeit a really younger model), who got here up quick in his quarter-final with eventual gold medal winner, Tyrell Biggs. His bronze medal was the one British boxing medal in 1984 and the primary ever Olympic medal of any description to be received by a British super-heavyweight.
It would probably have been a wrestle for Bobby to make it onto the rostrum if the full quota of countries had been current. The super-heavyweight division was loaded: apart from Damiani and Biggs it included the legendary Teofilo Stevenson, who was aiming to win his fourth gold medal and his first in that division, previous to Cuba’s withdrawal. East Germany’s Uli Kaden, who had received three out of 9 fights in opposition to Stevenson, and the Soviet Union’s, Aleksandr Miroshnichenko, each of whom registered wins over Lennox Lewis within the amateurs have been established world top-10 skills. Despite these hypotheticals, Bobby’s bronze medal can by no means be denied.
I was delighted to meet up with him on the London Ex-Boxers Affiliation awards, final month. We in all probability haven’t seen each other since we have been energetic boxers greater than 30 years in the past. He stays fiercely happy with what he did as an novice, reaching what he got down to do: observe within the footsteps of his late father, Billy Wells. Wells Sr was additionally an ABA champion, successful at heavyweight in 1965 – representing my outdated membership, Wandsworth ABC – and 1968. His second ABA triumph certified him for the Olympics that yr in Mexico – on the ripe outdated age of 32.
Perhaps emulating his dad as an novice was close to the restrict of Bobby’s aspirations within the sport, as he selected to not flip skilled after the Olympics, even with a bronze medal in his again pocket. He solely had 5 fights as soon as he did flip over. Simply two months after medalling on the Olympics he took on Lennox Lewis in an England v Canada invitational. Lewis’ trademark right-hand settled their duel brutally within the third spherical.
It wasn’t till January 1986 that he made his skilled debut. It was at Merton Civic Corridor, a correct small corridor present, and I used to be additionally on the invoice. It might be unthinkable now for an Olympic bronze medallist from the UK to make their debut on the small-hall circuit and with such little anticipation surrounding them. Matchroom, Queensbury, or a good promotional outfit would’ve signed Bobby and had him combating commonly. These days, simply being an Olympian, even with out a medal, comes with immediate marketability.
Bobby’s lack of success as an expert might be why his efficiency on the Olympics is largely forgotten. Then once more almost 40 years have since handed. However in a single assembly we have been again in 1984.