DREAM TEAM: AMERICA’S GOLDEN TEAM OF 1984 PART TWO

by Cain Bradley


The Games opened with a thrilling ceremony. The boxing took place next to the Coliseum, at the LA Memorial Sports Arena. Breland would be the only American competing on day one, the hype summed up by the commentator describing him as having had more publicity than Sugar Ray at the same point in his career. His first opponent was Wayne Gordon (Canada) who believed Breland could be beat.


Boxing behind his long jab and quick reflexes, he was very hard to hit. However Breland would often throw single punches and could be pinned on the ropes. The aggressive Canadian even gave Breland a standing count, an overhand right wobbling him. Despite this though. Breland would get the decision victory and promised to be better.


Day two would see two Americans enter the fray. Gonzales was drawn against the number one ranked boxer; Kim Kwang-Sun (South Korea), who went on to win gold at the 1988 Olympics. Gonzales made that ranking look silly. He knocked down Kim in the first round and then gave him a standing count in the same round. Gonzales would use his speed and range to land blistering straight punches. Hill also got his campaign started. He took on Edward Neblett (Barbados) and would stop him in the second round after five left hooks landed. Neblett claimed after he would've beaten him, but in the ring his protestations were a lot more muted.


For Hill though, it was a big performance. Just days before the Olympics, he had fallen sick with a 103-degree fever. It meant he was eight pounds overweight just four days before the game. The American team were ready to replace him with Michael Nunn, only for Hill to recover in time. The North Dakotan grew up on a small ranch and was inspired watching the Golden Gloves, beginning training when he was eight. He is a Native American who drew a huge crowd in his hometown. Former mayor Bill Sorenson described Hill as “our professional franchise.” Only two of three schedule Americans fought on day three. McCrory was scheduled to take on Tad Joseph (Grenda), but Joseph, enjoying the American treats would miss weight.


Fellow Kronk boxer Tate got the win, however many disagreed with unanimous decision over Lofti Ayed (Sweden). Tate boxed behind his jab while Ayed used his aggression. When the decision was announced, the American fans booed. Holyfield would also compete, intelligently pressing Taju Akay (Ghana). After a flurry on the ropes led to Akay receiving his first standing count, Holyfield would press on and stop him in the third round.

Breland looked more comfortable in his second bout. He was dominant against Carlos Reyes (Puerto Rico), dropping him twice and handing him two standing eight counts finally stopping in the third round. Page made his debut that day beating Helmut Gertel (West Germany) winning a close, but unanimous decision. Taylor eventually got past the southpaw jab of Nicolae Talpos (Romania) win a unanimous decision. He also started the bout by handing Talpos a tiny American flag which the Romanian claimed would be a “treasured gift.” Shannon took the fight to his opponent in Sammy Mwangi (Kenya), winning a decision that included a knockdown.


Whitaker, prompted by his teammates discussing how no one had shocked the crowd, showed his ability against Omar Adolfo Mendez (Nicaragua). In the third round of the bout, while standing in the middle of the ring, he flashed a crossover back-step and then blind-sided Mendez with a left to the head. The punch landed cleanly, but also surprised referee Roman Szramkowski, who cautioned Whitaker for turning his back on his opponent – which Whitaker never did. Whitaker smiled at the referee, shrugged his shoulders and then finished pummelling Mendez. Into the third round and Hill got a comfortable win over Brain Schumacher (Great Britain). Biggs would take on Isaac Barrientos (Puerto Rico), who had only fought in eight bouts prior to the Olympics. Biggs won a comfortable decision, but the crowd, who begun to boo during the bout. Barrientos stated after the bout that “I don’t think he will win the gold easily.”


The following day, McCrory would stop Fausto Garcia (Mexico), dropping him twice with right hands before the referee called an end to the bout. Holyfield was also impressive against Ismail Salman (Iraq), finishing him with a left hook. Gonzales also got a win that day, a comfortable decision victory over William Bagonza (Uganda).


The first loss for an American came the following day, in the bout of the tournament. Shannon took on Moon Sung Kil (South Korea). Moon was behind on four of the five scorecards, struggling with the aggression of Shannon. The two went to war, with the crowd on their feet. Shannon ended the second-round giving Moon a standing count. Shannon blew a kiss at the crowd before rushing in, looking to finish. Moon would instead be the one to land a punch, connecting with a huge overhand right which dropped Shannon. He piled the pressure on the American and a big right hand finally caused the referee to jump in, in the final round. Shannon would find himself in tears on Pat Naggi’s shoulders in the ring.

Page said the defeat gave him new resolve. He boxed well behind the jab in the first round, before getting aggressive in the second when he realised Octavio Robles (Mexico) couldn’t hurt him, winning a comfortable unanimous decision. Taylor beat his teammate Francisco Camacho (Mexico), with a strong body attack on his way to a unanimous victory. Whitaker also got a big win over Geoffrey Nyeko (Uganda), winning a unanimous decision.


The fans were back to booing an American boxer the following day as Breland got a victory over Rudel Obreja (Romania). Breland boxed comfortably behind the jab, but hardly ever stretched himself. He was booed by the fans. Tillman would have his first bout, having waited nine days. He used his head movement to get under the punches of Kaliq Singh (India) and land a right hand to the body, before coming upstairs and dropping him with a big right hand. As Singh arose, Tillman would land a combination of punches, knocking him through the ropes prompting the referee to jump in. Tate also moved through with a unanimous victory over Romolo Casamonica (Italy).


Eleven Americans made the quarter finals. McCrory was first up against Peter Ayesu (Malawi), outclassing him on his way to a wide unanimous victory. Page followed up against Kim Dong-Kil (South Korea), a victory that would cause controversy as the South Koreans put in a protest and threatened to walk out after Page won a split decision. The two battled in a slugfest, with Page giving Kim a standing eight count to end the second round. The Korean just kept on coming but Page was landing powerful shots of his own. Despite that, the crowd once again booed the decision. 


Hill followed with victory a over Damir Skaro (Yugoslavia), in a lacklustre bout where some saw him as lucky to win a split decision. The two best performances came from Breland and Holyfield. Breland dropped the aggressive Genaro Leon (Mexico) early and fin