Saturday was a proud day for U.S. Olympic boxing. One of the American fighters was a Marine lance corporal, another his kid brother, a part-time dishwasher from St. Louis. The best-known was an introspective 20-year-old they call Sugar, a writer of sensitive poetry who vowed that after the Olympics he would never fight again. And there was the one who answered to the name of John John; sculpted for the ring by his father and dedicated to winning a gold medal in memory of his late mother. The oldest was an Army sergeant; the youngest had a year to go in high school. The biggest was a truck driver from Tennessee. They prayed together often, the fighters and their coaches—Pat Nappi, a quiet Italian-American from Syracuse, N.Y. and Tom Johnson, a gregarious black man from Indianapolis—and their manager, Roily Schwartz, a Jewish brass and bronze ingot salesman from Cincinnati.
They looked upon themselves as a family joined by a powerful faith in God and each other. Their conditioning was superb, their strategy brilliant and devastating. Sometimes using the rapier, sometimes the bludgeon, they ravaged the Iron Curtain bloc and stripped the mantle of invincibility from the Cubans. When it ended Saturday night, the U.S. had won 35 of 41 fights and had harvested five gold medals—only one fewer than the entire U.S. track team—one silver and one bronze.
Not since 1904 and 1908, when most of the fighters were English or American, has one nation so dominated Olympic boxing. With the silver and the bronze, the team surpassed the five gold medals won by the U.S. in 1952. And last week brought more boxing gold than the U.S. had come home with in the last three Olympics.
The gold medal winners:
?The first Olympic boxing brothers, Leon and Mike Spinks, were the team's big punchers. Leon, the Marine, a 23-year-old light heavyweight with paralyzing power, stopped the highly favored Cuban Sixto Soria at 1:51 of the third round. Mike, a 20-year-old middleweight who prefers to unload his thunderbolts from a distance, forced badly battered Rufat Riskiev—the only Russian fighter to make it to the finals—to quit at 1:54 of the third round.
?Little Leo Randolph, an 18-year-old flyweight with a golden smile, who will soon return to high school, decisioned Cuban Ramon Duvalon. The vote was split 3-2. "It's the greatest thing that has happened to me since I turned Christian in 1962," said the quiet youngster from just outside Tacoma, Wash. "Tomorrow I'll be home for church."
?Howard (John John) Davis II, 20, from Glen Cove, N.Y., is the lightweight schooled by his father, a former boxer. His mother died of a heart attack two days before the Olympics opened. He said, "I dedicate this gold medal to my mother, wherever she may be." He won his final by a 5-0 decision over Romanian Simion Cutov, a two-time European champion and a veteran of more than 200 bouts.
? Sugar Ray Leonard, the light welterweight with a long ton of captivating personality and two badly injured hands, ignored intense pain to decision Cuban Andres Aldama 5-0.
The silver medal was won by Army Sergeant Charles Mooney, a bantamweight, who was suffering from a bad cold and dropped a 5-0 decision to North Korean Yong Jo Gu, a hooker who entertained interviewers by reading aloud from propaganda pamphlets. They were the same bedtime stories the KorComs read to their prisoners of war 25 years ago. The bronze went to Big John Tate, 21, the sanitation truck driver from Knoxville, an unpolished diamond with only 19 months' experience, who was quickly knocked out in the semifinals by the Cuban Teofilo Stevenson, the eventual heavyweight gold medal winner.
When they weren't fighting Americans in the finals, the stone-faced Cubans, who were expected to win the lion's share of gold medals, did well. Jorge Hernandez decisioned North Korean light flyweight Byong Uk Li; featherweight Angel Herrera knocked out East German Richard Nowakowski; and Stevenson, who also won the gold medal at Munich four years ago—and says now he'll try to make it three straight in 1980 at Moscow—cautiously pursued Mircea Simon, a terrified Romanian, for eight minutes and 35 seconds before knocking him out. It was the Cuban's fourth KO in as many fights, and in all he couldn't have thrown more than half-a-dozen hard punches.