posted on: 25/08/2016

By Frank Warren

The Olympic heavyweight landscape was once a fertile territory for the big fellas from the USA. Not anymore and there is a shortage of evidence suggesting this is about to change.

Heavyweight Olympic gold used to be a banker for the traditionally dominant American team when I was growing up, from Ed Sanders and Pete Rademacher (1952 and 1956), before Tokyo in 1964 and Mexico City in 1968 introduced the world to Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

The legendary Cuban Teofilo Stevenson then made the prize his own over the next three Olympics, with the Stars & Stripes then being raised in Los Angeles and Seoul courtesy of Henry Tillman and Ray Mercer.

Mercer in 1988 was the last American to win at heavyweight, but four years previously in LA, the super heavyweight division came into play and it was a home gold for Tyrell Biggs.

In the category of the heftiest heavyweights there has only been one podium finish for the USA in 32 years – Riddick Bowe’s silver in Seoul.

In the same period of time, Britain has harvested five medals at super heavyweight – Robert Wells (bronze, 1984), Audley Harrison (gold, 2000), David Price (bronze, 2008), Anthony Joshua (gold, 2012) and now Joe Joyce with his silver in Rio.

The Olympic powershift has, indeed, transferred itself to the professional ranks too, with former gold medallists Lennox Lewis a
True Brit now but a Canadian when he won in Seoul) and Wladmir Klitschko going on to be dominant world champions, and now Joshua making significant strides and holding a version of the championship.

The same cannot be said for dear old Audley, who mastered the computer scoring system in Sydney, but simply couldn’t get to grips with the pro game.

I suspect Joyce does have a big future as a professional if that is the road he chooses to go down after Rio.

He is extremely personable, exciting to watch and will become a big hit with the public and the media.

There is definitely a place for the artistic 30-year-old in the heavyweight picture because, despite considerable success on the world title front, it is not a division that is overloaded with top talent in this country.

There is not much in the way of rich pickings outside of Tyson Fury, Joshua, David Haye and Hughie Fury. They will need a next generation challenger and this is a sport that always embraces a charismatic new kid on the block.

With his elite amateur pedigree, Joyce wouldn’t require a lengthy apprenticeship and would be knocking on the door of the top boys before too long.

Another from Team GB with the talent to make a big splash if he enters the professional pool is the light heavyweight Joshua Buatsi.

Joshua Buatsi

He made quite an impression in Rio, showing some real determination to make his mark. To my mind, he will make a bloody good pro.

I know there is the temptation for those who didn’t strike gold to have another bash in four years time and put their professional ambitions on hold.

I get that. However, if you asked Michael Conlan now if he wishes he had turned pro four years ago, what do you think his answer would be?

Quests for Olympic medals are lottery funded but, unfortunately in boxing, it is also a lottery when you get there.

More from Frank tomorrow


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