The Forgotten Team: 1980 U.S. Olympic Team!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Aug 8, 2009)    
While President Jimmy Carter boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, USSR, along with 64 other countries, tournaments were still being held with the US boxers performing throughout Europe and Russia in 1979 and even the US and Cuba in 1980. Carter’s action to protest was due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Dual meets were to be held in Cracow and Katowice, Poland. On March 14, 1980 the plane en-route was a Soviet built Polish Airlines IL-62 jetliner that went down a half-mile from Warsaw’s Okecie Airport. There had been problems with the landing gear on its first approach. On the second attempt the pilots used a special procedure to account for the faulty landing gear. However, the additional thrust used in the procedure caused one of the plane’s engines to break apart, which in turn severed the rudder and elevator control lines, which were needed to control the direction and altitude of the plane. The disaster that took the lives of 77 passengers and 10 crew members was the worst air crash in Poland’s history.

There were 14 boxers and 8 officials on the plane. There were also rumors of 9 other boxers who claim to have not made the trip for various reasons. “I was supposed to make that trip,” said Rob “Bam Bam” Hines. The former IBF light middleweight champion shared this with me at Shuler’s gym in Philly. Instead his good friend Tyrone Clayton went. The 20 year old Clayton was the Mid Atlantic AAU bantam champion and had a 55-7 record. His brother had a dream the week before he left. “I dreamed you died,” said Leonard. Another Philly fighter who was on the plane was 21 year old Lonnie Young of the Germantown section of the city that a recreation center would later be named after. He was the Pennsylvania 1978-79 Golden Glove and Mid-Atlantic champion. His record was 47-7. Former heavyweight champion “Smoking” Joe Frazier told his son Marvis that he wasn’t making the trip. Marvis was the 1979 AAU champion and the 1980 Golden Gloves champion to be. His record was 56-2. A member of the 1980 Olympic team was Philly’s James Shuler who was scheduled for this trip. He was the 1979 Golden Gloves and Pan Am Game’s champion where he beat a Cuban and finished with a 127-3 record. In winning the GG tournament as did his teammate Roland Cooley they were given the option of going and chose not to. Nearby Coatesville resident Jimmy Clark missed the connecting flight in New York. In talking with Bobby Czyz last year he told me “I told Jimmy Clark that he was always late and someday would even miss his funeral,” said Czyz. I informed Clark of this at a recent Coatesville amateur show. “He’s right, I was supposed to make that trip,” said Clark. Clark was the 1977 Golden Gloves champion who had fought the eventual 1980 Olympic Gold medalist, Cuba’s Teofilio Stevenson three times. Czyz himself was to make this trip. “I got into a car accident and broke my nose or I would have been on that plane,” said Czyz.

Another who missed the flight was Davey Armstrong, who was on the 1972 and 1976 Olympic team. His airline ticket was lost, and the officials decided not to replace it.

Others on the flight were Lemuel Steepels, 23, from St Louis. “We looked for him to win a gold medal at the Olympics,” said Ed Silverglade, chairman of the AAU international selection committee. Steeples defeated a Cuban in 1979 in winning the Gold medal at the Pan Am Game’s. He then lost to the Russian at the World Cup who would be a silver medalist at the Olympics.

Others missing the flight were Alex Ramos, who in his 51st and final bout fought for the WBA middleweight title and Israel Acosta, who was 25 and a top ranked welterweight. It was 20 years later he first talked about it. He got his ticket 4 days before the trip. “It was then that I got something caught in my mind, saying ‘Don’t go! Don’t go!” he said. “It was not a good time for me to go and compete. Maybe God got something into my mind.” He still remembered a last conversation at a Cuba tournament held in North Carolina. “Dr. Wesson asked if I was going and said he would go if I do,” said Acosta. “I told him I was going,” he added.

Others on the flight were Andre McCoy, 20, of New Bedford, Mass., was touted among the best light heavyweights. Chuck Robinson, of Port Angeles, Wash., was considered a good hope to medal. Another was Paul Palomino, who was the brother of Carlos Palomino, the former WBC welterweight champion, who retired at 29 in 1979. His brother’s death could have been a factor in him stopping boxing. Kelvin (Calvin) Anderson, who lost to a Cuban in 1978 meet; Walter Harris, San Franciso; Byron Lindsey, San Ysidro, Byron Payton, George Pimental, David Rodriguez, Pamona, Jerome Stewart, US Army, Sgt. Elliot Chavis, US Army, and a member of the US Amateur Boxing Team were among the boxers. Head coach Tom “Sarge” Johnson, 58, who also a coach on the 1976 team; Col. Bernard Callahan, Carlisle official. Tony Wolfe, President of the Pennsylvania Mid-Atlantic Boxing recently said, “I knew Bernie well, and I heard rumors they were short on fuel.” Junior Robles, coach, Yrenio, Delores Wesson, physician’s wife, Dr. Ray Wesson, team physician; Joseph Bland, John Radison and Steve Smiegel were the others.

1980 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team (As Professionals)

106: Robert Shannon, Edmonds, WA. (Also member of 1984 team. 18-6-2, 8 ko’s)
112: Richard Sandoval, Pomona, CA. (WBA bantamweight champion)
119: Jackie Beard, Jackson, TN. (NABF champion and fight for 2 WBA titles)
125: Bernard Taylor, Charlotte, NC (Fought to a draw in WBA title bout)
132: Joe Manley, Army (IBF light welterweight champion)
139: Johnny Bumphus, Nashville, TN. (WBA light welterweight champion)
157: Donald Curry, Ft. Worth, TX. (WBA/IBF/WBC welter & WBC middle)
156: James Shuler, Phila., Pa. (NABF champion. Died in 1986, motorcyle accident 22-1)
165: Charles Carter, Yakima, Wash. (Record 18-9, 8 ko’s)
178: Leroy Murphy, Chicago, IL. (IBF cruiserweight champion)
+178: James Broad, Army (NABF and ESPN champion)

As the above shows, 5 of the team members would become world champions as professionals. How many medals they would have won we will never know. The one thing we do know is that this was the “Forgotten Team” of the Olympics!

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Ken at: kenhissner@yahoo.com




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