1960 Olympic Gold Medal Boxers Celebrate 50th Anniversary! By Ken Hissner (Sept 6, 2010) Doghouse Boxing
The 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy, finished up on September 11th. The US team of ten would have three Gold medalists coming back to the US. They were Wilbert “Skeeter” McClure, Eddie Crook, and Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali. It’s been 50 years since these three came home “with the Gold”!
The US team lost in their four lower weight division matches with Humberto Barrera, 112, Robstown, TX, losing in the quarter-finals to an Egyptian, Jerry Armstrong, 119, ID State/Army, Nicholas Spanakos, 125, College of ID/Army/NY and Harry Campbell, 132, Army/San Jose State, CA (lost to Sandro Lopoplo who would become WBC/WBA 140 champ. Campbell would die from injuries in the ring after a 5-2 record May/61) were defeated. Quincy Daniels at 139 representing the Air Force/Seattle, WA, received a Bronze medal. Arthur Baldwin, 147, representing the Air Force/Muskegon, MICH, lost which left four divisions. (Nino Benvenuti won Gold at 147 and the Val Barker best boxer award. Then go on to win WBC/WBA 154 and 160 titles) Four more bouts remained for the team to win a gold medal. At heavyweight was Percy Price, of Salem, NJ/Marines. He lost in the quarter-finals to Josef Nemec, CZ, who gained a bronze and was in the 1956 Olympics as well. Price passed away at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital in 1989, of a kidney infection. He was 52.
Before the Olympic team was made up in 1960 the trials had to take place. Things were a little different back then in making the team or two of the three Gold medalists would not have qualified. In the 156 division Wilbert “Skeeter” McClure of Toledo, OH, defeated Eddie Crook, representing the Army out of Detroit to qualify for the team. Crook was allowed to compete in the 165 division and won to qualify for the team. In the heavyweight division Percy Price representing the Marine’s from Salem, NJ, defeated Cassius Clay/aka Muhammad Ali of Louisville, KY, to qualify for the team. Clay/Ali who was the 178 AAU champion dropped to 178 and won the trials to qualify in making the team.
Winning at 156 was Wilbert “Skeeter” McClure. He was Pan American Gold medalist, in 1959 along with AAU and Golden Gloves champion that year and 1960. McClure would defeat Carmelo Bossi, of Italy in the final. Bossi went onto win the 154 WBA/WBC titles. McClure would go onto a successful professional career becoming a middleweight contender. Later he would become boxing commissioner in Massachusetts. He would go onto earn degrees in 1961 and 1973 earning his PhD. “At 156 the handsome Wilbert McClure, the most credentialed boxer on the team. Only 22 but having captured the Golden Gloves, AAU and a Gold in the 1959 Pan Am Games,” said Nick Spanakos.
Eddie Crook defeated Tadeusz Walasek, of Poland, at 165 for the Gold medal. He was a career military man who served two tours in Vietnam as a command as a Sgt. Major. He received two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star. He served as ROTC Instructor at Alcorn State in Mississippi. He would pass away on July 25, 2005 of natural causes in Montgomery, AL, at 76. “The fierce and feared Edward Crook could demolish you with either hand. He captured Gold as did Cassius and McClure. All three prizefighters were so naturally talented that they would’ve won Gold while boxing in blindfolds,” said Spanakos.
Cassius Clay/Ali won Gold at 178 over southpaw Zbigaiew Pietrzykowski and of course would go onto win the heavyweight championship in 1963. In the heavyweight trials he defeated Navy champ Richard Pettigrew and behind on points defeated Allen Hudson, the Pan Am champion, by stoppage. Clay/Ali then lost to Price before dropping him down to 178. “Boxing at 178 was the one and only Cassius Clay, who was cantankerous, garrulous and obstreperous. But then again, in 1959, when my twin and I first met him and again in 1960, Cassius was a teenager. He was quintessentially a gentle soul and still is. As we all know, he went on to become the greatest athlete of the century. My twin and I were privileged to be his friend and teammate, and grateful for lecturing at my schools thrice as my invited guest in the 1960’s,” said Spanakos. Clay/Ali had problems with southpaws like Amos Johnson, the Gold medal Pan Am champ in 1959. It was noted that Italy would have southpaw Franco DiPiccoli in the heavyweight division who would go on to win Gold. Ali dropped to 178 but still met a southpaw in the finals.
McClure, Crook and Clay/Ali would bring home the Gold for the US Olympic team. McClure in college, Crook in the Army and Clay/Ali a teenager. All from different walks of life but together in Rome, Italy and stood together, with Gold medals around their necks as the United States of America’s National Anthem played! This month celebrates the 50th anniversary when all three brought back so much pride to the American people!
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