The 1960 Olympics were spectacular in more ways than one

Wilma Rudolph, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Peter Snell and Herb Elliott were the brightest stars in Rome

The 1960 Olympics were spectacular in more ways than oneSixty years ago this week, the Summer Olympics kicked off. From Aug. 25 to Sept. 11, Rome was the centre of international sporting attention as athletes from more than 80 countries competed for glory. And there was more happening than athletic competition. The Second World War had only concluded 15 years previously and the selection…

Floyd Patterson: the boxer who came back

Written off as a hopeless case, he brought a ruthless, coiled fury to the ring, taking back the world championship

Floyd Patterson: the boxer who came backOn June 20, 1960, 25-year-old Floyd Patterson did something that hadn’t been done before. He became the first man to ever regain the world heavyweight boxing championship. Others had tried – including legendary figures like Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis – but none had succeeded. Conventional wisdom speculated that perhaps it couldn’t be done. Although…

How Gene Tunney brought down a boxing legend and an era

He beat Jack Dempsey twice to become heavyweight champion – and his staid personal style foreshadowed the end of the Roaring ’20s

How Gene Tunney brought down a boxing legend and an eraLast week’s column argued that Jack Dempsey’s July 1919 winning of the world heavyweight boxing championship prefigured the celebrity-obsessed Roaring ’20s. If so, Gene Tunney’s dispatching of Dempsey in 1926 and again 1927 can be viewed as a harbinger of the decade’s end. To be sure, the party didn’t come to a shuddering halt until…

Jack Dempsey and the birth of the Roaring ’20s

The boxer was a prime example of the ascension of celebrity, perhaps rivalled only by baseball’s Babe Ruth

Jack Dempsey and the birth of the Roaring ’20sThe case can be made that the Roaring ’20s actually began 100 years ago this month. On July 4, 1919, Jack Dempsey won the world heavyweight boxing title from Jess Willard in Toledo, Ohio. Waged in a purpose-built outdoor arena with an ambient ringside temperature of around 100F (37C), the fight is considered one of…

America’s first ethnic working-class hero

An Irish-American Catholic, champion boxer John L. Sullivan rose to popularity from modest roots

America’s first ethnic working-class heroBefore inclusiveness became a social mantra, newly arrived immigrant groups invariably went through a period of being viewed warily by society’s established mainstream. Irish-American Catholics were no exception to this probationary process. Indeed, it wasn’t until John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential victory that acceptance was fully sealed. Along the way, the process got a boost…

Before Ali, there was Joe Louis

Where Ali was flamboyantly boastful, Louis was studiously modest and where Ali was outspokenly defiant, Louis was respectfully deferential

Before Ali, there was Joe LouisMuhammad Ali’s recent death brought to mind another famous 20th century black American boxer. In his own way and in his own time, Joe Louis was just as famous as Ali. And by some estimations, he was an even better fighter. Born Joseph Louis Barrow in 1914 rural Alabama, Louis moved with his family to…

Ali a champion who sought to change the world

We should all be inspired by Muhammad Ali, a man who stood tall in the face of adversity, in and out of the boxing ring

Ali a champion who sought to change the worldThe late Muhammad Ali was a world champion in every sense. For those of us growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, Ali was the greatest boxer of all time. He set the standard by which all heavyweight fighters were measured. Canadians were also proud of George Chuvalo, not only because he was our champion but because…

Muhammad Ali loved those friendly Canadians

"I’ve never been treated so nice in my life (as in Canada)"

Muhammad Ali loved those friendly CanadiansMuhammad Ali was a larger-than-life figure with masterful oratorical skills, innate intelligence and a quick wit. Still, it’s Ali’s unusual link to Canada that has intrigued me the most. The three-time world heavyweight champion, who died June 3 at age 74, had two epic battles with Canadian George Chuvalo. They went 15 rounds at Toronto’s…

Rocky Marciano vs Sugar Ray Robinson

Rocky Marciano, who fought his last fight 60 years ago this month, retired undefeated while Sugar Ray went into a long decline

Rocky Marciano vs Sugar Ray RobinsonWhen professional boxing was still a mainstream sport, it often caught the fancy of young boys who’d immerse themselves in the newspaper build-up to championship fights and root passionately for their favourites. And because it’s natural to identify with a winner, you often adopted whoever was the heavyweight champion at the time your interest was…