Host City: Los Angeles, United States
Venue(s): Grand Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Date Started: August 10, 1932
Date Finished: August 13, 1932
Format: Single elimination tournament.
With only six participants, this was the least populated division in Los Angeles. Ironically, the largest man to set foot in the Olympic ring may well have been one of the referees, Captain Mabbutt of the USA. The crowd was often heard shouting “Sit down!” when he was obstructing their view of the fighting.
Alberto Lovell of Argentina, considered by his countrymen as a “new Jack Dempsey”, defeated future European amateur champion Gunnar Bärlund of Finland in the opening round then demolished the unfortunate Canadian George Maughan to reach the final. The California native, Fred Feary, lost to Italian southpaw Luigi Rovati in the other semi-final. The Argentine favoured power over finesse but his performance was enough to edge his way to a points victory and take the gold medal and become the first black Olympic heavyweight champion.
If Lovell expected a hero’s welcome back in Buenos Aires, it certainly did not happen. An argument over the standard of food provided on the boat journey home led to Lovell punching one of the ship’s officers, this led to a near-riot involving other members of the Argentine Olympic squad. Singled out as a ringleader, Lovell was kept in custody for the rest of the voyage. Rather than being greeted with a ticker-tape reception he was instead escorted to the nearest police station.
Although Lovell was knocked out in his professional debut, he went on to have a long and successful career. Holder of the Argentine heavyweight title for fifteen years, he was also South American champion and only lost eight of his eighty-eight fights. His second knockout defeat came in his last fight, at the hands of the great American stylist, Archie Moore. Lovell came from a family of heavyweight boxers, his brother Guillermo was the silver medallist four years later in Berlin. His son Santiago boxed in Tokyo and went on to box professionally with some success and another son, Pedro, was also a professional fighter and played the part of “Spider Rico” in the first and last “Rocky” movies.