Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Date Started: September 17, 1988
Date Finished: October 2, 1988
Participants: 432 (432 men and 0 women) from 106 countries
Youngest Participant: Víctor Pérez (17 years, 223 days)
Oldest Participant: Aziz Salihu (34 years, 145 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 48 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): United States (8 medals)
The 1988 Olympic boxing tournament was held at the Jam-Sil Hak-Saeng, or the Jamshil Students’ Gymnasium, which held 7,500 spectators and had been built in 1972-76, specifically with an Olympic site in mind. For the fifth consecutive Olympics, there was an Olympic boycott of some sort in 1988, although only six nations did not compete, in support of North Korea. But this greatly affected the 1988 boxing events, as Cuba was one of the boycotting nations, making this the second consecutive Olympics at which the Cuban boxers, by now the best amateur boxers in the world, did not appear. As in 1984, there were 12 Olympic boxing events at the Seoul Olympics.
When competition started the sport immediately found itself deep in a web of disarray. Firstly the two ring system caused a host of problems when fighters and referees were confused as to which system, bell or buzzer, was active in their bout. One fight even had to be replayed when a fighter was knocked down by his opponent while mistakenly believing the round had ended.
More serious were the events that occurred at the end of the featherweight clash between [Aleksandar Khristov] of Bulgaria and home favorite Byeon Jeong-Il. The Bulgarian’s points victory was only possible due to the deduction of 2 points from the Korean’s total by the referee for alleged head butts. When the result was announced pandemonium broke out in the arena and referee Keith Walker of New Zealand was attacked by members of the Korean coaching team. Spectators and even security guards weighed in in support of the local hero and Walker had to be protected from harm by a cordon of his fellow officials as objects, including a chair, were hurled at him.
In Cuba’s absence the medal list was led by the United States, with eight medals and three gold medals, with South Korea and East Germany also winning two events, and South Korea and the Soviet Union winning four medals. The super-heavyweight final featured two future world professional champions, with Lennox Lewis, a Brit who fought for Canada, defeating American Riddick Bowe, with Lewis winning by TKO (known as RSC = referee stops contest in amateur boxing) at 0:43 of the second round.
The most controversial bout occurred in the final of the light-middleweight class when Korean Park Si-Heon was literally “given” the gold medal over American [Roy Jones, Jr,]. Jones pummelled Park throughout the three rounds, and had almost three times as many punches landed (86-32). Considered possibly the worst decision in Olympic boxing history, in 1997 it was revealed that many of the Seoul boxing judges had been given bribes. Other stories also came out, in which some of the judges for the bout stated that they felt sorry for Park and awarded him their vote so he would not be embarrassed by a unanimous decision. Whatever the reason, Park was given a 3-2 decision, which was never rescinded. Jones would be given the Val Barker Trophy as the best boxer of the 1988 Olympics, in retribution, and would later become one of the greatest professionals ever, winning multiple world titles.