Host City: London, Great Britain
Date Started: July 28, 2012
Date Finished: August 12, 2012
Participants: 286 (250 men and 36 women) from 79 countries
Youngest Participant: Jai Tapu Opetaia (17 years, 33 days)
Oldest Participant: Nadezhda Torlopova (33 years, 252 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 52 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): Russia (6 medals)
2012 was a landmark year, not just in the history of Olympic boxing but also of the entire Olympic movement, as boxing became the final sport to allow women to compete at the Summer Olympics. The decision did not come without criticism and Cuba, one of the powerhouses of men’s boxing refused to allow its’ women to attempt to qualify for the Games. Cuban coach Pedro Roque, explained that women should be "showing off their beautiful faces, not getting punched in the face”.
More typical were complaints that the women were short changed by the inclusion of only three weight categories instead of the 10 regularly contested divisions and there were worries that the possible bulking up and slimming down of fighters to fit the Olympic weights might be detrimental to the health of female boxers. In the event the women’s boxing tournament was one of the surprise successes of the Games with the crowd noise in the North Greenwich Arena, most notably when the home nation’s Nicola Adams and especially Ireland’s Katie Taylor fought, reaching ear-splitting proportions.
If the introduction of female fighters was the most obvious difference since Beijing there were also changes in the men’s competition. Each bout reverted to the traditional three three-minute round format and, for the first time, the highest ranked fighters were seeded to avoid each other in the early rounds. There were also subtle differences in the qualifying system to reach London.
For the first time since the first London Games in 1908, Great Britain was the most successful nation and claimed three Olympic titles. Ukraine and a resurgent Cuba both won two golds whilst Russia and Ireland also had successful Games. Of the 20 countries that won medals, 9 were from Asia and none from either Africa or Oceania. Uniquely in Olympic history the US men left without a medal to their name although American honour was upheld in the women’s middleweight class by teenager Claressa Shields. At 17 Shields became the youngest Olympic boxing champion since 1924.
The Val Barker trophy for the outstanding boxer of the Games went to Kazakhstan’s Serik Sapiyev who was a brilliant winner in the welterweight division whilst the most publicized fighter was Irishwoman Katie Taylor whose army of emerald green clad Irish supporters shook the hall to its’ foundations every time she fought.
As at most Olympics the judging came under scrutiny and two verdicts were actually overturned after an appeal – a rare occurrence in international competition.