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Boxing at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Games

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Host City: Helsinki, Finland
Date Started: July 28, 1952
Date Finished: August 2, 1952
Events: 10

Participants: 249 (249 men and 0 women) from 43 countries
Youngest Participant: USA Edson Brown (17 years, 74 days)
Oldest Participant: URS Sergey Shcherbakov (34 years, 40 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 40 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): URS Soviet Union (6 medals)


Boxing at the 1952 Olympics was held at the Messuhalli in Helsinki, which also hosted gymnastics and wrestling events. The Soviet Union entered the 1952 Olympics for the first time, but did not win any of the classes, although they did win two silver and four bronze medals. The tournament was dominated by the American boxers, who won five classes. One went to [Floyd Patterson] in the middleweight class, who would later become world professional heavyweight champion. Patterson would lose that title in a match against Sweden’s [Ingemar Johansson], although Patterson would regain the title in a re-match one year later. Johansson also “medalled” in Helsinki, losing in the final of the heavyweight class to American [Ed Sanders]. Sanders turned professional after a short stint in the Navy, but in his ninth professional bout, he tragically died from injuries sustained during the fight.

Now saying that the Soviets won four bronze medals and that Johansson won a silver medal rather over-simplifies the matter. In fact Johansson was initally not awarded a medal, because he was disqualified in the second round of the final bout for passivity. But Johansson eventually was awarded the medal by the IOC in 1982.

In fact, no bronze medals were awarded in 1952. Previously there had always been a match between the losing semi-finalists for the bronze medal. And starting in 1956, and since that time, the losing semi-finalists would both be awarded bronze medals, as the boxing officials did not think it safe that the losing boxers met again only a day or two after their losing bout. But in 1952, the Official Report stated, “As recommended by the AIBA, gold and silver medals only were awarded. The losers in the semi-finals were not, as previously, matched for bronze medals; instead, both were awarded diplomas. Their national flags were also hoisted at Victory Ceremonies. This decision in regard to medals afterwards gave rise to criticism.”

This decision was made at the 2nd AIBA Congress in 1950 in København. In 1951, the IOC agreed to eliminating the match for bronze medals but specifically stated that no bronze medals should then be awarded. In early 1970 the Finnish Boxing Association proposed awarding bronze medals to the losing semi-finalists from 1952. The idea was supported by [Erik von Frenckell], Finnish IOC Member and Chairman of the 1952 Organizing Committee. The AIBA approved this and on 28 March the Finnish Olympic Committee wrote to [Monique Berlioux], with the IOC, asking for approval, which appears to have been tacitly given. All 20 semi-finalists were invited to a ceremony in Helsinki but only six were able to appear, four of them the losing Finnish semi-finalists, along with [Günther Heidemann] of West Germany and [Boris Nikolov] of Bulgaria.