Sunday 17 December 2017

Silver jubilee memories of Carruth's golden day

Michael Carruth jumps for joy after being crowned Olympic welterweight champion in Barcelona
Michael Carruth jumps for joy after being crowned Olympic welterweight champion in Barcelona

Bernard O'Neill

A quarter of a century ago today - August 8, 1992 - some pundits were giving Michael Carruth roughly the same odds of winning you'd give a goldfish thrown into a bathtub with a barracuda.

But the Dublin southpaw from Drimnagh BC had other ideas heading into the gold medal showdown with Juan Hernández-Sierra, the Cuban they said couldn't be beaten, in the Barcelona Olympics.

Wayne McCullough was also trading leather for gold on a day which saw underdogs Ireland take on the powerhouses of Cuba in a double-header in the bantam and welter classes. It finished honours even.

Cruised

McCullough cruised through his opening four bouts, beating Fredrick Mutewata, Ahmed Ghimin, Mohammed Sabo and Li Gwang-Sik, to set up the final with Joel Casamayor. But the Guantanamo-born southpaw got the decision, a 16-8 verdict, at the Pavelló Club venue.

Carruth beat Maselino Tuifao, Andreas Otto and Arkon Chenglai en route to his showdown with Hernández-Sierra.

"I was David, he was Goliath. All the pressure was on him," Carruth recalled. "I remember thinking, 'Sweet Jesus, the size of this fella'. It was going to be a clash of who had the fastest right hook - and I did."

Carruth edged the opening round 4-3 but dropped points after receiving a harsh public warning for holding in the second, leaving the scores locked at 8-8 going into the final frame.

Hernández-Sierra's corner had given their man an earful during the interval and he came out with all guns blazing, but Carruth continued to detonate big hooks. Finally, after a tension-filled delay, it was announced that Carruth, who had his late dad Austin Carruth and Nicolas Cruz-Hernandez in his corner, had won 13-10 under the new computer scoring system introduced for the 1992 Olympiad.

The Dubliner reckoned he sealed the win in the first 60 seconds of the last round.

"I thought 'come at me, come at me' and he did. In the first minute of that round, I became Olympic champion because he walked onto three hooks.

"I knew I'd won, he knew he'd lost. I fell into my dad's arms and from there you're just praying to God - don't be a Roy Jones moment here, please."

Cuba's boxers took home seven gold medals from Barcelona 1992 - but they didn't take home the welterweight title.

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