CONTROVERSIAL decisions seem to be quite commonplace in boxing today. This is hardly surprising given the way in which virtually every high-level contest can be watched live, and its outcome debated on any number of social media platforms. Referees and judges have never been under more scrutiny than they are today.
Fifty years ago there was far less boxing available on the television, and what was shown was often edited highlights of boxing that had taken place the night, or even the week before. Certain decisions caused uproar, however, and none more so than the Henry Cooper v Joe Bugner contest in 1971. Another one that stands out during this era was the 1972 Olympic semi-final contest between Alan Minter and the West German, Dieter Kottysch. The bout was shown live in the UK, and the verdict in favour of Kottysch caused an absolute stink, both here and in Germany.
I well remember these Games, sadly overshadowed, as they were, by the killing of Israeli athletes. The athletics events were exceptional, as was the performance by the US swimmer, Mark Spitz. Great Britain won 18 medals at the Games, but three of them, all bronze, were won by boxers. As well as Minter, both George Turpin and Ralph Evans were eliminated in the semi-final, yet brought home a medal. There was no argument with two of these losses, but the Minter verdict was a bad one.
Alan was one of three medal hopes identified by BN in their preview the week before the Games got underway. Along with Maurice Hope and Neville Cole, Minter was singled out because he was “an old hand on the international circuit. A good banger, and he has the right tough-minded outlook. His hitting commands respect even at top level. If he does not get tagged, then he could reach the semis.” Other members of the nine-man team included Billy Knight, Billy Taylor and the great Graham Moughton. The BN reporter got it spot on with the Crawley-based light-middleweight, but Minter did not deserve to go out when he did.
Alan started the event exceptionally well, stopping the Guyanan fighter, Reginald Ford, in two rounds. BN reported that, “With pro managers in the wings, southpaw Minter gave one of his most impressive displays to completely outclass and finally crush Ford with a clean knockout.” This is the same Reggie Ford who beat both Dave Boy Green and Kirkland Laing in bouts at the Royal Albert Hall in the early 1980s.
In the next round Minter was paired with the Russian, Valery Tregubov, a man nine years older than Minter and with masses of experience. Alan showed him no respect and won the bout by streets. His next bout was against the Algerian, Loucif Hanmani, and once again Alan dominated his opponent in a tough contest, pounding his way to a 4-1 decision in “one of those snarling, hard-hitting performances that we have come to expect from the 21-year old.” The stage was now set for the semi, and Alan was drawn against Kottysch, from the host nation.
The German was another southpaw and he too looked impressive in his passage to the last four. He was well-known to UK fight fans, having beaten Tom Imrie and Johnny Whitehorn in international matches and he was a very experienced amateur who never went pro. He was born in Poland but had settled in Hamburg. BN described the contest as a “punishing, thrilling battle” in which Kottysch was roared on by the partisan crowd.
Minter had to withstand some hard, accurate shots throughout, but he gave more than he got and when, at the end, each boxer had accrued two votes each from the four judges, it went to the fifth man to decide the outcome. He had scored the bout even, but he gave his casting vote to Kottysch by one advantage mark.
Alan could not have come closer to an Olympic final, but he more than made up for his disappointment as a professional.