As we get ready for the Games of the 30th Olympiad in London, Ring Magazine's Don Stradley put together a nice list of Olympic Boxing champions from the United States who did not receive the lasting accolades that members of the 1976 team or the 1984 teams, for example, did.
There were some famous names on this list including Pete Rademacher (1956) and Sugar Ray Seales (1972). However, much of their fame came after the won the gold. Rademacher made his pro debut against heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, who won Olympic gold as a middleweight in 1952. Seales,who was the only member of the 1972 team to win a gold medal, fought Marvelous Marvin Hagler three times as a pro (losing twice and getting a draw) and left boxing after being declared legally blind. In fact, there is a legend that Seales actually memorized an eye chart so he could pass a physical to take a bout.
Another name on the list has local ties. Norvel Lee (above) is recognized as the first Olympian from the Beltway region to win a gold medal. Lee accomplished this feat in 1952 at the Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
Lee was born in Eagle Rock, VA and later moved to Covington, KY where he made news outside the ring in 1948 by being arrested for being one of the first African-Americans to sit on an all-white bus. That same year, Lee just missed making the Olympic team. Also, that year, Lee earned his master's degree in DC at Howard University.
Lee fought on the Washington, DC Golden Gloves team in 1951 and was scheduled to meet future world heavyweight champion Ingemar Johannson in an US vs. Europe competition, but Johannson had an eye injury and couldn't compete. Lee was a three-time national Golden Gloves champion.
In 1952, Lee ended up being a reserve on the Olympic team as a heavyweight, but was told he could make the team if he could compete as a light heavyweight. Lee dropped the necessary weight and went on to make the team (where he was a teammate of Patterson, who later fought three memorable championship bouts against Johannson) and win the gold medal.
Lee never turned professional and worked in corrections and adult education. Lee also spent a short time as a professional boxing judge. He was one of the judges for the infamous Riddick Bowe-Elijah Tillery fiasco at the Washington Convention Center in October of 1991. Lee would pass away of cancer in 1992 at the age of 67 at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.