These guys earned the top prize in amateur boxing, but how did they fare when they ventured into the professional ranks?
Roberto Balado – 1992
If this was a list dedicated to paying tribute to each athlete’s successes in the amateur ranks, the insanely decorated Cuban Roberto Balado would be among the very top. A five-time Cuban national champion, three-time world champion, and 1992 Olympic Super-heavyweight champion Balado won an astonishing 238 of his 250 recorded bouts.
However, much like his legendary fellow countrymen and pugilists Teófilo Stevenson, and Félix Savón, Balado elected not to turn professional and was instead training for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Unfortunately, in the lead up to the tournament, disaster struck and Balado was killed in a car accident on his way to training and died aged just 25.
Roberto Cammarelle – 2008
One of the most decorated amateur boxers in recent years, Roberto Cammarelle may have had a second Olympic gold medal if a controversial decision in the final of the 2012 games had not gone in favour of another fighter featured on this list.
Despite never turning professional, Cammarelle remained a constant scene at the highest levels of amateur boxing, winning a medal at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics and twice winning gold at the World Amateur Boxing Championships along the way.
Having amassed legendary status for his sporting exploits in his native country, we doubt Cammarelle is losing much sleep about not going pro, but with wins over the likes of Michael Hunter, Tony Yoka, and Kubrat Pulev there’s no doubt the Italian could have been a force as a professional.
Tyrell Biggs – 1984
After winning just about everything there was to win as an amateur there is no surprise that Tyrell Biggs was viewed as a potential world champion when he turned pro following a gold medal on home soil in the 1984 Olympics.
With 15 uninterrupted victories under his belt to start his professional career, Biggs was given the unenviable assignment of facing a 21-year-old Undisputed Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson, in 1987.
Despite some early success, Biggs would face the same fate that so many others would when facing the young Tyson around that time and was ultimately defeated in the 7th round.
After losing to Tyson Biggs would continue his career, and go on to fight a number of well-known names. However, he never realised his Olympic potential before retiring with a record of 30-10 in 1998.
Audley Harrison – 2000
Arguably a victim of his own success and the pressures placed upon him as a result, Audley Harrison’s professional career did not exactly live up to the hype.
Having come away with a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, Harrison continued his success at the Sydney Olympics to become the first British Super-heavyweight gold medalist.
Harrison started his career promisingly enough, racking up 19 consecutive victories, even winning the lightly regarded WBF World Heavyweight Championship. However, a pair of losses to Danny Williams and Dominick Guinn spelled the end to hopes that Harrison could become a world-level fighter in the professional game.
Despite the setbacks, Harrison would continue his career, even unsuccessfully challenging David Haye for his WBA title in 2010 before hanging up his gloves following a first-round loss to Deontay Wilder in 2013.
Tony Yoka – 2016
Just ten fights into his burgeoning professional career, it remains to be seen whether France’s Tony Yoka can go on to reach the heights of some of his contemporaries on this list following his Olympic glory.
Standing 6ft 7 with an 82 inch reach, Yoka utilised his physical gifts to become an accomplished amateur, even defeating future World Champion Joseph Parker in the gold medal bout of the 2010 Youth Olympics.
Yoka’s progress in the pros had been hamstrung by a violation of anti-doping protocol, but the French fighter is now back competing regularly and looking to fulfil his massive potential.
Bakhodir Jalolov – 2020
Becoming the first notable beneficiary of a rule change that allowed professional boxers to compete in the Olympics, Bakhodir Jalolov was already eight fights into his professional career when he defeated American Richard Torrez earlier this year to claim gold for his native Uzbekistan.
Relatively young for a heavyweight prospect at 27, Jalolov has the stature and the skills to be a real threat as a professional heavyweight in the years to come.
Alexander Povetkin – 2004
If not for a certain other Soviet-born German-based heavyweight featured on this list, 2004 Olympic Super-heavyweight gold medalist and former WBA World Heavyweight Champion Alexander Povetkin may have had even more accolades throughout his distinguished career.
With an insane amateur record of 125-7, with all losses avenged, Povetkin quickly became a fixture in the heavyweight division after turning professional, defeating names such as Ruslan Chagaev, Hasim Rahman, and Carlos Takam.
Despite not enjoying a run of dominance like some of his contemporaries higher up this list, Povetkin has continued to be a threat in the heavyweight division, with an upset victory over top contender Dillian Whyte last year.
Anthony Joshua – 2012
In many ways, the way that 2012 Super-heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has adapted to the fight game is exactly what so many hoped Audley Harrison would be following his Olympic triumph.
Following his Olympic success, Joshua worked his way up from the club fighters and journeymen of the professional scene before making the most of fortuitous timing to claim a vacant world championship against Charles Martin in 2016.
Despite not defeating an elite opponent for his first major belt, Joshua has since proved his status in the division, establishing himself as one of the greatest heavyweights in the world.
Should he continue to cement his legacy with wins over Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua could well top this list when he finally hangs up his gloves.
Lennox Lewis – 1988
One of the most decorated fighters of all time, it may come as a surprise to many that Lennox Lewis’ Olympic journey did not begin with his gold medal win in Seoul in 1988. In fact, whilst representing Canada, Lewis had crashed out of the 1984 Olympics in the quarter-finals with a loss to fellow list entrant Tyrell Biggs, and only remained in the amateurs for a chance at Olympic redemption.
Lewis would get his redemption in 1988, then shortly after returned to his native Britain to embark on his professional career. The Lion’s physical attributes, combined with his technical acumen made him one of the dangerous fighters of the heavyweight golden era of the 1990s, with Lewis defeating the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Vitali Klitschko before retiring in 2003.
With such an impressive resume, the only way someone could beat Lewis to the top spot is if they, I don’t know, ran the heavyweight division for a decade, but what are the odds of that?
Wladimir Klitschko – 1996
With a reign of dominance lasting more than a decade at the top of the heavyweight division and having a whole era of heavyweight boxing named after him, there could really be no one else featured at the top of this list.
Wladimir Klitschko emerged from post-soviet pugilistic obscurity at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, winning the gold medal in the super-heavyweight division with a win over Paea Wolfgramm, the Tongan heavyweight that Klitschko would later defeat as a professional.
Klitschko would then embark on one of the most successful professional careers in the history of boxing, having comprehensively defeated nearly every challenger the division had to offer before retiring aged 41 following a two-fight skid in 2017.
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