Irish Olympic Boxing Legend Jim McCourt Passes Away at 79

The world of boxing is mourning the loss of one of its finest athletes, Jim McCourt, who has died at the age of 79. The Belfast-born boxer was a luminary in the sport, having achieved a remarkable feat by winning a bronze medal for Ireland in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in the lightweight division.

McCourt’s journey to Olympic glory was marked by a controversial semi-final bout against the Soviet Union’s Velikton Barannikov, which ended in a hotly disputed 3–2 decision. Despite the setback, McCourt’s skill and determination were undeniable, as he went on to defeat Olympic champion Józef Grudzień of Poland shortly after the games. His prowess in the ring was further solidified with a bronze medal at the 1965 European Amateur Boxing Championships in Berlin and a gold medal at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, representing Northern Ireland in the Light Welterweight division.

Renowned for his masterful defense and counterpunching, McCourt was rated the number one amateur boxer in the world for four years. His legacy extended beyond his Olympic and Commonwealth victories, as he claimed seven Irish national titles across different weight classes. His contributions to the sport were recognized with his induction into the Irish Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame.

McCourt’s impact on boxing was not just felt in the ring but also in the hearts of those who knew him. His daughter, Cathy, shared a poignant story of sportsmanship and respect, revealing that decades after their Olympic bout, Barannikov sent McCourt a letter of apology, acknowledging that McCourt was the rightful winner of their match. The Russian boxer’s gesture of sending a gold spoon, a symbol of making peace, underscored the deep respect between the two competitors.

The Belfast native’s passing was unexpected, as he had shown resilience in the face of illness. His daughter described him as looking great until his final day, highlighting the sudden nature of his departure. Tributes have poured in from across the boxing community, with many recognizing McCourt as one of Ireland’s and Northern Ireland’s greatest amateur boxers.

Jim McCourt’s name will forever be etched in the annals of boxing history, not only for his remarkable achievements but also for the sportsmanship, courage, and indomitable spirit he displayed throughout his career. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations of boxers in Ireland and around the world.


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