‘Best amateur Australia has produced’

THE man who stood between Tony Madigan and defending his gold medal at the 1962 Commonwealth Games has described him as the best amatuer boxer Australia has ever produced.

Madigan won his first of two British Empire Games gold medals in Cardiff in 1958 when he beat Welshman Robert Higgins in the light heavyweight final.

Four years later he was fighting in the US and made a last-minute decision to return to Australia to defend his title in Perth, but he had to qualify in the NSW state titles.

It was there he fought Athol McQueen in the light heavyweight final and won, sealing his spot at a home Games and later as Australia’s flagbearer.

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“I was disappointed because I was there, more or less, until he came back from America and beat me on points,” McQueen recalls.

“He was the best amateur Australia has ever produced, without fear or doubt.

“He had a professional side to him. He was a professional amateur.”

Madigan successfully defended his gold medal in Perth in ‘62 by beating JoJo Miles from Ghana.

He also competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics where he famously fought Cassius Clay, who later became Muhammad Ali, for a silver medal and walked away with bronze. But he didn’t qualify for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo after losing to Fred Casey in the final of the Olympic trials.

McQueen, now 76, did make it to Tokyo where he fought Joe Frazier and knocked him down before Frazier got up and won the bout.

“Even the Yanks four years later in Tokyo said to me ‘where’s Madigan?’ and I said ‘he didn’t get here’ and they said ‘well you know he definitely beat Cassius Clay but never got the decision, and for a Yank to tell you that gives you an idea (of how good he was),” McQueen said.

McQueen was still happy to see Madigan go on to win gold in Perth in ‘62 but wanted another crack at him.

“After he went to the Commonwealth Games my father organised a return match in (my home town of) Kyogle and the little town was abuzz,” McQueen said.

“At the 11th hour of the fight he decided he wanted three-minute rounds, instead of six two-minute rounds, and he got on top of me at the end of each round.”

The fight was at the Kyogle Memorial Hall and drew a big crowd.

“Too many for the hall, the doors and windows were opened and people stood in the street,” McQueen said.

He also won a silver medal at the 1954 Vancouver Games and retired as Australia’s most successful Commonwealth Games boxer.

Madigan and McQueen stayed in touch as friends in retirement until Madigan died last October at the age of 87.

“I went to Melbourne when he was inducted into the hall of fame in 2010 and spent a night with him,” McQueen said.

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