MEDALS at the Commonwealth Games are harder to win today than they used to be. If that rule is not universal, it certainly applies to boxing, which, by definition of being an amateur sport, has thrown up some less-than-credible contests over the years.
The gold medal captured by Lennox Lewis in Edinburgh in 1986 reeked of farce. His opponent in the super-heavyweight final was Aneurin Evans, a Welshman whose place in the Commonwealth Games history books is made conspicuous by his exclusion from every other roll of honour in sport. Lewis, the West Ham-born Canadian, towered over his opponent and stealthily pursued him around the ring as the comparatively slight Evans moved like a fly from a swatter. Finally, enough blows made contact for the referee to call a halt to proceedings in the second round.
Lewis was the champion, and he would go on to win a gold medal that he could be rather more proud of two years later at the Seoul Olympic Games. He would also go on, of course, to unify the professional heavyweight divisions, and he could be very proud of that indeed.
But Aneurin Evans was not the only man who came between him and that formative international feat in the Scottish capital. Only three boxers entered the super-heavyweight competition, reserved for fighters who weigh more than 91kg (14st 5lb) in 1986, and the other was England’s James Oyebola.
The Lagos-born Oyebola was no match for Lewis either, with the referee intervening in the second round but, unlike Evans, he would put his Commonwealth medal (a bronze) to good use on the pro scene, becoming British heavyweight champion in 1994.
Standing 6ft 9in tall, “Big Bad” Oyebola took on the previously undefeated Clifton Mitchell for that strap in Cardiff, and knocked him out in the fourth. One successful defence followed before he was beaten by a tenth-round technical knockout by Scott Welch in Brighton.
While Lewis went on to achieve extraordinary fame and fortune and Evans went on to lead a life we will never know about, Oyebola was a popular figure in the London fight scene, whose tragic death in 2007 left the country horrified.
Just three weeks after the smoking ban was introduced, the 46-year-old father of three approached a group of young men in a bar in Fulham Broadway and asked them to put out their cigarettes. As he walked away, 23-year-old Kanyanta Mulenga pulled out an automatic pistol and fired four shots, two of which hit Oyebola and one of which, to the back of the neck, proved fatal. Mulenga was jailed for life.