By Arne K. Lang
The Commonwealth Games wrapped up this past Monday, Aug. 8, in Birmingham, England. The boxing competition drew 231 entrants (172 male) from 55 member-states. There were 10 weight classes for men and six for the ladies.
This was the twenty-second edition of the Commonwealth Games, a quadrennial event. Many of the competitors will turn up again in Paris in 2024 for the Olympic Summer Games. Over the years, many athletes have used the Commonwealth Games as a steppingstone to Olympic glory.
The boxer that attracted the most ink in this year’s competition was Delicious Orie, the gold medal winner in the super heavyweight class. Writers noticed a lot of parallels between the six-foot-six Orie and the six-foot-six Anthony Joshua, both of whom came to the sport relatively late and have a Nigerian branch in their family tree.
Orie was born in Moscow, the son of a Nigerian father and a Russian mother. At the age of seven, he moved with his parents to England, settling first in London and eventually Wolverhampton, a suburb of Birmingham. As for the derivation of his bizarre first name, it’s something of a mystery. His parents have “normal” names: Justin and Natalie.
Unlike many boxers, Orie says that he never got into a street fight as a kid. To the contrary, he says he was something of a teachers’ pet. He holds a degree from Birmingham’s Aston University where he majored in economics and graduated with honors in 2020.
In the gold medal match, Orie, 25, lost the opening frame to his Indian opponent but stormed back to win a unanimous decision. He is pointing toward the 2024 Olympics and says he has no interest in turning pro before that event. He has several more hurdles to pass before earning a ticket to Paris.
Northern Ireland, which has won more medals in boxing than in any other sport, sent a 12-man squad to Birmingham, the second-largest contingent, surpassed only by England (14). Five members of the NI team (3 men; 2 women) won gold medals including 29-year-old featherweight Michaela Walsh and her younger brother Aidan Walsh, a 25-year-old light middleweight. Michaela and Aidan were Olympians last year, the first brother-sister combo in Olympic boxing history, but failed to medal.
The third time was the charm for Michaela, a silver medalist at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The finals in the middleweight division pit Scotland’s Ken Hickey against Australia’s Callum Peters. In a good action fight, the gold medal went to the Scotsman who prevailed on a split decision.
The Australian press denounced the decision as a robbery. We likely haven’t seen the last of Callum Peters. At age 19, the hard-luck Aussie was one of the youngest boxers in the tournament
Hall of Fame referee Steve Smoger turns 71 tomorrow (Monday, Aug. 15). According to a missive from the desk of the International Boxing Research Organization, Smoger is currently bedridden with pneumonia, a residue of Covid, which he contracted in April.
A former New Jersey municipal court judge, Smoger has refereed more than a thousand boxing matches in a career spanning five decades. Named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015, he has purportedly refereed more boxing matches in more jurisdictions around the globe than any referee in the history of the sport.
For anyone wishing to send Smoger a birthday greeting or a Get Well card, his address is:
8 Cambridge Ave.
Ventnor, NJ 08406