Original Article on The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/howard-davis-jr-boxer-who-won-olympic-gold-while-in-mourning-dies-at-59/2016/01/01/05afa288-b0b5-11e5-9ab0-884d1cc4b33e_story.html
His diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer in February just before his birthday came as a shock because he had never smoked, said his wife, Karla Guadamuz-Davis. The cancer spread to his liver.
In the 1976 Olympics, Mr. Davis was voted the outstanding boxer, out-polling his teammates Leonard and Michael and Leon Spinks.
His mother had died three days before the Montreal Games began, and he considered withdrawing from competition. Instead he stayed, and he dedicated his lightweight gold medal win to his mother’s memory.
“It was devastating,” Mr. Davis told the New York Post in August. “But I remembered her pointing her finger in my face and telling me, ‘You’d better win the gold medal.’ I wasn’t going to be denied. There was no way I was going to lose.”
Mr. Davis was considered by many to be better than Leonard on the star-studded 1976 team. As a pro, however, his career never matched his Olympic exploits.
The gold medal awarded to Mr. Davis was a story unto itself. According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, the medal was stolen in 1981 from Mr. Davis’ Long Island home but the robber apparently tossed it from his car while fleeing police.
Ten years later, a highway landscaper came across a piece of metal while at work. He cleaned it up and used it for a paperweight for the next four years. In 1991, a visitor to the landscaper’s home recognized the paperweight for what it was. The landscaper, Jake Fiesel, tracked down Mr. Davis and called him. The boxer was finally reunited with his medal.
Mr. Davis retired from boxing in 1996 with a professional record of 36-6-1 with 14 knockouts, according to his biography on the Howard Davis Jr. Foundation’s website.
Mr. Davis continued to offer coaching advice even as a promoter, heading into the locker room after a bout in his suit to sit with a bloodied fighter and talk about boxing technique, Guadamuz-Davis said.
“I could hear him saying, ‘You’ve got to keep your hands up,’ or, ‘Listen, this is your last fight.’ Promoters don’t usually do that,” she said. “He thought it was his duty to make sure the fighters take care of themselves.”