The Hungarian Boxing Association celebrates its 90th anniversary at the start of 2016, marking nine decades as one of the top nations in the sport. The very first boxing matches were held in the country over one hundred years ago in 1881, with national competitions regularly held from 1910, forerunners to the first Hungarian National Boxing Championships held in Budapest in 1923.
In 1924, Hungarian boxers took part in the Olympics for the first time, and it was at the Amsterdam Games four years later that Antal Kocsis scored the country’s first Olympic gold medal. Hungary has won ten Olympic golds to date, three of them going to national hero Laszlo Papp, the first man in the history of the sport to win a hat-trick of Olympic titles.
The first of those came at the London Games in 1948, followed by Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956, after which he became coach of the national team. The last Olympic champion to hail from the great boxing nation was Istvan Kovacs, who took bantamweight gold in Atlanta in 1996.
Hungary’s boxers have also claimed three AIBA World Boxing Championship titles, with Istvan Kovacs winning at both the Sydney championships in 1991 and Budapest in 1997, where Zsolt Erdei also topped the podium.
Since the 1990s Hungary has also been a pioneering nation in the promotion of women’s boxing, hosting their first Women’s National Championships in 1996. Since then, the legendary Maria Kovacs has won two AIBA Women’s World Championship gold medals, in 2001 and 2005.
The current crop of talented Hungarian boxers includes former EUBC European Confederation Champion Balazs Bacskai and London 2012 Olympic Games quarter-finalist Zoltan Harcsa, drafted in to World Series of Boxing Season VI by Caciques de Venezuela and British Lionhearts respectively. Triple Olympian and two-time AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medalist Gyula Kate and team-mate Istvan Bernath have both starred in recent AIBA Pro Boxing events, and all four athletes are key elements of the national team currently training under head coach Dr Laszlo Kovacs in Cuba as they chase quota places at Rio 2016.
The Hungarian Boxing Association hosts the annual Bocskai Memorial Tournament from 2-7 February 2016 in Debrecen, with a record number of nations registered to take part.