Born too early!
By STEVE SPINKS
ATHOL McQueen thinks he may have been born a little too early. Kyogle's former heavy-weight boxing champion of Australia was born during an era in which there were some supremely talented fighters. In the 1960 Olympics the immortal Cassius Clay (Muhammed Ali) won the gold medal. In 1964 Smokin' Joe Frazier won the gold medal; while in 1968 the heavy-hitting George Foreman won the gold medal. "I don't think it (my career) was meant to be," McQueen said. "I was born too early. "I don't think you'll find three better fighters than them." Clay, Frazier and Foreman captured the World Heavyweight Boxing Title as professionals, while they also captured the public's imagination with their awesome talent. So where does McQueen fit into all this? The Kyogle pug competed in the 1964 Olympics and actually faced Frazier in a quarter-final where he knocked him to the canvas in the first round. He was the first man ever to accomplish that feat and, according to McQueen, it wasn't the smartest thing he ever did. "He got up smokin'," he laughed. Frazier eventually knocked McQueen down in the third round, but the referee controversially did not apply an obligatory eight count. After this lack of communication, McQueen thought the fight had been stopped and walked towards his corner where the bout was then declared over. It was a controversial ending, and while Athol concedes he probably would not have won the fight, he said he would have finished the bout. However, the 63-year-old looks back on those memories with satisfaction these days, especially as Frazier still remembers their encounter. "He often gives me a mention in American Ring Magazine as the hardest he'd ever been hit," McQueen said. "It's nice, because most blokes like him forget when they were up and coming." McQueen will catch up with fellow Olympians tonight in Sydney when the Olympians Club of NSW holds a reunion. It will also mark 40 years since McQueen represented Australia in Tokyo. "I hope to catch up with Dawn Fraser ? who pinched the flag in Tokyo ? and a few of the boxing boys as well," McQueen said. The Kyogle farmer also had two fights against one of Australia's best boxers, Tony Madigan. Madigan won on both occasions, including a memorable encounter in Kyogle in a sold-out Memorial Hall. Madigan was a Commonwealth Games gold medallist and an Olympic bronze medallist in 1960, where he rose to prominence with a strong performance against Clay. Clay was awarded the fight and later claimed the gold medal, but many thought the Australian had the better of the exchanges. McQueen almost represented Australia in 1968 at the Mexico Olympics. "I won the right to go to Mexico," McQueen said. "But they only took half a team. It might have been a good thing . . . George Foreman won that year."