Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Curious Case of Bobby Lee Hunter

August 6th, 2012 · 10 Comments

Per the usual, the Olympic boxing tournament has been something of a farce, with scoring scandals predictably aplenty. Every four years, such controversy reminds me of the tale of Bobby Lee Hunter, a once-celebrated boxer I have been trying to locate for the better part of a decade.

Hunter was a world-beating American flyweight who seemed certain to represent his country at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. This prospect made the powers-that-be quite uncomfortable, for there was something rather unique about Hunter—namely, the fact that he was serving 18 years in a South Carolina prison for manslaughter. Hunter, who trained in the prison yard, was allowed to travel to international competitions with a chaperone, and he was America’s reigning AAU champion when he attended the U.S. Olympic trials in July 1972. The International Olympic Committee shuddered at the thought of Hunter in Germany, with the ever-controversial Avery Brundage openly questioning whether a convict could represent the true Olympic spirit.

A political confrontation was averted, however, when Hunter mysteriously lost to an unheralded fighter named Tim Dement at the Olympic trials. As footage of that bout shows, Dement’s victory was anything but clear cut; the decision could easily have broken for Hunter, and one has to wonder whether the judges felt some pressure to leave the killer at home. (Not to take anything away from Dement, who seems like a cool cat.)

I have long yearned to follow up with Hunter, to see how this experience changed him, for better or for worse. But the trail goes cold in the South Carolina penal system: Hunter was paroled in 1973, but then re-arrested for aggravated assault in 1977. As you might imagine, South Carolina used to keep poor records on the fates of its released convicts, and Hunter’s name is so common that the brute-force approach of cold calling phone numbers isn’t feasible here.

Anyone have a line on what may have become of Bobby Lee Hunter after his boxing career didn’t pan out? Let me know.


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10 Comments so far ↓

  • Pat Cowdell

    Hi. My name is Pat Cowdell and I boxed Bobby Lee Hunter in my first international match for England vs USA at the Hilton Hotel in London. I was 16 years old and very nervous as Bobby was there with lots of prison guards. It was a good fight, but I lost on a majority decision. This fight started my England international career of over 50 fights as an amateur. I am also interested to know what happened to Bobby following his boxing career. All the best, Pat.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Pat Cowdell: Thanks a million for sharing the memory. I’ll keep searching for Bobby–my hope is that he got his act together after the 1977 arrest, and is living happily somewhere in the U.S. I’ll definitely post an update if I manage to gather any more information.

  • Tim Dement

    Hello Gentleman
    I also wondered what happened to my buddy Bobby Lee Hunter… We became friends in 1971 as team mates on the USA team that traveled to London and Russia to box. I was a light flyweight and Bobby was a flyweight. I have a newspaper clipping from London paper saying in the headlines ” tiny tim to young to fight”. I was just 16 years old. They would not allow me to box . However I enjoyed the fights however I had beaten the two Polish Champs aged 31 and 27.
    Pat and I must be the same age. In London only men attended the matches all dressed in tuxedos. Pat did good with Bobby.
    Bobby and I trained and sparred together in 1971 in Miami at the dog race track before he went to that Pan Am games and won a bronze.
    Please take a second look at my match with Bobby at the 72 Olympic trails (see on you tube) and tell me who won.
    I understand they asked Bobby to box against me again at the box offs two weeks later and he refused. I told them please don’t ask him again. I did feel lucky.
    I love Bobby lee and would love see him again.
    Enjoyed the visit. Tim Dement :)

  • Bobby Lee Hunter, Cont’d | Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

    […] in the various yarns we unspool. Our recent post about the rise and fall of incarcerated pugilist Bobby Lee Hunter brought two such commenters out of the woodwork, both of them former world-class boxers. The first, […]

  • D Smith

    Good Evening Gents:
    It”s nice to hear folks still talk about the Hunter/ Dement Olympic fight, including you Tim. It was a great fight. Thanks for posting the video. I know he have a daughter and 3 grandkids.

  • Xavaier R.Wescott

    I know of events leading up to the time, that Bobby last fought but it’s a mystery to me of his whereabouts. Bobby is from my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina in an area known as Do As You Choose Alley (Dosy Choosy) for short. Needless to say that section of town onced lived up to its name. The area is actually what we now term today as an apartment complex. At the time that Bobby last lived there it was an eyesore of the town. That has since changed as it sits today next to one of the city’s most storied and busiest fire station. It now has a modern facelift and shares a community, that has yuppies and college students among them.

    Bobby Hunter aka Rat was last seen in town back in the early 80s. At that time it was said that he had turned professional and trained with other inspiring boxer’s.

    The Charleston area has produced other good amateur boxers but Bobby still stands out, as the most promising at the time. Just as the 72 Olympics holds great memory as well, but that’s another story.

    Well should I hear of any other news, of his whereabouts, I’ll be sure to let you know.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Xavaier R.Wescott: Thanks a million for the info. Please do reach out again if you hear anything else about Hunter’s fate–I’m eager to write more about his story.

  • tom limehouse

    born and raised in charleston icarried the mail in 1976 or77 he was on my route very nice guy living in the projects at that time

  • tom limehouse

    born and raised in charleston icarried the mail in 1976 or77 he was on my route very nice guy living in the projects at that time
    we talked about boxing and a mutual friend boxer rusty fickling who defeated leon spinks and was middleweight champ of the services

  • Oscar Shaw, III

    Great articles about one of my boxing teammates! I was on a traveling and local team with Bobby Lee Hunter when we fought for the Memorial Youth Center in Columbia, SC. Chris Hitopoulos was our Head Coach. Bertram Herr and William Jerry ran the Center for the Parks and Recreation Department. We traveled a few times to Golden Gloves and National tournaments in Knoxville, TN, but to other southern cities as well. Bobby was a cool dude! Bobby grew larger in stature once the ’72 Olympic Trials started and thereafter, so we hardly saw him much afterwards. We fought once in the Columbia Correctional Institute against the inmates and I saw first-hand the type people Bobby had to live with daily. That match, made me realize it’s best to stay on the outside, looking in. It would be good to find out what’s become of Bobby Lee Hunter after all these years.