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.