MIAMI – Olympic champion boxer Howard Davis Jr., who won the 1976 gold medal and was named over teammate Sugar Ray Leonard as the most outstanding fighter in the Montreal Games, has died of cancer, his wife said Friday.
Davis, 59, died Wednesday at his Plantation home, surrounded by family, said Karla Guadamuz-Davis.
His diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer in February just before his birthday came as a shock because he had never smoked, she said. The cancer spread to his liver, and the family chose to discontinue treatment in a hospital this week.
“We decided to bring him home,” Guadamuz-Davis said. “He was in my arms.”
In the 1976 Olympics, 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,” 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.”
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.
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.