With the Boxing New Zealand National Championships again being held in the New Zealand Capital City, it is an appropriate to go back in history and review the record of the Wellington pugilist, who won the counties first Olympic Gold Medal.
In 1928 Ted Morgan was half of the two-man boxing team selected for the Amsterdam Olympics, along with fellow Wellingtonian Alf Cleverly. Morgan was the current New Zealand lightweight champion and Cleverly had taken the light heavyweight title at the 1927 nationals.
Ted Morgan was a pupil of Ted Tracy, in his old Willis Street gymnasium. When Morgan received the nomination from the selectors for the Olympics, he had lost just two of his twenty-four bouts, to Jack Rodds of Blenhiem, which he reversed in their further four fights, and to Harold Kindley from Otago.
The Olympic team arrived in England, five weeks after departing on the SS Remuera. Not for them the comfort of a twenty four-hour flight of today, but five weeks at sea where fitness had to be maintained, in far from suitable training conditions. Disaster struck the future Olympic champion on arrival when he dislocated the first knuckle of his right hand in a sparring session.
A further problem, was the increased weight that Ted had gained on the sea voyage and which forced him to fight in the welterweight division, rather than his customary lightweight class. A Swede by the name of Johanson was the New Zealand boxer’s first victory and after he defeated the Frenchman Calataud, the expectations of a gold medal rose markedly. After the second fight, a leading British boxing journalist wrote “The best amongst the British Empire contingent is the New Zealander Morgan who is competing in the welterweight division. He knows how to use both hands and hits hard with a minimum of effort. His right bursts holes in the defence of his opponents, who also suffer from vicious jabs to the jaw. Morgan is one of the best boxer-fighters, if not the best, participating”.
The 21 year old apprentice plumber went on to outbox Canovan of Italy and in the final Landini, an Argentinean knockout specialist. The final victory gave New Zealand its first Olympic Gold medal.
Ted resisted offers from European and American interests to turn professional and returned to New Zealand to enter the paid ranks some twelve months later. While he captured the New Zealand professional welterweight title and undertook a short campaign in America, in later years he never really lived up to the early expectations in the pro ranks.
Morgan later became proprietor of a thriving plumbing business in Wellington and turned his hand to refereeing for a time. The first New Zealand Olympic champion passed away in 1952 at the early age of forty five, and is buried in the Karori cemetery in Wellington. The winner of the New Zealand welterweight title at the national championships each year is presented with the Ted Morgan Cup.