Will Rogers once said, “Good judgement comes from experience. And a lot of that comes from bad judgement.” It was a lesson learned by boxer Harold Mann, 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the light-middleweight division. Mann remains the only British Columbian boxer ever to win Commonwealth gold—and if not for a decision, which even today Mann acknowledges as poor, he could have done it twice…

Born and raised in Prince George, Mann got his start boxing at age eleven. Three men were critical to the development of his boxing career: his father Irving Mann Sr.; his first coach Nick Schmeling, a cousin to former world heavyweight champion Max Schmeling, who coached Mann early on in Prince George; fellow BCSHFM Honoured Member Bert Lowes, who coached Mann in the mid 1950s in Vancouver.

As Mann grew accustomed to the rigors of the fight game, the awards came quicker than a stiff jab to the jaw. In 1956, he won both Pacific Northwest and BC Golden Glove championships at 139 lbs before taking 1957 off due to appendicitis. Returning in 1958, he was again BC Golden Gloves champion at 147 lbs, added the 1958 Canadian welterweight championship to his resume, and was named Golden Boy as the most outstanding boxer in the province. Later, Mann would add the 156 lbs light middleweight Canadian championship and the BC Golden Gloves championship in both 1961 and 1962.

And then came the highlight of his career at the 1962 BEG in Perth, Australia. In the semifinals, Mann fought the gold medal favourite and 1960 Olympic bronze medallist Francis Nyangweso of Uganda, and toyed with the taller fighter knocking him to the canvas three times before scoring a unanimous decision. In the final, Mann faced Rhodesia’s Brian Benson and again dominated, knocking Benson down three times and scoring a third round technical knockout. Boxing officials declared Mann to be one of the top amateurs in the world in his weight class and of Olympic calibre. Returning to Prince George soon after his victory, December 12, 1962 was declared “Harold Mann Day” by the mayor, as Mann was honoured with a parade and many gifts.

With an amateur record of 82 victories in 90 bouts, Mann turned professional and went undefeated in twelve straight matches before retiring from competition in 1967. In 1971, Premier WAC Bennett created a perpetual trophy to honour the best in BC boxing, naming this still-prestigious accolade the Harold Mann Boxing Achievement Award over such venerable competition as 1930s world champion and BCSHFM Honoured Member Jimmy McLarnin. Mann stayed involved in the sport through refereeing and coaching boxers at various levels, including the Canadian national team at the 1971 Pan American Games and 1974 Commonwealth Games.

But could Mann have doubled his historic Commonwealth gold? Mann was invited to attend the 1958 BEG in Cardiff, Wales, where he was favoured to medal, but chose not to attend for a variety of reasons. He maintains today it was the wrong decision, but that at the time new priorities for him were coming into play. He married his fiancée, his eldest son Laurie was born, and he returned to Prince George after a brief departure to set down his new family’s roots, roots that would run deep for years to come.

The cliché goes that hindsight is always 20/20. Mann acknowledges now that he should gone to the 1958 BEG and likely would have taken a second medal to go along with his 1962 gold. Golden twice would definitely have been nice, but golden once and a loving family for life? Well, Mr. Rogers would undoubtedly agree that this was some very good judgement indeed after all.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.