Warsaw remembers the undisputed king of Polish boxing…
Coinciding with the 66th anniversary of his greatest triumph, mid-May saw the unveiling of a statue honoring ‘the father of Polish boxing’, Feliks Stamm. Cast in bronze, the 2.6-meter figure has been positioned in the park outside Hala Mirowska, just steps away from the scene of Stamm’s life-defining moment.
As coach of the national boxing team, Stamm racked up an astonishing number of successes, and it was under his tutelage that Jerzy Kulej won a gold medal in the light welterweight class of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Despite being injured, Stamm’s motivational words inspired Kulej to record an epic win in the final against Soviet rival Evgeniy Frolov. “How does Frolov know you’ve broken your hand,” rallied Stamm, “fight with the other one! I’m not throwing the towel in, I’m a coach, and I want to hear our national anthem when we win.”
Yet it is Stamm’s connection to Hala Gwardii that resonates particularly strongly. In 1953 the European Boxing Championships were held right under this roof, with Stamm’s young charges ensuring their place in folklore by racking up an impressive haul of nine medals (five of which were gold). “This was about more than just boxing,” says Paula Stamm, President of the Feliks Stamm Foundation and the great granddaughter of the legend. “Given the historical context of the time, by triumphing over German and Soviet boxers, Poland’s success felt both politically and spiritually important.” With the Polish anthem ringing out, and many fans reduced to tears of joy, Feliks ‘Papa’ Stamm left Hala Gwardii a national hero. Cheers of Brawo Stamm echoed in the evening air. “At the time,” says Paula Stamm, “it was as if a miracle had happened!”
Drawing a star-studded crowd that included political figures, former Olympians and heavyweight legend Dariusz ‘Tiger’ Michalczewski, the unveiling ceremony was conducted by Paula Stamm and actor Daniel Olbrychski. Olbrychski, who trained under Feliks Stamm for the 1966 film Boxer, spoke of his memories of growing up listening to the boxing on the radio, whilst Paula Stamm used the opportunity to pledge her commitment to a new cause: the implementation of an ‘avenue of boxing stars’ that will lead from the monument of Feliks to the entrance of Hala Gwardii.