Born: March 10, 1915 (St. Vital, Manitoba)
Died: January 15, 2013 (Winnipeg)
Member: Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame (1977)
A left-handed fighter and a teamster by trade, Maurice Camyré won the Dominion amateur welterweight championship in 1935.
The Manitoba boxer still held the crown when he won a spot on the small Canadian team at the 1936 Olympics at Berlin. He was eliminated from the tournament after losing his only bout by a decision.
The boxer was born in St. Vital, Man., now part of Winnipeg, to Agnes Rose (née Genthon) and Maurice Joseph Camyré. He learned to fight at the local Eagle Club inside a converted store before moving in 1932 to the Eclipse Club, which raised a modest sum in the midst of the Depression to supplement his meagre Olympic allowance.
Camyré, whose name was often rendered in newspaper accounts as Camyree, made his first national championship challenge in 1933, when he was outpointed by Paul Frederickson, also from Winnipeg, at the Amphitheatre. “There was little to choose between the two mitt-men,” the Winnipeg Free Press reported.
Frederickson, who had been an alternate for Canada at the 1932 Games, offered his crosstown rival another shot.
“He said he would give me a rematch,” Camyré told the Free Press in 1977. “He did, but he beat me even worse.”
The 1935 Canadian amateur championships were held in Edmonton over two days in late May. Camyré won his preliminary bout over Donald Carmichael of Stony Plain, Alta. His hometown newspaper reported Camyré was “in better condition and making the most of it,” adding “both were willing but towards the finish the St. Vital boxer had a wide edge.”
Camyré next defeated Orville (Fishy) Heron, of Regina, a former Roughriders backfielder and provincial champion. The two victories on the opening day earned him a showdown against Nick Nickelo of Montreal, a 3-to-1 favourite. Nickelo “was outpunched and outgeneraled, and although he was the defending champion, the Winnipeg boy was obviously the superior,” the Free Press reported. Camyré then claimed the title over Gordon Schmalz by a decision. (Schmalz, of Kitchener, Ont., would win the crown the following year and hold it until 1938.)
The fighter was one of four Canadian boxers to do battle against American and British fighters at the first International Golden Gloves contest, held at Yankee Stadium in New York on July 3, 1935. He was joined by Bill Marquart, Winnipeg featherweight; Bob Carrington, a Calgary lightweight and a printer’s devil; and, Walter Franklin, of London, Ont. The quartet held a final workout at Stillman’s Gymnasium three days before the fight.
About 48,000 fans crowded into the ball park, paying between 40 cents and $4.40, to see the amateur showdowns, some of which were refereed by former world heavyweight champion Gene Tunney.
Camyré won a decision over Pete Caraccilo, a Brooklyn fruit dealer, “in a close-range slugging match that had the rapidly filling stands agog,” the Canadian Press reported. “Things rocked along on pretty even terms until the third (round) when the Canadian uncorked a beautiful left to the head that sent Caraccilo spinning half way across the ring.”
In 1936, the welterweight (up to 147 pounds) champ then beat Schmalz once again to earn a spot on the four-fighter Olympic delegation.
Camyré’s Olympics lasted just the regulation three rounds of a single bout, as he was outpointed by Chester Rutecki of Chicago. (Rutecki would be eliminated by Finland’s Sten Suvio, the welterweight gold medal winner.)
The fighter returned home, to turn professional. He “decisively defeated” Vic Zyicki in a 1937 fight in Detroit, but retired as a fighter that same year after suffering an elbow injury. He worked occasional fights in Winnipeg as a referee.
In 1941, he became an aircraft technician for Trans-Canada Airlines (later Air Canada), his employer until retirement.
He leaves three daughters, seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and a sister. He was predeceased by three brothers, as well as his wife of 67 years, the former Mary Stewart, known as Polly, who died in 2007. The couple had met at the Eclipse Club.