June 16, 2015
Friends, family members and former boxers honoured a sometimes forgotten South Burnett sportsman on Saturday … gold-medal winning boxer Jeffrey “Mitta” Dynevor (1938-2008).
The Boxing Supporters Association of Qld Inc raised funds to place a special commemorative tombstone on Mitta’s grave in Cherbourg Cemetery to honour the man who became the first Aboriginal boxer to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal.
Mitta took up boxing in the 1950s and won the Australian Amateur Flyweight title in 1957-59 and again in 1961 (despite chopping off the top of a finger in a workplace accident at the Cherbourg Joinery).
In 1962, along with fellow Cherbourg boxers Adrian Blair and Eddie Barney, he competed at the Commonwealth Games in Perth but it was Mitta who came home with gold after defeating Ghana’s Samuel Abbey in the final.
(At the time, Mitta was hailed as the first Aboriginal person to win gold, but he was actually the second, missing out by just a week. Gold-medal winning high jumper Percy Hobson’s Aboriginality was hidden by Games’ officials at the time as he could “pass” as European.)
Cherbourg’s Ration Shed Museum has a corner in the Boys Dormitory devoted to Jeffrey Dynevor and it was this display which indirectly led to Saturday’s commemoration.
Teacher Leonie Airdre was visiting the museum with a group of schoolchildren from Redcliffe when she heard Cherbourg Elder and museum volunteer Eric Law tell Mitta’s story, and comment he had almost been forgotten by the wider community.
“I got a bit emotional,” Eric admitted. “We have a lot of champions at Cherbourg but in my opinion this fellow was the absolute best.”
What Eric didn’t realise was Leonie had strong connections to the Queensland boxing community.
“I went home and rang (former Australian light heavyweight champion) Steve Aczel who put me on to Leo Beutel from the Boxing Supporters Association of Queensland,” Leonie said.
That got the ball rolling just six months ago.
Steve Aczel was amongst a string of former boxers who made the pilgrimage to Cherbourg on Saturday to visit Mitta’s grave and to share reminiscences.
Another was former Kingaroy boxer Arthur “Bullet” Bradley, who was a contemporary of Mitta and a pall-bearer at his funeral.
He had a special tribute to share … a trophy that he won after beating Mitta on points in a bout at Cherbourg.
“I have come today to give it back to him,” Bullet said.
The graveside commemoration included tributes from relatives and friends, a song by fellow boxer Steven “Duker” Hart and then the grand unveiling of the new tombstone.
Former boxer James Stanley, from Murgon, recalled the help that Mitta had given him after bouts.
And he remembered how he was always reminded he was fighting for all Aboriginal people.
“He was the measure of what I wanted to be. He was a great man, a great fighter,” James said.
James’ father, Warry John Stanley, added: “He hasn’t gone with the wind. His spirit is in the wind all around us.”
Footnote: Bullet Bradley will have a celebration of his own next month. The former boxer is being inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame at Yatala.