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February 9, 2019
February 9, 2019
Sugar Ray Leonard

Action Images/Reuters/Jeff Christensen

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SUGAR RAY LEONARD was aged 34 when he challenged champion Terry Norris for the WBC light-middleweight belt on February 9, 1991. 7,495 fans flocked to Madison Square Garden to watch the fight take place.

HAVING not fought for 14 months the legendary Leonard was coming off the back of a unanimous decision win over the glorified Roberto Duran in 1989. Seven years prior to that fight ‘Sugar’ first announced he was to retire from the sport. Several more retirements and comebacks followed.

NORRIS, 11 years Leonard’s senior, was fighting in New York for the first time and with a record of 26-3, was aiming to make his first successful defence of the belt.

LEONARD,  a 3-1 favourite, had moved down in weight for the fight. It was his first fight at light-middleweight for nearly 10 years and he came in one-and-a-half pounds heavier than Norris at 154lbs.

NORRIS dominated the fight early on, too fast for the once spectacular Leonard. As early as the second round Leonard was on the canvas, a left hook doing the damage.

THE fight carried on much in the same fashion. Norris, the younger fighter, was handing out a heavy beating and Leonard was down again in the seventh.

SUGAR did manage to make it to the final bell, much to the surprise of many but the result was in no doubt. Scores of 120–104, 119–103, and 116–110 saw Norris retain his belt.

NORRIS praised Leonard after the fight, saying: “It was a sad victory. He’s my idol and I beat him badly. I didn’t want it to be that way. He’s still my idol.”

AFTER the decision was announced, Leonard took the ring microphone and announced, “This is my last fight, It took this fight to show me it is no longer my time.” Leonard did fight again though, six years later, when he was thrashed by Hector Camacho.

NORRIS would go on to make eight more successful defences of the title before Simon Brown of Jamaica captured the belt with a fourth round KO in December 1993. Norris avenged the defeat five months later.

 

February 8, 2019
February 8, 2019
Prince Naseem Hamed vs Tom JOhnson

Action images/Tony O'Brien

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1. UNBEATEN in 24 professional outings, ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed had defended his WBO world featherweight title four times prior to meeting IBF champion Tom Johnson in 1997, and was aiming to prove himself as the best in the division.

2. Although considered the hardest puncher at 126lbs at the time, a recent struggle with Manuel Medina – who had won and lost against Johnson – highlighted some of the Sheffield star’s limitations, though he was favourite to beat the American at the London Arena in Millwall.

3. Johnson, who was no stranger to travelling to opponents’ back yards, was unbeaten in five years entering the contest and was looking to make a 12th successful defence of his title. Only Eusebio Pedroza (21) and Barry McGuigan (19) had bettered that achievement before.

4. Naz smirked at Johnson as the opening round began, and while the visitor tried to use it as an exploratory stanza with his jab, Hamed caught him off balance with a short left, sending him to the ropes. He dropped his hands in a show of confidence, though still kept a safe distance.

5. The second was also relatively quiet, though Hamed landed well with a decent one-two in the final 30 seconds and another grin spread across his lips. He bore a more serious expression in the third – the round his mother had predicted he would win in – but Johnson was in control for a spell, until Naz had him in trouble with a left. Johnson managed to hold, but Hamed soon landed again. However the IBF champion turned Hamed’s head full circle with a right hand on the bell and Naz’s legs buckled alarmingly.

6. A huge left had Johnson teetering on rubbery legs at the beginning of the fourth but he refused to go down and landed some solid jabs after his head had cleared.

7. They traded heavy blows in the fifth and Johnson used smart boxing to take the sixth and a brace of counter right hands had Hamed in a bit of danger as the round came to a close.

8. Naz, now wary of Johnson’s counters, wobbled Tom with a pair of thudding left hands but somehow he remained upright. After a few close rounds, Hamed was smiling again.

9. Naz opened a cut under Johnson’s right eye in the eighth and a short left had him staggering backwards with a minute to go. He crashed home a right then a left but the stubborn IBF champ was still on his feet. A few more rights forced Johnson into a neutral corner and as he lurched forward, Hamed leaned back and exploded a monstrous left uppercut, stripping Johnson of his senses. Referee Rudy Battle waved it off at 2-27.

10. The emphatic win convinced some doubters across the pond of Hamed’s class and Jay Larkin, Showtime’s TV chief, immediately expressed his desire to get Naz on the undercard of the upcoming clash between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson in Las Vegas.

February 6, 2019
February 6, 2019
Edwin Valero

Action Images/Reuters/Danny Moloshok

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BEFORE he was a murderer, Edwin Valero was a boxer. And before he was a boxer, he was a boy, born in Venezuela on December 3, 1981 into a life of poverty and hard knocks that led to street fights and trouble with the police from a tender age. It was this shaky foundation that guided him to the prizefighting ring and from which that ring provided escape; it is likely in this harsh, angry soil that the seeds were sown that would ultimately erupt with shockingly violent finality.

Those early years, he would tell confidantes when he first arrived in the United States, were times of theft and motorcycle gangs, of finding an outlet for a tightly-coiled rage, a rage that seemingly never left him, even when he channeled it into the challenges of boxing.

“I saw him train about three times before I ever saw him spar, and I was immediately awed by him,” recalls Doug Fischer of The Ring, who was one of the first journalists to see the young super-featherweight in action shortly after he arrived at Joe Hernandez’s gym in Vernon, California in the spring of 2003. “The first time I saw him just train, just going through all the stations in this really cramped gym, and watching him skip rope and go from a double-end bag to a speed bag to a heavy bag and shadow-boxing, his intensity set him apart from most professional fighters that you saw. And then I saw him spar, and my God, he was having an easy time with guys he shouldn’t have been having an easy time with.”

Among those guys was Juan Lazcano, who in September of that year would annex the lightweight title from Stevie Johnston.

“Lazcano couldn’t hang with him,” says Fischer. “I think Lazcano sparred with him two or three times and decided he’d be better off at Joe Goossen’s gym in the valley sparring with [former and future world champion] Joel Casamayor.”

At the time that Valero was taking care of future world champions, he had fewer than eight full rounds of professional boxing under his belt: eight contests, each of which he had won inside three minutes. It was a record of ring rapidity that would continue when he began fighting in the States.

On July 19, 2003, Valero faced off against Emanuel Ford in Maywood, California. The result: a first-round stoppage. One month later, he took on Roque Cassiani; once again, the fight was stopped in Valero’s favour inside the first round. By the end of the year his record had grown to 12-0, the first-round knockout streak still in perfect shape, and the young fighter was on the verge of making his HBO debut.

But in January 2004, while the boxer was undergoing a routine medical in New York in advance of that HBO bout, an MRI revealed a small spot on his brain, a possible sign of cerebral hemorrhage.

“Oh that,” offered Valero nonchalantly. That was probably the result of a motorcycle crash he’d had in 2001, before he turned pro. No, he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.

With that, the New York State Athletic Commission promptly refused him a licence. And where New York went, the rest of the Association of Boxing Commissions went too. Valero’s fast-rising career was suddenly on hold, and as it remained on hold, he began to harbour doubts about those who were guiding it.

“He never gave up on himself or his own career, but he was frustrated with his promoter, which was the then-fledgling Golden Boy Promotions, and his manager, who was Oscar De La Hoya’s dad,” recalls Fischer. “And he thought these guys were powerful people in the sport, and he couldn’t understand why they couldn’t handle the situation, why they couldn’t get him reinstated, why they couldn’t hire the right people on the medical end or the legal end to work things out, and I know he began to get disillusioned at this point.”

In the multitude of reflections that followed the Valero story’s horrifying nadir, there were questions raised about that mark on his brain and the accident that may have been responsible for it. Could they have been responsible for his erratic, violent personality? Were they the ultimate cause of the events that would explode with shocking finality in April 2010? Perhaps so, but isolating an individual impact is difficult, when the elements that create each and every one of us are complex mixes of genetics and environment. In Valero’s case that mix also included the surroundings from which he came, the violence that was embedded in his nature almost as soon as he could walk or talk, and the fact that his chosen profession was one in which he not only dished out punishment with his fists but also received countless blows to his head in return.

All of those elements in concert may have made for a combustible brew, and all the more so given the accelerants that Valero at some point began adding to the ingredients, in the form of alcohol and cocaine.

Fourteen months after his licence was denied, realising his Stateside career was at a dead-end, Valero returned to Venezuela before moving to Japan, severing ties with Golden Boy and hooking up with Teiken Promotions. He became a road warrior, fighting on cards in Panama, Mexico and France, as well as Japan and his native land. He picked up where he had left off, scoring six more first-round knockouts, running his string to 18 in a row before, in March 2006, Genaro Trazancos – who would retire in 2012 with a pedestrian record of 22-16-1 – carved a place of sorts in boxing history by being the first to extend Valero into the second frame.

On August 5, 2006, Valero faced by far the biggest test of his career so far when he challenged Vicente Mosquera for the WBA super-featherweight title in Panama City. It looked at first as if Valero would win the title the way he had won those first 18 bouts when he decked Mosquera twice in the first three minutes. But Mosquera survived, and then he survived the second round too. In the third round, he even dropped Valero, who for the first time in his professional career found himself in a real dogfight. But he dug deep, eventually stopping the defending champ in the 10th round to claim his first world title belt.

Winning a world title might reasonably have been expected to bring some element of contentment and achievement to Valero’s life, not least given the obstacles he had encountered – from his underprivileged beginnings to his involuntary career hiatus – along the way. Instead, according to those who knew him, the always edgy Valero became, if anything, more sullen and less pleasant to be around.

Perhaps the most noticeable change, however, was not so much in Valero as in those around him, specifically his wife, Jennifer Carolina Viera. As Fischer notes, “After he won the title, I never saw her smile.” Something within Valero’s personality, if not exactly changing, was growing, and not for the better. Even back in California, Fischer remembers, Valero had his young wife “pretty much under lock and key. He had major jealousy issues.”

I met Valero on just one occasion, when he made his successful assault on a second world title, claiming a vacant WBC lightweight belt with a second-round stoppage of Antonio Pitalua in April 2009. I spoke no Spanish and he knew very little English, yet by the second or third day of fight week, he would greet me enthusiastically with a powerful handshake and hug. A few weeks later, I mentioned to a friend who worked for Teiken that I had met their former charge; “He seems like a nice guy,” I ventured. My friend responded with an instinctive grimace, as if I had just told him I liked to torture cats. Several years later, Top Rank president Bob Arum characteristically expressed his attitude toward Valero with greater bluntness.

“He was totally erratic,” Arum recalled recently. “He was kind of a nice guy, but then he could go off at any time. He wasn’t normal.”

Arum promoted Valero for the Pitalua bout, having found an accommodating American commission in the form of Texas, which was willing to grant the boxer a licence. Arum denies it now – “It was never a consideration,” he insists – but there was talk at the time of pitting the explosive Venezuelan against Manny Pacquiao, a fight Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach embraced. “I’ve been thinking about it, and the number one contender in my mind right now is Edwin Valero,” he said in 2010. Two years earlier, he had noted that Valero “is a bit slow but he’s got a lot of power. He’s very dangerous.”

It was not to be. Valero’s behaviour became increasingly erratic. He raised eyebrows when he had the Venezuelan flag and a portrait of that country’s controversial president Hugo Chavez tattooed on his chest. Valero claimed that tattoo was the reason he was denied a visa to re-enter the States after the Pitalua fight; the official and more likely reason was that he was charged with driving under the influence while in Texas.

He fought twice more, defending his WBC title against Hector Velazquez in Venezuela and, in his final outing, against Antonio DeMarco in Mexico [below] , but outside the ring the warning signs were now flashing bright and red. In September 2009, he denied reports in his hometown of Merida that he had been hitting his wife and mother; in March the following year, one month after the DeMarco fight, Jennifer was admitted into hospital for injuries including a punctured lung and broken ribs – injuries that she asserted had been caused in a fall. Valero was arrested after appearing at the hospital where she had been admitted and threatening doctors and nurses; he subsequently argued with the arresting officer and forbade his wife from speaking with him.

Edwin Valero vs Antonio De Marco

After that incident, he was admitted to a psychiatric facility for treatment and observation, but was released on April 7, 2010. The Venezuelan government arranged for him to enter rehab in Cuba; two days later, on his way to the airport, a drunk Valero crashed his car and missed his flight. Now widely suspected of beating his wife regularly, he was assigned a police escort, but on April 17 he somehow managed to give them the slip and rented a van in which he drove with his wife to the city of Valencia, where that night the two of them checked into a room at the Hotel Intercontinental.

At 5.30 the following morning, Valero walked barefoot to the front desk and calmly announced that he had killed his wife. She had been stabbed to death.

He offered no resistance when he was arrested; concerned that he was presumably drunk or high and might be a suicide risk when he sobered up, police removed his shoelaces and jacket. But he was allowed to wear his sweat pants, and it was those that he used to hang himself in his prison cell sometime early in the morning of April 19, 2010. He was 28 years old.

My mind returns to that fight week in Texas. I was standing in the hotel lobby when Valero saw me, strode toward me and wrapped me in a bear hug. As he did so, I looked over his shoulder and saw Jennifer and their two young children crowded close together, focused on us and eyeing proceedings uncertainly. I thought at the time that they were shy: uncertain visitors to a foreign land whose language they did not speak. In hindsight, I wonder something else, whether what I saw as shyness was fear and the eyes that looked at us were making a silent, ultimately unanswered, plea for help.

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February 6, 2019
February 6, 2019
Muhammad Ali

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AS 1967 began, world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was in the form of his life but two things were threatening his supremacy. One was the Vietnam conflict. His lawyers were fighting hard to save him from military service but it was a costly saga, and one that damaged his standing in the eyes of many in the late 1960s.

The other, more immediate, threat came in the form of 6ft 6ins WBA boss Ernie Terrell. Widely regarded as an imposter to the throne, the Chicago-born giant was an excellent fighter nonetheless. Before he claimed his title – stripped from Ali for fighting Sonny Liston in a rematch – Terrell had earned his stripes, beating the likes of Cleveland Williams, Bob Foster and Zora Folley. And his record in world title fights was none too shabby either with leading contenders Eddie Machen, George Chuvalo and Doug Jones all being outpointed. Put all those names together, and you have one of the most impressive heavyweight records of the 1960s.

But unfortunately for Terrell, the undefeated 25-year-old – two years removed from answering to Cassius Clay – was a different breed. None of this mattered to Terrell, who had not taken kindly to Ali’s stance on Vietnam, nor his new name.

Terrell, three inches taller, refused to address Ali by his name and promised to beat ‘Cassius Clay’ and unify the title.

But Terrell had known his rival f0r a long time. They had spent time together as amateurs, sparred in Angelo Dundee’s gym, and he had always been Cassius Clay. Terrell would later claim he was calling his opponent Clay out of habit, not disrespect.

Whatever the reason, Ali was outraged.

“You will eat those words, letter by letter,” promised Muhammad before their showdown, staged at Houston’s Astrodome. Terrell’s advantages in height and reach persuaded some that the underdog had a chance, but it was no contest at all. For the first eight rounds, Ali dominated from distance, and punished Terrell up close. A stoppage looked imminent such was Muhammad’s supremacy but he seemed to feed off his rival’s pain, and suspended the beating for the full 15 rounds, winning a lopsided decision.

“What is my name?” a maniacal Ali screamed at Terrell in the midst of combat. Punches, accurate and powerful, clattered off the beaten man. Ali stepped back. “Who am I?” he demanded, hatred roaring through his words. “What is my name, what is my NAME?”

Ali was roundly criticised for his pitiless behaviour and rightly so.

Terrell fought on until 1973 with mixed results, then found fame in retirement as the lead singer of soul band ‘Ernie Terrell & The Heavyweights’ before returning to boxing as a manager, trainer and promoter in the 1980s. He was involved in the development of world cruiserweight champions Alfonso Ratliff and Lee Roy Murphy, as well as heavyweight contender James “Quick” Tillis.

Unfairly, Terrell – a true gentleman – will always be remembered for his cruel loss to Muhammad Ali, but in one of the greatest eras in world boxing history, big Ernie stood tall.

What happened when Floyd Patterson refused to call Muhammad Ali by his name?

 

February 5, 2019
February 5, 2019
Sugar Ray Leonard

Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports

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1. SUGAR RAY LEONARD vs LUIS VEGA (Baltimore – February 5, 1977):

Olympic light-welterweight gold medallist Sugar Ray Leonard clearly outpointed Puerto Rican Luis “The Bull” Vega in his professional debut over six rounds.

Leonard impressed with his nimble footwork and fast punching. He shook Vega several times but the Puerto Rican kept on doggedly till the end.

2. vs FLOYD MAYWEATHER (Providence – September 9, 1978):

Unbeaten welterweight Leonard stopped compatriot Floyd Mayweather Snr in the 10th and last round to register his 14th successive professional win.

Leonard started cautiously before putting an impressive range of punches together. Mayweather was down twice in the eighth before a left hook to the chin finished the fight in the 10th.

3. vs RANDY SHIELDS (Baltimore – October 7, 1978):

Ray retained his unbeaten professional record when he clearly and unanimously outpointed white American Randy Shields in a 10-round welterweight match.

Shields held an amateur decision over Leonard gained in 1973.

Although Leonard dominated the fight he did not have the power to drop Shields at any stage of the fight.

Footnote: Shields would challenge Pipino Cuevas for the WBA welterweight title the following year and lose on points. He received another crack at the belt in 1981, when Thomas Hearns stopped him, on cuts, in 12.

4. vs ARMANDO MUNIZ (Springfield, Massachussetts – December 9, 1978):

The Olympic gold medallist hammered durable veteran Armando Muniz into defeat on a six rounds corner retirement in the scheduled 10-rounder at the Civic Centre.

Muniz, aged 31 and four-time world welterweight title challenger, was tempted out of retirement by a $40,000 purse for the nationally televised fight and said afterwards it was definitely his last contest.

He had been inactive since being decisively outpointed by Carlos Palomino in a WBC title bout in May and had tried unsuccessfully to get elected to political office in California.

Muniz (10st 11lbs) fought doggedly but always seemed to be waging an uphill struggle. Leonard (10st 9lbs) smacked left jabs with sharp right leads followed by left hooks.

The pattern was set in the opening round when Muniz stumbled after being made to miss with a right and was jabbed and counter-punched as he followed the fleet-footed Leonard around the ring.

By the sixth Muniz was looking bruised and puffy around the eyes. He still went forward but seemed to be having trouble with his left arm and Leonard opened up with a spectacular barrage that had the veteran backing off at the bell.

Muniz said afterwards he had been bothered by the pain in his left elbow during his career and third round against Leonard. He said he had wanted to go on but his corner decided otherwise.

5. vs ADOLFO VIRUET (Las Vegas – April 21, 1979:

The path through the welterweight ranks continued by comfortably outpointing Adolfo Viruet, the New York-based Puerto Rican, in their nationally-televised 10 rounds main event at the Dunes Hotel.

Leonard, from Palmer Park, Maryland, had moments of difficulty with Viruet’s southpaw awkwardness but dominated most of the fight with fast sharp punching. It was his 21st straight win. Judges Hal Miller and Dwayne Ford scored it 48-42 and 47-42 respectively in Leonard’s favour, while judge art Lurie had it surprisingly close at 47-44.

Leonard (10st 4 lbs) floored Viruet (10st 7lbs) for the first time in the Peurto Rican’s career in the fourth when a cracking right hand lead to the chin dropped him on the seat of his pants. Viruet seemed more surprised than hurt and was up at once to take the mandatory eight count on his feet.

By the eighth Viruet had a bruise and a swelling under his right eye, but he had his best round in the ninth, landing a series of right and lefts to the head.

Leonard slipped to his hands and knees but it wasn’t a knockdown. Leonard regained control in the last round, firing flurries of punches in an exciting finish, and Viruet was obliged to defend desperately against the ropes.

Footnote: Viruet had never been stopped. The previous year, 1978, he’d taken Roberto Duran 10 rounds and outpointed Bruce Curry, who would go on to win a ‘world’ light-welterweight title.

6. vs TONY CHIAVERINI (Las Vegas – June 24, 1979): 

Leonard unleashed a dazzling variety of punches to halt Tony Chiaverini on a fourth round corner retirement at a packed Caesars Palace in their scheduled 10-rounder.

It was Leonard’s 23rd successive win and former Olympic champion form Palmer Park, Maryland, plans to box twice more before he meets Wilfred Benitez at an undecided venue on December 1 for the WBC welterweight title.

Chiaverini, a southpaw from Kansas City didn’t go down but had been punched to a standstill. He had a cut and swelling under his right eye and the right side of his mouth was cut and puffy from Leonard’s sharp left jabs and foiled hooks.

Leonard (10st 11lbs) dominated every round of the nationally televised bout with his superior speed, classy boxing and stiff punching.

Footnote: Chiaverini was far more experienced than Leonard and had been stopped only once previously – in eight by middleweight Bennie Briscoe in 1978.

7. vs PETE RANZANY (Las Vegas – August 12, 1979):

Sugar Ray captured his first major pro title by hammering Pete Ranzany into spectacular defeat in the fourth round at a packed Caesars Palace Sports Pavilion to win the North American Boxing Federation welterweight championship.

Ranzany, the defending champion from Sacramento, was floored for the mandatory eight count by a dazzling sequence of punches in the fourth and Leonard hit him without reply until referee Joey Curtis halted the slaughter at 2-41 of the round.

READ this next: Why Leonard could not look himself in the mirror after challenging Wilfred Benitez

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February 5, 2019
February 5, 2019
Sugar Ray Robinson

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1. SUGAR RAY ROBINSON – or Ray “Sugar” Robinson as the International News Service called him at time – was a 3-1 favourite to repeat his victory over Jake LaMotta inside Detroit’s Olympia Stadium on February 5, 1943. The pair had fought in October the previous year, with welterweight Robinson using his substantial skill to deservedly outscore the bullish LaMotta over 10 rounds.

2. THE rematch was hosted by promoter Nick Londes at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium. The show was a sell-out with 18,930 fans attending to set a new record for the venue and Detroit’s biggest fight night since world heavyweight champion Joe Louis defeated Abe Simon two years before.

3. ROBINSON, based in New York, had never tasted defeat going into this contest, although the length of his win streak differs depending on the source. Ring Magazine had his run as high as 169 bouts (including 129 amateur bouts), although newspapers of the time recorded Robinson’s amateur record as 89-0 – making this bout his 130th.

4. LAMOTTA was naturally the bigger man and came in 16 pounds heavier than his rival at 160 1/2lbs. As well as being heavier, the underdog had won five since the loss to Robinson – including wins over California Jackie Wilson and Jimmy Edgar – that made some believe he could upset the odds in the return.

5. BUT former Detroit newsboy Robinson – who headed east to find fistic fame – was favourite for good reason. As an amateur and pro he had scored at least, depending on which source you believe, 56 wins in the opening round. At this point Robinson, chasing the welterweight title, was revered as much for his punching power as he was his exceptional boxing ability.

6. LIKE the first fight, the slick Robinson boxed well and at the halfway mark of the 10-rounder appeared on course to repeat his success.

7. BUT LaMotta refused to be denied and worked his way inside. At the end of the eighth, Jake broke through and knocked his opponent out of the ring. “Robinson lay sprawling out of the ring from a hard right to the body and a left to the head and the count was nine when the bell rang, saving the negro lad from a knockout,” The Miami Times reported.

8. ROBINSON fought back bravely in rounds nine and 10, going toe-to-toe with LaMotta over the final six minutes. But he ran into trouble again in the last seconds only for the bell to come to his rescue again.

9. LAMOTTA was rightfully adjudged the victor at the final bell with scores 52-47 (from referee Sam Hennessy), 57-49 and 55-45 all going in his favour. The Miami Times blamed Robinson’s machismo for the first loss in his career, writing: “He tried to slug it out with the bundle of dynamite from the Bronx and consequently had one of the most sensational winning streaks in the history of boxing rudely interrupted.”

10. ROBINSON would regain supremacy in their feud just three weeks later when he decisioned LaMotta (again over 10) at the same venue. The pair would clash six times in all, with Sugar losing only one. In fact, it would be eight years before Robinson would lose again when Britain’s Randolph Turpin stunned the world in July 1951 via 15-round decision. By then, Robinson had won and relinquished the world welterweight title before winning the middleweight championship (from LaMotta in their final meeting) in February 1951.

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February 4, 2019
February 4, 2019
Oscar De La Hoya

Action Images/Reuters/R Marsh Starks

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AN Olympic gold medallist and six-weight world champion from super-featherweight to middleweight, Oscar De La Hoya’s ring moniker of the “Golden Boy” well and truly befitted the man.

A Californian of Mexican descent, De La Hoya – born February 4, 1973 – is the highest grossing boxer in history, generating just short of $700 million in pay-per-view income.

After striking gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and winning well over 200 bouts as an amateur, the East Los Angeles resident picked up his first professional world title in his 12th outing, stopping the then-unbeaten WBO super-featherweight champion Jimmi Bredahl in 10 rounds.

World successes at lightweight and light-welterweight followed, before Oscar outpointed Pernell Whitaker in 1997 to claim the WBC welter crown. It was at this weight that De La Hoya suffered his first pro defeat, losing a disputed majority decision to IBF ruler Felix Trinidad in what was one of the biggest pay-per-view events in history.

Whilst operating at light-middleweight, the US Olympian contested a memorable world unification battle against the fiery Fernando Vargas. Oscar secured the victory with an 11th round stoppage after dropping his Oxnard rival with a thunderous left hook.

During the same year in which he defeated Vargas (2002), De La Hoya also established his own boxing promotional company; Golden Boy Promotions. Today, the outfit remains one of the premier corporations of its kind.

A move up to middleweight saw the “Golden Boy” secure the WBO title over Felix Sturm, although Bernard Hopkins wrested the belt from his grasp three months later with a savage body blow in round nine.

His final world championship win came at light-middleweight, where he returned from a 20 month lay-off to stop Ricardo Mayorga in six sessions. Despite subsequently losing to Floyd Mayweather Jnr (via tight split decision) and Manny Pacquiao (weight drained, he would be stopped after eight) in two monster box office bonanzas, De La Hoya’s golden legacy has lived on since he retired from the ring in 2009.

Oscar De La Hoya
De La Hoya vs Vargas

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