Category Archives: History

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July 26, 2014
July 26, 2014
Saad_Muhammad_vs._Marvin_Johnson_I

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“LOCAL light-heavyweight contender Matthew Franklin scored a sensational 12th-round knockout over Marvin Johnson in a truly epic fight at the Spectrum,” read Boxing News.

“This one came right of the blood-plasma unit,” said an excited Bill Livingston, covering the fight for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The same folks who brought you Ali-Frazier, reddening the dawn skies in Manila. The same script that gave the world Graziano-Zale and before that, Christians and Lions.”

It sounds epic and it was.

Gritty southpaw Johnson came looking for Matt from the first bell and while he tried to box and move at first, it never took the Philadelphian long to get drawn into wild shootouts. He became famous for them.

As a consequence, these two tore into one another without let-up.

“I had to stay close to him because he’s a southpaw,” the winner later explained.

And although he was victorious, his facial damage was worse than Johnson’s.

He held his hands high but Johnson still battered through his guard repeatedly, but Franklin – young, ambitious, determined and in marvellous condition – took everything Johnson would throw.

Still, the outcome hung in the balance until the 11th, during which Johnson clubbed himself to a virtual standstill. He seemed to have lost heart with Franklin taking each and everyone of his best shots and returning fire through a bloody mask and in the 12th round Marvin was battered into the ropes and out on his feet before Franklin lowered the boom.

The Spectrum erupted as their local boy rejoiced. Johnson lay prone on the canvas amongst the pandemonium.

A deflated Johnson, face battered and swollen, lamented: “I threw a lot of punches but he took it. Some fighters can, some can’t. That’s what proves he’s a good fighter. Staying in there. I hit him with an awful lot of hard punches. I just don’t know what happened.”

“It was the sort of terribly punishing fight that may leave a permanaent scar on the careers of both fighters. Their battered and bruised faces will heal, but I have to wonder if either will ever be the same again,” wrote Nigel Collins, ringside for BN.

Both went on to win world titles in long, decorated careers. In fact, they met in another blood-thirsty battle in 1979 and this time Saad Muhammad took the WBC crown from Johnson in eight pulsating rounds.

Jeffries-vs.-Fitzsimmons

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1. BEFORE challenging world heavyweight champion, Bob Fitzsimmons, in 1899 (above), James J. Jeffries placed a $5,000 bet against himself. He had no intention of losing but should the worst happen he would need the money. If he won, his stake was cash he could afford to lose. Jeffries hammered ol’ Bob into 11th round submission, but the fight was competitive enough to warrant a return.

2. IT was a fight both parties wanted to happen sooner but, not unlike today, there were accusations of the other running scared as they squabbled over the contracts. It was eventually set for July 25 1902, in San Francisco, with 39-year-old Fitzsimmons giving away 13 years to his fresher rival. Some even suggested that Bob was as old as 47, but the balding boxer insisted he had been born in Cornwall, in 1862.

3. FITZSIMMONS had spent a long time in training, longer in fact than Jeffries. But Jeffries, who had defended five times, and won a non-title fight, since he beat Fitzsimmons, had trained to the “notch of perfection” according to trainer Billy Delanay.

4. THERE were rumours that Fitzsimmons, also a former world middleweight champion, was so determined to win he was going to load his gloves with Plaster of Paris. “Let him,” Jeffries replied to the gossip, “I’ll flatten him anyway.”

5. JEFFRIES, broad with thick muscles, outweighed the comparatively spindly Fitzsimmons by more than 40lbs. He was expected to repeat his success against the old man, but it was “Ruby” who started like the younger. Boxing beautifully, Fitzsimmons handed out painful lessons to the champion during the early rounds.

6. BY round four, Jeffries was obviously agitated with the punishment coming his way. Fitzsimmons’ left jab was accurate, and the blasts from his right mitt suddenly opened the champion’s skin. Jeffries was a mess and he was visibly anxious at the end of the round as he listened to his trainer.

7. GOING into the eighth round (scheduled for 20) Fitzsimmons looked on course for spectacular revenge. Jeffries was in a torrid state with cuts on both cheeks and over each eye. But according the New York Times, Fitzsimmons suddenly stepped in to talk to his battered opponent and was knocked out by a left hook. The fight was over.

8. THE finish was so sudden and unexpected, ringsiders cried ‘fix’ as Fitzsimmons was counted out. But the loser dismissed the claims saying: “The fight was won fairly and to the best man belongs the laurels.”

9. JEFFRIES was also full of respect, saying to Fitzsimmons: “You’re the most dangerous man alive.” He had a point. Thought to be finished, Bob dropped down to light-heavyweight and won his third world title – becoming the first man in boxing history to achieve such a feat.

10. THE champion would defend his title twice more before retiring undefeated in 1904. He was regarded as the greatest heavyweight of all-time for a while, in fact right up until the point he was hauled out of retirement, virtually kicking and screaming, to be beaten up by Jack Johnson under infamous circumstances six years later.

LockridgeLopez

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ROCKY LOCKRIDGE, from Tacoma, Washington, was making the third defence of his IBF super-featherweight title that he had claimed from Aussie Barry Michael in 1988. His challenger on July 23 1988, Tony “The Tiger” Lopez, would enjoy home advantage at the Arco Arena, in Sacramento, California.

ALMOST 11,000 turned up to roar on their greased-up hero who wore tiger skin shorts to match his nickname, and gelled his hair to match Danny Zuko.

THE IBF approved the 12-round distance, despite their ruling stating world title fights must be 15 rounds, because the state of California did not allow the extended distance.

LOPEZ, 25, started well, jabbing, moving, and countering with jarring right hands. But Lockridge – a former WBA champion – was always threat and forced the action, even after being tagged.

THE action was enthralling with Lopez, peppering the onrushing Lockridge from distance, in control by the halfway mark. The champion, bleeding from both eyes, made a breakthrough in the eighth round when he connected with a heavy right hand over the top of a Lopez left jab. The challenger went down heavily – the first time he had tasted the canvas in his career – before hauling himself upright at the count of three.

LOCKRIDGE tried desperately to finish matters, hurling maniacally for the remainder of the session, and punching non-stop through the ninth. But his energy understandably slowed, and by the 11th, Lopez was back in control.

GOING into the last, both warriors were exhibiting souvenirs of war. The wounds around the champion’s eyes had worsened, and Lopez’s right eye struggled for clarity beneath a deep swelling. Lockridge tried to finish strongly, but his wild efforts were punished, as the younger man picked holes in his defence and swatted his face with a right hand that removed his gumshield.

AFTER 12 rounds of glorious mayhem, Lopez was declared the winner via unanimous decision (116-112, 115-112, 115-112). Lockridge said: “I was a little lacklustre early and it didn’t seem to get better in the fight. But I take my hat off to Lopez – he was the better man tonight.”

THE new champion admitted he was tired in the closing stages, “but I was going to keep punching until I stopped breathing.” The nature of combat demanded a sequel and the duo went into battle again in March the following year. Lopez was again the winner via unanimous decision, and went on to enjoy another world title reign at lightweight.

LOCKRIDGE soon succumbed to drug addiction, and after divorce from his wife, he was convicted of burglary in 1993. Following his release six years later, he again lost himself in lawless living, before he kicked his habits in 2009, and vowed to turn his life around.

July 13, 2014
July 13, 2014
SaadMuhammad-Lopez

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THE sport’s many action heroes all responded to adversity in their own way. Some had the will to stand up straight in a tornado. Others were at their most dangerous when badly hurt, only then finding the hammer blow to turn the fight in their favour. Then the born survivors able to absorb anything life throws at them, including the heaviest of hands.

Matthew Saad Muhammad was all of the above, so much so that his ring moniker was ‘Miracle’.

Abandoned in the mean streets of Philly as a child and named for the bridge at which he was found, the then Matthew Franklin went about forging an identity in the fistic arts.

Taking beatings like the old-timers and throwing power punches until the very end, he was one half of more action-packed fights than perhaps any man to bite down into a gumshield. Alvaro ‘Yaqui’ Lopez was a tough hombre from Mexico who went from aspirations of becoming a bullfighter to being the bull personified.

In their first bout in ’78 over 12 rounds for Franklin’s NABF title, ‘Miracle’ Matthew employed his superb jab, stifling his omnipresent urge to trade power punches and busting Lopez up in 11 rounds.

When they next faced off two years later Franklin had found Islam and was known as Matthew Saad Muhammad. He wore the prestigious green belt of the WBC, having punched it off Marvin Johnson’s waist.

For the first seven rounds they picked up where they left off, adding colour to tattoos they’d given each other two years before. In the eighth all Hell broke loose. Doing a paint job on Lopez and leaving himself open, Saad found himself in familiar surroundings, needing a miracle to survive a sustained bombardment of haymakers by the skin of his teeth. Yet as The Ring magazine’s ‘Round of the Year’ closed in on three minutes the champion was looking again like he’d survived a beating that would’ve felled a rhino.

Things were about to get very painful for Alvaro Lopez.

The challenger’s spirit carried him through to the 14th, but the rocks Lopez was pelted with had his legs waving the white flag on his behalf. Willing himself through three knockdowns, he could offer no more resistance after Saad bounced his trademark right hand off his head.

1980’s best fight stands with the very best of the decade that followed, and the very best of any era prior.

July 13, 2014
July 13, 2014
Spinks

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LARRY HOLMES complained bitterly about the verdict so Michael Spinks, who had upset the Easton man’s bid at Rocky Marciano’s historic 49-0 heavyweight mark, so they fought again.

Now as the heavyweight champion of the world, Spinks defended his crown against one of the best the division has seen and, once more Holmes cried robbery after losing a split decision.

Both fights were unmistakably close and while they were far from Holmes’ swansong, as many thought at the time, they were the icing on the top of a Spinks career that had seen him clear out one of the best light-heavyweight classes assembled.

A 1976 Olympic gold medallist – along with his brother, Leon, and the great Sugar Ray Leonard – Spinks made quick progress in the professionals, defeating tough Gary Summerhays in his first year and in 1980 he passed the first big hurdle of his career, defeating US-based Scot Murray Sutherland, dropping him on his way to a 10-round decision. He also came through a wobble against battle-hardened Yaqui Lopez to stop the Californian in seven, halted former (and future) champion Marvin Johnson in four before capturing his first world title, the WBA light-heavyweight crown, by defeating Eddie Mustafa Muhammad over 15 rounds. He made five defences before unifying the titles against the “Camden Buzzsaw”, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, in 1983 and then, after adding the IBF belt to his collection, he stepped up to unseat and upset Holmes becoming the first reigning light-heavyweight champion to win the larger prize.

Spinks was a tall, powerful fighter, intelligent and with a potent right hand at his disposal.

Two further high-earning contests saw him stop Steffen Tangstad (rsf 4) and Gerry Cooney ((rsf 5), setting him up for the June 1988 blockbuster against another undefeated heavyweight champion, this one at his peak rather than slightly beyond it.

The IBF had stripped Spinks for taking the Cooney payday over a defence against his mandatory challenger, Tony Tucker, but there was no doubt about who ruled the heavyweight roost after a dramatic night in Atlantic City.

After just 91 seconds, a youthful, aggressive and seemingly unbeatable Mike Tyson flattened Spinks in devastating style.

Michael’s own undefeated streak had been spectacularly culled and he walked away from the sport with his fortune and faculties intact.

He had made $13.5million in defeat, Tyson pocketed more than $20million.

“I miss the camaraderie,” Spinks said in retirement, “and the love we had and above all I miss the humongous paydays.”

Spinks went down as one of the great light-heavyweight champions, mentioned in the same breath as Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, Roy Jones and Bob Foster.

He remained close to the man who guided him throughout his career, Butch Lewis, and while Spinks shunned the limelight, with the exception of visiting schools to inspire kids, he made appearances with Lewis from time to time until Butch died in 2011.

In the aftermath of the promoter’s death, however, Spinks sued Lewis’ estate in a Delaware Chancery Court alleging Lewis had failed to properly manage more than $24million he earned in his fighting days, violating an agreement that he would still manage the fighter’s money and pay his living expenses and, in the lawsuit, there were claims that Lewis had lumped their money together to pay his own personal and business expenses.

The month after Lewis died, Spinks’ lawyers alleged the executors of Lewis’ estate cut off payments to the retired fighter without telling him, causing his health insurance to expire and bills totalling $50,000 a month to mount.

The former champion’s lawyers claimed: “Spinks has had to invade his pension and retirement funds and incur significant taxes and penalties in order to meet these obligations.”

Lewis’ estate was valued at $8.5million.

Tragedy
Before Spinks could unify the titles his wife, Sandy Massey, and the mother of their two-year-old daughter Michelle, died. Massey was killed in a car crash leaving Spinks a single-parent.
He defeated Qawi two months later and, according to reports, Spinks’ daughter asked him in the dressing room if her mother would be watching the fight. Spinks broke down but managed to go through with the fight, coming through an eighth-round scare before winning a unanimous decision.

The punch
The ‘Spinks Jinx’ was a heavy right hand that became the St Louis favourite’s most formidable weapon.

The family
Spinks and his brother, Leon, both won world titles, as did Michael’s nephew, Cory, a talented welterweight and light-middleweight. Leon’s grandson, Leon “III Generation” Spinks recently made his professional debut.

July 12, 2014
July 12, 2014
HolyfieldQawi

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SOME felt Evander Holyfield, a 1984 Olympic bronze medallist, was being thrown to the lions when he was paired with the fearsome Dwight Muhammad Qawi, a former light-heavyweight champion who was a barrel-like keg of dynamite.

“The Camden Buzz-saw” was experienced and had been in his fair share of wars, whereas Holyfield had much to prove.

But in front of his raucous hometown fans, the future world heavyweight king dethroned Qawi in a 15-round barnstormer that provided non-stop action in a close-quarter war often referred to as the last great 15-round fight.

Qawi felt he had done enough by the end, but Holyfield’s work was crisper and cleaner and he landed more leather than the veteran star, who was deducted a point for low blows in the last round.

BN said of the fight that Holyfield, who had a seven-inch height advantage over the sawn-off champion, had won: “A split decision over 15 gruelling, thrilling rounds… There were no knockdowns but it was a fight loaded with action and solid punching.”

The action seesawed with both enjoying moments of success.

Holyfield seemed to be tiring in the fifth and sixth sessions but found a second wind.

“Qawi landed punches in sudden, punishing bursts,” read our report. “Often blazing back just when it seemed that Holyfield was having a good round. Then Holyfield would answer back, putting his own punches together in combinations as the crowd got right behind him.”

The future Hall-of-Famers fought again a year later, in Atlantic City, but an uninterested Qawi bowed out after four rounds in a comparatively timid affair.

Lara-Williams

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THE re-emergence of Paul Williams (10st 13 ½lbs) Aiken, South Carolina, took eight months, just enough time for old Mr. Rust to saturate his skinny frame. Or is it that “The Punisher” has been punished himself just enough to impede his rebirth? Williams, 30 later this month, was made to look average in a bout that went the full 12 rounds (nothing at stake but pride).

But by the evening’s close the judges decided that even an ordinary Williams had done just enough to pull out a majority decision over Cuban Erislandy Lara (10st 13lbs), now living in Miami. Bad call? Most in attendance thought so. Official cards were 114-114 from Al Bennet, 115-114 from Hilton Whitaker and 116-114 from Don Givens. My card had Lara up 115-113.

For Lara, a fellow southpaw the employment if his own version of a Sergio Martinez approach – less the knockout right hook- played out effectively, but not alas in the eyes of ones who counted. Perhaps they looked at the busyness of imposing Williams. Yes, he did push the action, and yes, he did throw many more punches- BUT he was getting hit flush in the return by the more accurate shots of Lara especially the left hand.

In a classic retort to the scoring, Lara echoed the losers lament of: “I don’t know what the judges saw.”

As for the official winner, he kind of contradicted himself, saying at first “I was being lazy in there but no excuses”, later he would say “bottom line is, I outworked him.”

Yes, he may of outworked his opponent, but his work was shoddy in comparison to the more deliberate Lara. Williams moves to 40-2 (27), while the snake-bitten Lara drops his first falling to 15-1-1 (10). The referee was Sammy Viruet.