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October 3, 2014
October 3, 2014
HaglerHamsho

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Original fight report from the New York Times, October 4, 1981

MARVIN HAGLER defended his undisputed world middleweight boxing championship by stopping Mustafa Hamsho, the top challenger, at 2 minutes 9 seconds of the 11th round of their bout tonight at the Horizon Arena.

The referee, Octavio Meyran of Mexico City, halted the bout while Hamsho was helpless on the ropes. Al Braverman, Hamsho’s handler, was climbing through the ropes to stop the fight, but Meyran acted first.

The victory was the 28th in succession for Hagler since he lost a 10-round decision to Willie Monroe in Philadelphia in 1976. The victory improved Hagler’s record to 53-2-2, and the knockout was his 44th. Hagler earned a million-dollar purse for the fight. The crowd was announced as 10,000.

Hamsho, as expected, charged recklessly forward. And his rushing, brawling style put him into trouble.

Hagler, much more accurate with his punches from his left-handed stance, also was accomplished at counter-punching, for which Hamsho’s wild lunges left him open.

When Meyran halted the match, Hagler was well ahead on all three cards.Meyran scored the bout 100 to 93. Judge Al Tremari scored it 100 to 85, and Judge Mike Glienna 100-91.

Hagler was impressive in every phase of the bout. He was most adept at blocking Hamsho’s blows or sliding away from his lunges and rushes.

At the end, Hamsho’s face was a mass of bruises. In the third, he butted Hagler and opened a small cut over the champion’s right eye. Before the round ended, Hagler threw a hook that drew blood from Hamsho’s right eye.

Both handlers did excellent jobs in patching cuts, and they were never a factor in the bout. Rather, it was the accumulation of Hagler’s heavier punches, his straight left hand, his right hook and his stinging jab off the hook that opened the cuts on Hamsho’s face. Hamsho did not back away. Although he was absorbing a steady stream of heavy blows, Hamsho continued to force the attack. He did score with lunging hooks of his own and his right-hand jab occasionally snapped Hagler’s head back.

But Hagler was halted only momentarily. Then he would resume his leading or counter-punching to pile up points, frequently stunning Hamsho.

October 2, 2014
October 2, 2014
HolmesAli

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THE FINAL BELL FOR TRAGIC ALI
‘Surely now the old maestro has climbed his last mountain’

LAS VEGAS – October 2: HARRY MULLAN reporting

AFTER 20 years spent achieving the apparently impossible, Muhammad Ali has finally run out of miracles.

The old maestro, bidding to become world heavyweight champion for an unprecedented and unattainable fourth time, was pounded into a humiliating corner retirement at the end of 10 one-sided rounds against his former sparmate Larry Holmes.

The greatest career in the history of sport closed with an undignified scuffle between trainer Angelo Dundee, who wanted to save his man further indignation, and long-time acolyte Bundini Brown, who was pleading for “just one more round.”

Dundee had his way, and boxing owes him for that. It was painful enough to watch the destruction of a legend: it would have been unbearable to have watched him suffer the ultimate degradation of a knockout defeat.

Ali, being Ali, refuses to acknowledge the inevitable and admit that he has reached the end of the long road, but the decay of those once marvellous skills was apparent to the 25,000 crowd in the makeshift arena at Caesars Palace car park and to the millions of TV and closed-circuit viewers around the world.

All that remained was the courage which had sustained him through three championship reigns and 60 fights against the best heavyweights that a three-decade career span could offer.

To paraphrase what he used to say about some of those opponents, his pride made an appointment which his 38-year-old body couldn’t keep.

Ali could shed the weight (he reduced by over three stone to 15st 7½lbs) but he couldn’t shed the years.

He was never in contention against a man who might yet emerge as the best of Ali’s successors.

The veteran didn’t win a single round, or even share one. It was as monotonously one-sided as Holmes’ previous WBC title defences against Alfredo Evangelista, Ossie Ocasio, Lorenzo Zanon and the rest.

He absorbed a steady beating, until even Holmes himself started to hold off and plead with him to quit. “I asked him ‘Why do you keep taking this?’ but he just said, ‘Fight, sucker, fight’,” the unmarked champion said afterwards.

It was a sad exit, and Ali of all people deserved better. He used to boast that he would never be forced, like Joe Louis, into an ill-advised comeback, but the temptation of an eight-million dollar payday was too hard to resist.

Holmes took the fight for $3m, and the chance to step at last out of the shadow of the man against all future champions will be compared. It was an emotional victory for the 30-year-old Holmes, who wept in the ring afterwards as he told Ali “I love you, man.”

“When you fight a friend and a brother you can’t get happiness. All I achieved was money,” he told a packed press conference backstage.

“I fought the best heavyweight fighter in the world. Ali is a hell of a fighter and a hell of a man. He proved that he could go for the title for a fourth time, and that’s a great achievement.

“Of course he shouldn’t fight again, but how can I say he was wrong to fight this time? Nobody is wrong for doing what they want to do.

“I thought the referee should have stopped it sooner. I was trying to knock Ali out but I couldn’t. If I could have got rid of him in the first round I would have.

“He tried to psych me, but he couldn’t. I worked with the guy for four years, and I knew everything he could do. Ali fooled some of the writers, but he couldn’t fool me.”

Ali, his face bruised and puffy, did not attend the conference but said next morning that he planned to fight on, with Mike Weaver’s WBA version of the title as his target. However it’s unlikely to happen.

Public opinion will force him into retirement, and in any case another Ali venture would not be a commercial proposition. Boxing’s great deceiver has conned the punters once too often, and they will not pay again to watch a once unmatchable talent going through the motions of fighting.

It’s such a shame that he couldn’t have kept his word and stayed retired after that marvellous night in New Orleans two years ago when he outclassed Leon Spinks to become the first and surely the last three-time heavyweight champion. I suspected at the time that his decision was not final, and wrote in my report of the Spinks fight that “when you’re Muhammad Ali, there’s always one more mountain to climb.”

But now, surely, he has climbed his last mountain. There was concern before the fight about Ali’s slurred speech and physical deterioration, and the awful, sustained beating to the head that he took from Holmes will add to that concern.

The fierce heat in the open-air stadium took its toll on both men, but probably more so on the veteran. It was 104 degrees at ringside during the undercard (the show started at 4pm) and 89 degrees by fight time. The temperature inside the ring, under the TV lights, must have been considerably higher.

Ali has fought and won under trying conditions before (in the heat of Zaire, against George Foreman, and the humidity of Malaysia, against Joe Bugner) but he was a younger and fitter man then.

He had driven his body into remarkable condition for a man of his age, and in terms of physical appearance he looked like the Ali of old. (He even dyed his hair to hide the grey patches).

But he couldn’t do anything about the lost years and the faded skills. The timing and the reflexes were gone, and his movements were ponderous and predictable.

Once or twice he tried to dance and run, in a cruel parody of the performer he once was, but Holmes chased him and hit him with jabs on the move… something that would have been unthinkable in his peak years.

The only moments when it really was like the old days were during the preliminaries, with Ali clowning and conducting the chanting of his name and then leading the crowd in booing when Holmes was introduced.

He made a playful grab for Holmes’ WBC championship belt, and went through his old routine of lunging at his opponent during the referee’s instructions while Bundini Brown and Angelo Dundee (who, as always, looked rather embarrassed and annoyed by the playacting) “restrained” him.

Holmes, in absolutely magnificent condition at 15st 1½lbs, stood impassively while all this was going on but exploded into action at the first bell.

He banged in a solid jab to Ali’s face, a left to the body, and then two more jabs and a right to the head. Ali looked startled, and gave ground with, already, a reddening patch under his left eye.

Ali kept his gloves high, but Holmes almost contemptuously curved punches around the guard to Ali’s head.

The crowd roared encouragement as Ali landed his first scoring punch two minutes into the fight, a long right to Holmes’ head, but he didn’t keep the attack going and Holmes jabbed him steadily for the rest of the round.

The fight pattern was set, and it did not vary in the second as Homes’ jab kept Ali on the defensive. Ali taunted the champion, calling to him and slapping his gloves together in a “let’s fight” gesture, but Holmes ignored the clowning and hit him with jab after jab.

There wasn’t a solitary worthwhile punch from Ali, and the round ended with him penned in a corner.

Holmes opened the third with a big right to the head, and followed with three jabs and another right, all on target. Ali tried to rally with a couple of rights and a left hook, but they were cumbersome punches and were easily evaded.

Holmes kept him backed up and under pressure, and again the challenger spent the last 30 seconds of the round with his back to the ropes. Ali pulled a face at Holmes as the bell sounded, but he wasn’t fooling anyone.

What most of us suspected had already been established: he simply didn’t have the tools for the job any more, and even allowing for the man’s one-time genius for tactical innovation it was impossible to see what strategy he could devise to save him from a defeat which was looking inevitable.

Bundini Brown shouted at him during the interval: “You’ve got to land some punches, champ – he’s winning the round”, but Ali either would not or could not respond with more action when the bell sounded for the fourth.

Holmes snapped off another burst of jabs, and now that red patch under Ali’s left eye was looking lumpy and bruised. Ali tried a right, which Holmes blocked, and then retreated to a neutral corner.

He dropped his guard to taunt Holmes again, and took a heavy right to the head. Ali grabbed the top rope with his right hand, more for clowning effect than for support, and hit out at Holmes with his left.

Referee Richard Green (who, under Nevada Commission practice, left the scoring for the three WBC-appointed judges) warned Ali for it, but the old veteran stayed in the corner and Holmes was picking his punched as the round ended.

Ali came out for the fifth on his toes, and the crowd whooped with delight as he caught Holmes with a left jab in the face. Holmes mocked him by doing an exaggerated sway from the waist, and then pressured him into the ex-champ’s corner as Ali lacked the stamina or the legs to keep the dancing going.

Ali scored with a couple of body punches early in the sixth, but Holmes came back with a four-punch flurry before going back to the jab. The crowd booed the lack of excitement and action, and Ali responded with a fair left hook before retreating, yet again to a corner. He jabbed Holmes off and moved along the ropes, but Holmes kept on top of him and the beating resumed. Ali covered up for the remainder of the round.

The seventh was a sad round, with Ali looking very heavy-legged, old, and tired. Holmes once more mocked him by dropping his arms and doing a pretend stagger, and when Ali tried to dance and jab on the retreat Holmes went after him and caught him repeatedly with lefts to the head.

Holmes came out for the eighth looking mean and eager, and pounded heavy rights at Ali as they stood in the challenger’s corner. Ali eventually escaped to the centre of the ring, and fully half a minute elapsed without either man attempting a punch.

(Holmes claimed afterwards that he deliberately stood off Ali at this point out of compassion for the man he was beating with such ridiculous ease).

Finally, Holmes moved back on the offensive and caught Ali with right after right, so many that referee Green went over to the corner during the interval to check on Ali’s condition.

The ninth was a shocking round, probably the worst of Ali’s long career. He was in desperate trouble on at least three occasions as Holmes landed with a whole succession of heavy rights, and by now he was noticeably marked under both eyes.

At the bell Ali turned to Holmes and gave him a weary tap of acknowledgement, an admission that the fight, and indeed, his career, had gone beyond recall.

The crowd chanted Ali’s name during the interval, as if sensing they were about to watch the man answer the bell for the last time. Ali sat with his eyes closed, and there was obvious anxiety in his corner.

He could have been pulled out then, and certainly referee Green would have had every justification for stopping it at any time during the painfully one-sided 10th round. Ali moved as if he was in a daze, and Holmes landed every punch he threw.

He seemed reluctant to move in and finish the job, and jabbed him at will throughout the round. At one stage I counted seven in a row, all landing flush in Ali’s battered face.

As soon as the bell sounded Angelo Dundee turned towards Green to offer surrender, but Bundini Brown yelled at him and grabbed Dundee’s white jacket to pull him away from the referee.

There was a brief scuffle, while the defeated fighter sat slumped on his stool, eyes closed, but Green accepted Dundee’s decision and walked towards Holmes with his arms spread wide to indicate the end.

It was a chaotic and unseemly finale to a marvellous career, but then I don’t think that this is the way Ali will be remembered. As with Louis’ knockout by Marciano, posterity will draw a veil over this last sad chapter in the Ali story.

The excitement, the glamour, and the skills are gone, but the legend will endure.

THE PREVIEW

“THE show’s on the road again when Muhammad Ali bids to win the world heavyweight title for the fourth time on Thursday in a specially built venue at Caesar’s palace, Las Vegas,” wrote Boxing News on September 26, 1980 in anticipation of Ali taking on his old sparring partner Larry Holmes.

Ali, at 38, was taking on a man eight years his junior in WBC champion Larry Holmes and was a “forbidding” underdog.

“As big an underdog as when he fought Sonny Liston for the first time as Cassius Clay; as big an underdog when he challenged George Foreman in the heat of Kinshasa, Zaire, in the Rumble in the Jungle. Never mind about the greatest champion of all-time, your man’s also the greatest challenger of all time.”

However, despite boxing experts writing off Ali his entire career, for him to come back and prove them all round time and time again, this seemed a step too far even for the greatest heavyweight champion in history.

He had not fought for two years since claiming the heavyweight championship for a record third time against Leon Spinks on September 15, 1978.

But, having proved his chin countless times BN dismissed the plausibility of Holmes defeating Ali by knockout and wrote: “Maybe Ali’s corner will retire him if he’s taking a beating. That would be a humane and dignified way out for the great old champion if he’s too much on the receiving end. Or the referee could get in quickly and stop matter.”

OUR PICK

“Ali is a great one for upsetting the form books, and he could do so again. But on all available evidence it looks like Holmes on points after 15 rounds that would seem ordinary if other names were involved.”

October 2, 2014
October 2, 2014
Young-Stribling

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WILLIAM LAWRENCE “YOUNG” STRIBLING JNR had a tragically short life – died aged 28 in a motorcycle accident in his native Georgia – but he contested more fights than any heavyweight in history (289).

Stribling was on his way to hospital to visit his convalescing wife and new born baby when he was struck by a car travelling in the opposite direction.

The car hit Stribling on his motorcycle and the damage to his left leg was so bad that his foot had to be amputated in Macon Hospital a half hour after the accident.

The brave “King of the Canebrakes” sadly succumbed to his injuries after clinging to life for two days.

Twenty-five thousand mourners walked past his coffin in the town’s auditorium and another 10,000 attended the service at Riverside Cemetery.

He was still going strong at the time of the accident, beating Maxie Rosenbloom a month previously in Texas. He amassed an amazing 128 knockouts in his career – a feat bettered only by “Ageless” Archie Moore.

Young-Stribling-Ma-Pa

Managed, promoted and trained by his parents “Ma” and “Pa” Stribling (pictured above), he came up short in his biggest battles – notably to Max Schmeling in his heavyweight title tilt.

September 30, 2014
September 30, 2014
HamedRobinson

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A 21-year-old “Prince” Naseem Hamed taunted, toyed with and took apart a stoic Steve Robinson with aplomb, in front of vociferous Welsh crowd, at Cardiff Arms Park on September 30, 1995.

In every generation there are fighters that zig while the world zags. Rare talents that transcend the sport, capturing fame and fortune doing things that haven’t been done. Naseem Hamed, although yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, was of this breed. A leopard-skinned scourge on the featherweight division, with bags of self belief and freakish one-punch power.

In September 1995, the Yorkshireman, who had been swatting bantamweights for fun, was manoeuvred into a mandatory position for the WBO featherweight crown. Welsh world champion, Steve Robinson, would be Hamed’s first fight at feather.

Robinson was a solid fighter, and with seven successive defences to his credit, no paper champion. Pockets of the media made a case for Robinson, heralding his size, power and durability as the answer to challenger’s fluidity.

On paper the odds were stacked against the self-styled prince; fighting a respected champion in his backyard, stepping up in weight and challenging for a world title for the first time. The bookies however, had Hamed a firm favourite to do a number on the “Cinderella Man”.

Hamed exuded self-confidence which would often boil over into distasteful goading of opponents.   In the build-up to his maiden championship showdown, the Sheffield man commissioned a van to curb crawl the streets of Cardiff to deliver a message to the champion.

“I’m the prince. I’m going to be king. Make sure you are there for the coronation. Steve Robinson come out and fight me,” blared a recorded message.

On a wet and windy September night at Cardiff rugby club, the talking was done. Hamed entered Robinson’s 16,000 man stronghold with swagger. Responding to the partisan crowd with extraordinary extravagance and bravado, Hamed delivered his first statement performance.

Robinson, drudging forward with a high guard, attempting to patiently get into range to build pressure on the cocky challenger, was out-fought and out-muscled from the opener. Hamed danced between stances, exhibiting outrageous reflexes, and dispirited Robinson with shots he didn’t see coming. Most attacks coming the over way whistled past the acrobatic challenger into the night air.

In round five, Hamed, who spent much of the first half with a smile on his face, suddenly dropped the histrionics and unloaded a purposeful assault, connecting with three big hooks and an uppercut sending the tired looking champion to the canvas. Robinson did well to get up and hear the bell.

Hamed, looking like he’d barely broken sweat during his spell bounding performance, came out in the eighth and landed a pinpoint left hook, taking the champion’s legs away. The referee had seen enough of the one-way punishment and waved off the contest.

“Prince” Naseem Hamed would retire with a solitary defeat on his record – a points loss to Marco Antonio Barerra. If Hamed had remained as focused as he was in Cardiff, at that stage in his career, he would already be a Hall of Famer.

September 26, 2014
September 26, 2014
Buchanan-Laguna

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  1. THE build-up to the fight – set for September 26 1970 – was marred with political controversy as Laguna was stripped of his WBC lightweight title for failing to defend against their number one contender Mando Ramos. As WBC members, the BBBofC also refused to sanction the fight as a world title bout. Instead, Buchanan fought for the WBA and NYSAC commission titles, neither of which was held in the same distinguished stock as the WBC. It meant that following the win, Buchanan was still not recognised as a world champion in his own controlling body.
  2. LAGUNA was guaranteed to make £25,000 for the fight, whilst the travelling challenger made considerably less at £5,200.
  3. LAGUNA was the 5-2 betting favourite, a preview in Boxing News predicted him to outclass Buchanan with his accuracy, quickness and ability to avoid taking damage.
  4. THE fight took place outdoors at San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn stadium, in Puerto Rico, in sweltering heat that was expected to be a large problem for the Scot. Facing temperatures close to 100 degrees, his corner man and father Thomas Buchanan held a parasol over him to keep him in the shade, whilst also squirting sunscreen down his back.
  5. IN fact, Laguna seemed to be the one to tire more noticeably in the final stages. After increasing the tempo and taking the middle rounds behind a persistent jab – opening two cuts over Buchanan’s eyes- it was the challenger who went on to take over in the championship rounds.
  6. AFTER being hurt in the twelfth as the two traded heavy blows on the ropes, Buchanan took control. Speaking after the fight Buchanan said, “I hit him hard enough several times to put him away, but I just couldn’t finish the job…It was my left jab with the right hand coming over that won it for me. Those sneak right leads I hit him with helped.”
  7. THE small 3,346 crowd were initially behind their Latino fighter, but by the end they were cheering every punch from Buchanan in his bid to grab the upset.
  8. IN the end Buchanan walked away with the split decision. Judges Jose Soto and Pito Lopes scored the bout in his favour at 144-142 and 145-144 respectively, whilst referee Waldermar Schmidt gave Laguna a 145-144 lead. No scorecard could be heavily disputed in what was widely recognised as a close, competitive fight.
  9. EXPECTING a hero’s return as the first British fighter to bring a world title back from abroad since Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis in 1915, Buchanan – more renowned in New York than back home – was met only by his family, with no reporters or jubilant crowd in sight.
  10. THE rematch was scheduled almost exactly a year later. Buchanan again won points, this time by way of unanimous decision, in another entertaining 15-round match up. The loss would be Laguna’s last act in a boxing ring; Buchanan had more big fights to come, continuing to fight for British, European and world titles.

September 25, 2014
September 25, 2014
ForemaninLondon

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TWENTY FOUR years ago today, a very special heavyweight was a performing guest of honour in London.

“I hope the fight goes maybe thirty seconds!”

The above line was quoted, only half-jokingly, by the legendary “Big” George Foreman, who was over in the UK to fight largely unknown Terry Anderson. What made the fight notable, was the fact that it would be the former heavyweight king’s first (and as it turned out, only) professional fight in England.

Well into his improbable comeback – Foreman would challenge heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield in his very next fight after Anderson – the 41-year-old did a fair amount of promoting and hyping the Anderson fight, the 24th fight since his astonishing return. The “30 seconds” line was fired at well-known TV and radio broadcaster Terry Wogan, with Foreman a guest on the mid-week TV show. And, as things turned out, the promotional work Foreman did for the September 25, 1990 fight proved far more entertaining than the bout itself. It also turned out that Foreman’s prediction wasn’t all that far off the mark.

Facing the 30-year-old, 19-3(17), Anderson at The New London Arena, Millwall in the nation’s capitol, Foreman – who was accompanied and co-trained by the equally legendary Archie Moore –  was fully expected to win, even though he was going in with, as Boxing News magazine mentioned, a possibly dangerous hitter. Yes, Anderson had lost his previous fight, to one-time Foreman victim Bobby Crabtree (KO by 5), but the man from Tampa, Florida could bang some. Was George taking a risky fight?

Not at all as things transpired. Coming in at his usual 260-or so pounds, Foreman, welcomed by an enthusiastic sell-out crowd, lumbered into action and, almost as soon as he let loose with a bomb, he got the job done. A swift right hand cracked Anderson on the chin, chopping him down. With just a second left in the very first round, Foreman added another KO victory to his now 70-fight pro career (just 2 losses). Watching the fight live, it looked as though Foreman’s right may have barely grazed Anderson, and some booing broke out.

“They’re booing, but you can’t mess about with a puncher,” said commentator Frank Bruno. For his part, when being interviewed post-fight, Foreman claimed he could still feel the pain in his hand, from where he had cracked Anderson. “The hardest right hand I’ve ever thrown,” George said, somewhat unconvincingly. Anderson was not asked for his take on the disappointing fight.

George hadn’t exactly lit up London with his all too easy win, but he had taken care of business yet again, and he was happy to have done it in Britain.

“You cannot be a heavyweight champion, or a former heavyweight champion, not having fought in London,” he said. “The Marques of Queensbury rules and all of that.”

Foreman’s portfolio was now indeed close to complete. All he would need for that was a title-regaining victory. As his millions of fans know, George didn’t beat Holyfield the following April, but he did finally regain the crown in late 1994, by sensationally knocking out Holyfield’s successor, Michael Moorer.

September 23, 2014
September 23, 2014
Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston

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ONCE a feared, seemingly invincible heavyweight terror, the ageing yet still heavy-handed Charles “Sonny” Liston was in action on this day, September 23, in 1969.

At the time of his third round knockout of one Sonny Moore, the former heavyweight king was thought to be aged around 39 (his exact date of birth remains uncertain to this day, although at the time he was thought to be two years younger) and “Old Stone Face” was climbing back up the heavyweight rankings in search of one last title shot.

As things turned out, this would be Liston’s final clean knockout victory and the last in 14-fight winning streak that stretched back to 1967. After despatching the 20-30-2 Moore – who Sonny had previously stopped by a third-round TKO the previous October – Liston would meet contender Leotis Martin for the newly created NABF title. That December, after running out of gas in a fight he was winning, old man Liston was brutally knocked out himself, with a hard right hand to the head leaving him face down on the mat in round nine.

Following that disaster, Liston, 49-4(38), would win one more bout – forcing the cut prone “Bayonne Bleeder” himself, Chuck Wepner to stay on his stool after nine bloody rounds in June of 1970. But his glory days were now a very distant memory. Approximately six months after the Wepner win, Liston’s decomposing body was found in his Vegas apartment. To this day, stories of murder, of a drugs overdose and of possible suicide abound, with no-one apparently knowing for sure how Liston died.

It was a sad end indeed for a man who once ruled the entire world.