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July 30, 2014
July 30, 2014

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TEN years ago today, in an arena where Muhammed Ali made his professional debut in Louisville, Kentucky, Britain’s Danny Williams shocked the boxing world, with a fourth-round knockout victory against boxing legend Mike Tyson.

Showing the kind of grit and determination the Brit exhibited against Mark Potter, when winning the British and Commonwealth title fight with only one arm, due to injury, Williams rode an early storm in the Tyson fight, to upset the odds.

Despite being written off, Williams appeared to be confident before the fight. ‘’I really believed that I could beat him. I trained so hard, I believed that he was taking me lightly. Really, I was so confident that I could beat him,” Williams said after the fight.

The confidence of Williams before the contest appeared different to many of Tyson’s previous opponents, who seemed to have lost the fight before it had even begun, due to the self-proclaimed baddest man on the planet’s fearsome reputation. But Williams wasn’t fazed by this: ‘’I was more nervous before my third fight with [Michael] Sprott than I was for Tyson. The reason being, for Sprott, because I’d already stopped him twice I was expected to win, but for Tyson, there was no expectancy at all. Most people thought I’d turn up and get wiped out in one or two rounds.”

Williams, being a 9-1 outsider, took Tyson’s dangerous punches and appeared on the verge of being stopped himself. Williams recalls the ferocious punching power delivered by Iron Mike: ‘’He was really sinking them in. He’s a really, really powerful guy. It’s amazing a guy of that size, that stature, throwing such powerful punches.’’

Williams’ victory over Tyson, a decade ago was even more unpredictable due to the Brixton heavyweight losing in a British title fight, three fights prior to the Tyson clash and, as we reported a decade ago, ‘’…it didn’t seem logical to think a fighter with a history of switching off mentally and who was bounced around by moderate hitter Sinan Samil Sam last year for the European title could overcome his nerves against…the master intimidator.’’

Despite his often frustrating performances on the domestic scene, Williams was eager to leave the British circuit and take on bigger international names. ‘’I’ve been boxing at British level for many years, fighting C class opponents. I’ve always wanted to fight the top Americans. And I had the opportunity against Mike Tyson. And I said I’m going to take it with both hands,’’ said Williams before the fight.

In taking the Tyson fight with both hands, and capitalising on Tyson being a shadow of his former self, showing grit and determination to force the stoppage, Williams managed to temporarily abandon the domestic scene, and was catapulted to world title level in his next fight, suffering an eighth round TKO defeat to then WBC heavyweight champion, Vitali Klitschko.

Despite failing to pick up one of the most prestigious titles in boxing, against Klitschsko, Williams still looks back on his eventful career with fond memories, seeing the Mark Potter and Mike Tyson fights as his proudest moments in the ring.

After the Tyson fight, Williams’ popularity increased, and rather than just go straight home after the fight, he appeared to enjoy the media attention and adulation, appearing on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. Other TV and sponsorship offers were also said to be coming in.

The former British and Commonwealth champion, and former European and WBC title challenger, has gone on to become a Close Protection Officer, legally carrying a firearm for work purposes. In 2012, Williams retired from boxing, claiming that his new-found profession would keep him busy and take away the temptation to climb back into a ring again, but it wasn’t long before he was back. He has since suffered a string of defeats and a few victories, against mediocre opposition.

At 41, Danny Williams continues to box, unsuccessfully chasing the high that he experienced on that great night in 2004, when beating a ring legend, Mike Tyson, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Julian Jackson

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1. TERRY NORRIS was just 22 when he entered the ring in Atlantic City, situated at the Covention Center, to challenge human bulldozer Julian Jackson for the WBA light-middleweight title on Sunday July 30 1989. The champion was six years older, and came into combat with a record of 37-1 (35) littered with unconsciousness. Jackson, from the Virgin Islands, was desperate to for a ‘big’ fight and already had eyes on the 160lb division – interestingly, the WBC already ranked him as their No.2 middleweight.

2. JACKSON’S lone defeat had come in a two-round thriller three years previously against the excellent Mike McCallum. Ultimately, Jackson paid the price for making mistakes, throwing caution to the wind after hurting the experienced champion early, and being stopped himself. Many felt the chance had come too soon for Jackson, and some felt the same about Norris’ chances in this bout.

3. THE bout was televised in America by ABC, offering Jackson – perhaps the most devastating single hitter in the sport – some rare exposure for his menace.

4. NORRIS boxed smartly in the opening session. He was a tremendous boxer-puncher, who rarely wasted a shot and controlled the distance effortlessly. He shook the Don King-promoted Jackson with a meaty portion of right hands, and swept the round on all three official cards.

5. JACKSON looked relaxed as he entered round two. Relaxed like an assassin who is about to fire a bullet through their unsuspecting target. With Norris retreating to the ropes, Jackson fired a right hand loaded with nastiness. Norris appeared to be out cold before the fall woke him. Gamely he fought the dizziness and clambered to his feet. But the referee, Joe Cortez, waved off the action with Norris in no position to resume.

6. “LET me say he did exactly what we thought he would do,” said Jackson afterwards. “We figured he would want to go the distance and show a lot of lateral movement. We worked on exactly how to solve that.”

7. THE flat-topped slugger demanded respect, and opportunities. “I have been in the shadows too long,” he sneered. “I have been the champion for two years but nobody knows who I am. That doesn’t bother me. My time will come.”

8. ALTHOUGH Jackson starched Herol Graham in his next world title fight – to claim the WBC middleweight strap – his time never did really come. Certainly he will be remembered as one of the biggest punchers in history, but he never did secure that defining fight he craved. By the time he lost twice to Gerald McClellan, in a 1993 thriller and a thrashing the following year, Jackson was past his best.

9. LIKE Jackson after being slayed by McCallum, Norris recovered from this defeat. He went on to craft a brilliant albeit erratic existence as the best light-middleweight of his era. He beat the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, John Mugabi, and Meldrick Taylor during his three reigns as 154lb champion.

10. SUPPORTING Jackson and Norris in Atlantic City was WBC light-welterweight boss Julio Cesar Chavez, who cruised to 62-0 with an emphatic walloping of the thoroughly over-matched Kenny Vice.


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1. THIRTEEN months before their July 28 1990 rematch, Jeff Harding rebounded from a torrid start to stop Dennis Andries in the 12th and final round, in an utterly thrilling WBC light-heavyweight title showdown (above). There had to be a sequel and it was set for the National Tennis Theatre in Melbourne and gave home advantage to the 25-year-old Harding. Although the Aussie had been the underdog first time round, he was expected to repeat his victory in the rematch.

2. ANDRIES, 36 years old according to most reports but rumours remained he was closer to 40, blamed losing the first fight on making weight. His trainer Emanuel Steward had gone away with Thomas Hearns for the Sugar Ray Leonard return and Andries, concerned he would not make the light-heavyweight limit, barely ate in the lead-up to his fight with Harding.

3. STEWARD blamed himself for Andries’ loss and wasn’t happy that part two was taking place in Australia. The veteran coach felt the only way they win would be via knockout. Andries promised to do just that: “I am not going into this fight blind. There is no way Harding can win this time. I just want to beat this guy up bad. I owe him one.”

4. BUT Harding was making ominous noises himself. “The thought of defeat scares me that much that I fight, not to win, but to not get beat,” said the champion. “I live boxing. I eat and sleep it. I live by myself so I know myself better than anyone.”

5. IT was another bruising encounter, and Andries started well again. Harding was getting tagged by the British fighter, his pawing jab being overrun by Andries’ clubbing right, and the Australian’s corner did not like what they saw. “Now look, son, you’d better make him stop that right hand,” said trainer, Jemal Hinton. “You’ve got to keep that left up high. You can do it. It’s hard. It’s not going to be easy but we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, didn’t we?”

6. IT looked like it was going to be the same scenario as their first encounter as Harding worked his way back. In the fifth, Harding rocked Andries to the ropes with an uppercut and by the sixth, the British fighter looked exhausted. At the halfway stage, two judges had Harding ahead while the other had them level at three rounds each.

7. BUT Andries was not finished yet. He staggered Harding with a bowling right hand. The Australian tried to fire back and the pair exchanged punishment but it was the younger man who wilted. Andries gambled, and emptied his energy tank, hurling vicious blows at Harding. The favourite’s eye ripped under the strain of the blasts, and after one final scything right hand rained down on Harding, he collapsed on his back.

8. ARTHUR MERCANTE, the storied referee, counted over Harding before completing the count as the beaten man tried to rise. It was all over. Andries had done what few believed he could. In the process, he made history, becoming the first British man to twice regain a world title. “I had to give this guy real pain,” said Andries. “He has never felt that before.”

9. “WE’RE very proud of him,” said British Boxing Board of Control General Secretary, John Morris. “He made history – and he was doing it for Britain.” He then suggested that this time, it was Harding who struggled to make the weight after it emerged he had to lose six pounds in the three days leading to the bout. “Harding wasn’t letting anyone into his training sessions in the last few days. Not the media or anyone.”

10. THERE would be a third fight the following year in Britain. It was another torrid struggle for both but, after 12 bruising rounds, Harding claimed back the WBC title by the slimmest of margins.

July 26, 2014
July 26, 2014

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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.


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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.


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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

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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.