1. JORGE VACA was IBF and WBC welterweight champion Lloyd Honeyghan’s second choice as a challenger. The Mexican stepped in when IBF-rated Bobby Joe Young – fresh off a win over drug-ravaged Aaron Pryor – was deemed unsuitable by the British Boxing Board of Control. The British body refused to sanction 15-round bouts – the scheduled length of IBF bouts at the time – so only the WBC title would be at stake. With Young unranked by the governing body, and a fit and ready Vaca listed at No.4, the switch was made. That the WBC were hosting their convention in London during fight week was also a factor
2. HONEYGHAN was widely expected to win. The Briton – chasing countryman Jim Watt’s record of four successful defences of a world title – had been impressive since landing on the world scene 13 months before. Donald Curry, Johnny Bumphus, Maurice Blocker and Gene Hatcher had all been beaten, making Lloyd one of the pound-for-pound leaders in the sport.
3. BUT the quick blowout many had predicted never came. Honeyghan looked off form from the beginning and struggled to gain Vaca’s respect. In the third round, he walked on to a left hook, bobbed and weaved in a desperate attempt to clear his head, before being tagged and hurt again at the end of the session.
4. HONEYGHAN, primitive in his approach, clubbed wildly but only a few swings hit the target. Vaca, in comparison, was steady and methodical. However, it was a close fight. Honeyghan’s relentlessness was winning rounds but at the close of the seventh, he was staggered by a left hook and went to his corner with a nasty swelling under his right eye, and his nose decorated by blood.
5. THE fight ended in the eighth round amid confusion and controversy. An accidental head-clash left the Mexican with a gaping wound over his right eye. Blood cascaded from the cut and the action was curtailed. The referee deducted a point from Honeyghan, apparently responsible for the ‘accidental’ clash, but the perplexing punishment was not definitive. Vaca won via scores of 67-65 (twice), and 67-66.
6. STAUNCH Honeyghan supporters cried robbery, but Vaca had looked in control at the time of the stoppage. It emerged afterwards that the Englishman went into the contest with an injured right hand that caused him to clumsily switch to southpaw during the bout.
7. HONEYGHAN accepted his defeat publicly but was bitterly disappointed. He had been chasing a lucrative showdown – even the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard had been mentioned as a potential opponent – and a loss to Vaca was seen as a disaster. During darker moments, Honeyghan contemplated retirement, only to announce his decision to fight on two months later.
8. THE IBF declared their title vacant after the bout, compounding Honeyghan’s misery.
9. THE rematch was set for March 29, 1988 – a Tuesday night – and Honeyghan greeted the opening bell like a werewolf welcomes the moon. Savage, unkempt, and hungry for revenge, Lloyd tore into his opponent. Vaca was bleeding by the end of the opening round, and complaining that Honeyghan was out of control. After appearing in danger of punching himself into exhaustion, Honeyghan powered to victory as his rival collapsed at the end of round three and was counted out.
10. THE sensational win prompted many to believe Honeyghan was back to his best. But two fights later, he was beaten up by Marlon Starling. A subsequent loss to Mark Breland – in three rounds – effectively ended his career at world level. Vaca slipped quickly too. He was flattened by Simon Brown in his next outing and then outscored by a young Terry Norris. However, he did manage one last upset win, all but ending the career of Breland in 1991 via shocking sixth-round triumph.