1. LLOYD HONEYGHAN and Marlon Starling really did not like each other. Grudges in boxing are often manufactured to fuel interest, but the hatred between the Brit and the American was real. They fought on the same July 29 1988 bill in Atlantic City with Honeyghan defending his WBC welterweight title against Young Kil Chung, and Tomas Molinares challenging WBA boss Starling. The plan was for the rivals to win their separate bouts and set up a showdown against each other for . The card was called, ‘Double Trouble’. It turned out to be an accurate tagline.
2. IT was Honeyghan’s first defence of his second reign as champion. In his previous bout, he gained revenge over Jorge Vaca, stopping him in three rounds, after losing a contentious eight-round technical decision in 1987. Starling, meanwhile, had ruined top prospect, and 1984 Olympic gold medal winner Mark Breland, to claim his version of the gold.
3. CHUNG hit the scales at the early morning weigh-in a full pound over the 147lb limit. Even at the second attempt he was still four ounces over, but half-an-hour’s shadow boxing – in a sauna, no less – brought him just under the required mass. Honeyghan also appeared to be overweight when he weighed two ounces over the welterweight limit but after nature was allowed to take its course, the Londoner came it at exactly 147lbs.
4. HONEYGHAN was introduced as from his birthplace, Jamaica, rather than his British home. Even if their was confusion over which nation Lloyd was representing, big underdog Chung knew his opponent well and started quickly, landing a grazing right that sent Honeyghan to the deck. The knockdown was not scored.
5. TEMPERS were getting frayed as Honeyghan took control. At the end of the third round Chung clouted the champion as the bell rang only for Honeyghan to clobber the tall Korean in return. Honeyghan’s manager, Mickey Duff, shouted angrily that the challenger had landed the first illegal blow.
6. THE champion switched to southpaw in the fourth, and improved his work. Suddenly in the fifth, the fight was all over. Chung pushed down on Honeyghan, who launched a clumsy left uppercut, as the pair came together. The favourite’s blast landed below the belt. The Korean hit the canvas like he was trying to win a penalty, writhing round in theatrical style. He was given five minutes to recover but signalled his surrender after just three. Honeyghan was declared the winner via technical knockout.
7. “I DON’T think the punch was as hard as he made it out to be,” Honeyghan said afterwards. “There was no leverage in it – he was pulling my head down as I threw it, so it was only an arm punch. If he had really been hit as hard as all that he’d be with the doctors, not sitting here at a press conference. It was the only way he could win. He could have got up and tried to carry on – I would have – but he didn’t want to know.”
8. STARLING’S path to the Honeyghan showdown was even more chaotic. The fight with Molinares was dull until its outrageous conclusion. Neither man was in control as the sixth came to an end, but Starling’s work had been the crisper. As the bell sounded to end the session, Molinares launched the mother of all haymakers that clattered off the champion and sent him down, eyes glazed and body juddering with shock. Starling was out cold. And Molinares was declared the winner, despite replays showing that the fight-ending punch had been thrown after the bell.
9. IN the post-fight interview with Larry Merchant, Starling was in a wibbly-wobbly world of his own and had no recollection of being punched, or idea of what had happened. The WBA initially crowned Molinares as their champion before the bout was later called a ‘No-Contest’ after investigations showed conclusively that the punch was an illegal one.
10. DESPITE all the chaos, the Honeyghan-Starling showdown survived. In February 1989, the American dominated Honeyghan, stopping the WBC champion in round nine.