On This Day: Mike McCallum flattens Donald Curry in five rounds

mike mccallum
Matt Christie reflects on one of the finest finishes in boxing history that took place on July 18, 1987 – Mike McCallum vs Donald Curry

1. WHILE he was still the unbeaten world welterweight champion, and regarded alongside Marvin Hagler as the best in boxing, Donald Curry agreed to step up in weight to challenge WBA light-middleweight boss, Mike McCallum. The bout was set for June 23, 1986 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, but before the contracts were signed, Curry had second thoughts about leaving his 147lb base.

2. WITHIN six months a weight-drained Curry was the victim of one of the biggest upsets of the 1980s, when he was trounced by Britain’s Lloyd Honeyghan in September 1986. After six rounds, an exhausted and bloodied Curry signalled he’d had enough.

3. CURRY moved up to light-middleweight for his next bout. By April of 1987, he had scored two comeback victories over useful duo Tony Montgomery and Carlos Santos. Both were disqualification wins that came in round five.

4. THE victory over Santos, a former IBF champion, was held in a temporary outdoor arena at Caesars Palace that had been erected for the Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvin Hagler bout that would take place two days later.

5. CURRY already had some beef with Leonard and his attorney, Mike Trainer. Curry claimed he had previously asked the duo for advice on moving up in weight to challenge McCallum or Hagler, and they had told him to stay at welterweight. Weeks later, Leonard announced he was coming back to challenge Hagler. Curry filed a lawsuit stating: “Leonard and Trainer conspired to prevent Curry from entering the middleweight divisions to assure Leonard’s unobstructed opportunity to fight the middleweight champion.” On the same day that the suit was filed, Leonard scored a sensational victory over Hagler.

6. “THE LONE STAR COBRA” decided to take on McCallum on July 18, 1987. The bout was again set for Caesars Palace, but this time, the fight took place. Curry – still regarded as one of the game’s premier fighters and the Honeyghan loss widely dismissed as a fluke – was installed as a 2-1 favourite.

7. DESPITE being the underdog, McCallum’s purse of $475,000 was greater than Curry’s $425,000 bounty. The champion, not normally a fast starter, planned to jump on Curry early. “I have studied him,” said McCallum. “He has a great right hand and a good hook. Let’s see if he can handle the pressure and my body shots.”

8. THAT “great right” almost floored McCallum in the second round. The champion dipped before steadying himself and would later say it was the closest he ever came to going down.

9. CURRY, boxing beautifully, was ahead on all cards going into the fifth but McCallum sensed the tide had turned in his favour. “The Bodysnatcher” had been firing menacing blasts into Curry’s midsection that he was increasingly desperate to defend. As the fifth began, McCallum had a plan…

10. TO start the round, McCallum launched a right to the body and, as Curry moved to cover, a gentle left hook to the head landed innocuously. McCallum noted the success. Later in the round, he feinted with a right to the body and Curry tried to cover, and leaned away. He did not see the hook flying towards his head. This time, McCallum had loaded the shot with everything he had. Curry took the full force of the blast and collapsed. The fight was over. It remains one of the best one-punch knockouts of all-time.

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