Junior Middleweight World Champions & Their Championship Fights (154lbs)
At the WBC convention on 17 September 1964, it was stated that they would recognise the WBA title holder, Sandro Mazzinghi, as champion for a year, but would expect him to then fight either as a welter or middle as the 154lbs division which began in 1962 was defunct as far as they were concerned. At that moment in time, Mazzinghi had 33 (24 inside the distance) wins and one defeat on his record, having won the title when beating Ralph Dupas on 7 September 1963 and defending it against the same man. However, it appeared that they continued to recognise champions from thereon in even if they were not involved in promotions, which was probably due to the fact that some of their members recognised the weight class.
11 December 1964. Sandro Mazzinghi w pts 15 Fortunato Manca
Venue: Sports Palace, Rome, Italy. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Giorgio Tinelli.
Fight Summary: Evenly balanced during the first eight rounds, despite the champion displaying greater speed and agility he was unable to get on top of Manca (152¾) who was always fighting back. Unfortunately, from thereon in the contest developed into a punch-up as Manca began to use his right hand more, and in the last round he almost got to Mazzinghi (153½) with vicious right hooks. Following the referee’s decision in favour of Mazzinghi, who should have stuck to his boxing instead of getting too involved, Manca felt that he might have done considerably better had he not injured his right hand in the days leading up to the fight. With the WBA and WBC belts being unified, this contest also involved my version of the 'world' title.
Having turned pro after winning a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games, Nino Benvenuti had run up 56 straight wins and was the obvious opponent for Mazzinghi in what would be a match between countrymen. A classy box-fighter, Benvenuti, who had beaten Isaac Logart, Jimmy Beecham (2), Victor Zalazar, Gaspar Ortega, Ted Wright, Denny Moyer, Juan Carlos Duran, Art Hernandez and Mick Leahy among others, was generally seen as the champion in waiting.
18 June 1965. Nino Benvenuti w co 6 (15) Sandro Mazzinghi
Venue: San Siro Stadium, Milan, Italy. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Salvatore Brambilla.
Fight Summary: This one started at a fair pace, with Mazzinghi (153½) going for the body while Benvenuti (153) held him at bay with his superb left hand in all rounds other than the third when he was hurt by blows to head and body. By the sixth it was felt that Mazzinghi had built up a small lead due to his pressing tactics, but at 2.40 of the session he was counted out after running into a terrific right uppercut to the jaw. Prior to the contest it was felt by the Mazzinghi camp that the best way to retain the title was to nullify Benvenuti’s left hand, but in doing so the champion ultimately paid the price when failing to spot the right coming.
17 December 1965. Nino Benvenuti w pts 15 Sandro Mazzinghi
Venue: Sports Palace, Rome, Italy. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Giacinto Aniello.
Fight Summary: Making a good start, the champion dropped Mazzinghi (153¾) in the second round with a sharp left, but unable to repeat the trick he ultimately had to be satisfied with a disputed points decision. The Ring Record Book gives the decision as being a unanimous one, whereas other reports indicate the sole arbiter as being the referee. Early on it appeared that Mazzinghi could not get past the Benvenuti (153¾) left hand, and by the sixth the latter had established a comfortable lead. In the seventh through to the ninth, however, Mazzinghi finally managed to find a way to break down his rival’s defence, working the head and body well with both hands before he was held up during the tenth and 11th. Although Mazzinghi had the best of the 12th and 13th sessions, Benvenuti was back in charge prior to the final bell. Despite the former champion being upset with the result most independents went with the winner.
Benvenutti’s next defence would be against Ki-Soo Kim, the OPBF middleweight champion, who was unbeaten in 24 contests with just two draws marring his record. A hard-working fighter, he was also a southpaw.
25 June 1966. Ki-Soo Kim w pts 15 Nino Benvenuti
Venue: Changchung Gym, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Nicholas Pope.
Scorecards: 74-68, 72-69, 68-72.
Fight Summary: Scoring with accurate southpaw left hooks to the body the challenger had the better of it early on when setting a pace that was difficult for Benvenuti (153) to work at his best, his solid right-hand punches often failing to hit the target. As the fight wore on, Kim (152¼) continued to work at a fast tempo as he bored in, and in the tenth Benvenuti was cut on his nose, being bothered by it from thereon in. The fight was held up for six minutes in the 13th when one of the ropes worked loose, but it brought no real respite to Benvenuti. Although the Italian tried to pull the fight out of the fire in the last two sessions, a badly-tiring Kim clutched and held on to the final bell.
17 December 1966. Ki-Soo Kim w pts 15 Stan Harrington
Venue: Changchung Gym, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Yung-Soo Chung.
Scorecards: 74-67, 73-69, 73-66.
Fight Summary: In front of his home crowd, Kim (153½) made a fair start to lead from the fourth round through to the eighth prior to tiring in the tenth. It was then that Harrington (154), who had showed great stamina and a strong right hand, had his best spell of the fight before he was cut over the left eye on being butted in the 13th. With Harrington still dangerous, Kim used a combination of hit-and-clinch tactics to get through the remaining two rounds, the unanimous decision in his favour being warmly greeted by the locals.
3 October 1967. Ki-Soo Kim w pts 15 Freddie Little
Venue: The Stadium, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Yung-Soo Chung.
Scorecards: 72-68, 71-69, 64-75.
Fight Summary: Cut on his forehead in the opening round was not the best of starts for the challenger, but banging away at Kim (153½) with solid, hurtful punches he often forced him to give ground. However, the southpaw Kim was soon back, bulldozing his way forward. Little (152), who had predicted a win inside four rounds, was finding Kim a tough nut to crack. Regardless of that, after hurting Kim in the tenth a long, jolting right to the head had him over in the 11th for the mandatory ‘eight’. Although Kim was groggy at the resumption he managed to remain upright before coming out strong for the 12th. Thereafter, there was a lot of clinching as both men tired. In the 15th Little again opened up with big punches to stun Kim, but it was not enough to influence two of the judges.
The next challenger for Kim would be the former champion, Sandro Mazzinghi. Since losing his titles to to Nino Benvenuti in June 1965, Mazzinghi had won 13 consecutive contests to take his record to 53 wins and three defeats.
26 May 1968. Sandro Mazzinghi w pts 15 Ki-Soo Kim
Venue: San Siro Stadium, Milan, Italy. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Harold Valan.
Scorecards: 71-67, 71-67, 68-73.
Fight Summary: With the champion starting in his normal roughhouse fashion, before the first round was over Mazzinghi (151½) was cut on the left eye by an unintentional butt which bled throughout. Having slipped over in the first Kim (151¾) was then dropped in the third following a barrage of blows to the head, but quickly recovered. Kim was soon back to using his head as an effective weapon, intentional or otherwise. Wading into Mazzinghi in the 11th, when Kim butted the Italian on the jaw he was again reprimanded. Having been on top from the seventh through to the 12th, Kim then ran out of steam, and Mazzinghi, fighting for all he was worth, came on strongly to take the decision.
25 October 1968. Sandro Mazzinghi nc 9 (15) Freddie Little
Venue: Sports Palace, Rome, Italy. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Herbert Tomser.
Fight Summary: Dealing out punishment for eight rounds, Little (151¼) worked the champion over with body shots, cutting him up around the eyes, nose and mouth, and dropping him in the fifth. As much as Mazzinghi (151¼) tried he could not stem the tide as a steady stream of jabs, hooks and straight punches came his way. It was no surprise when a tired and badly cut-up Mazzinghi did not come out for the ninth round, but when the referee declared a no contest on the grounds that he had acted under EBU rules there was uproar. Although EBU rules stated that a contest could be stopped before the halfway stage, the referee said that he considered the end of the eighth sufficient. This statement was debunked by the majority of officials in attendance on the grounds that EBU rules did not apply in this instance and that Mazzinghi had been beaten fairly and squarely.
A week or so later the WBC declared the title vacant and ruled that Mazzinghi and Little should meet again within 120 days. However, when Mazzinghi refused to meet Little on even-purse terms, on 20 January 1969 the WBC set up a fight between Little and Stanley Hayward to find a new champion. Meantime, the WBA vacated the title on 30 November when Mazzinghi failed to sign for the Little return by that date. When it was clear that Sandro Mazzinghi was going to move up to middleweight on a permanent basis, the WBA and the WBC gave their backing to a fight between Little and Stanley Hayward for the title. Due to it being a unification contest, my version of the 'world' title would also be at stake. Having already had two shots at the title, Little, a pro since 1957, was hoping that it would be third time lucky. With a record of 40 wins and four losses, among the men he had beaten were Charley Cotton, Charley Joseph and Denny Moyer. His opponent, Hayward, had 26 wins, three draws and three defeats on his slate and listed Percy Manning, Curtis Cokes, Tito Marshall, Benny Briscoe, Joe Shaw and Emile Griffith among his victims.
17 March 1969. Freddie Little w pts 15 Stanley Hayward
Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Harry Krause.
Scorecards: 73-63, 73-64, 74-62.
Fight Summary: Contesting the vacant title, Little (153½) carried the fight to Hayward (154) throughout, never giving him a moment's respite, while whacking in sharp left counters and solid combinations to head and body. Having been cut on the left eye in the third round and suffering from nasal damage in the 11th Hayward did his best to fight back, but was generally outpunched and well outscored. He had been badly staggered in the third, seventh and 11th, and his only real success had come when he caught Little with a cracking right to the jaw in the sixth. With this being a unification contest, my version of the 'world' title was also involved.
9 September 1969. Freddie Little w co 2 (15) Hisao Minami
Venue: Prefectural Gym, Osaka, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Nicholas Pope.
Fight Summary: Making a very fast start, Little (152¼) obviously intended to take his challenger out of the fight as quickly as possible as he chased him from the opening bell, jabbing out solid lefts. Still retreating into the second round, Minami (150), who had hardly landed a punch of note, was caught cold and dropped like a log to be counted out on the 1.26 mark.
20 March 1970. Freddie Little w pts 15 Gerhard Piaskowy
Venue: Sports Palace, Berlin, Germany. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: L. Sanchez Villard.
Fight Summary: Giving his challenger a boxing lesson, Little (152¾) sent out flicking lefts and solid rights without anyone realising that he had fractured his left hand as early as the second, least of all Piaskowy (153¼). The European champion had gameness but little else and failed to win a round according to one expert’s view, which was a bit strange when the sole arbiter, the referee, had Little winning by just one round at the finish. It seemed that Little was carrying Piaskowy, having him groggy on occasion and badly swollen on the left eye until the extent of his injury was known.
Little’s next defence would be against Carmelo Bossi, a man he had already beaten and one who was coming off a failed EBU welter challenge against Johann Orsolics. After reaching the Olympic Games final in 1960, Bossi had won the EBU welter title and had beaten Domenico Tiberia (2), Jean Josselin (2), Angel Robinson Garcia, Lennox Beckles and Fighting Mack. Coming into the Little fight his record stood at 38 wins, two draws and six losses from 46 contests.
9 July 1970. Carmelo Bossi w pts 15 Freddie Little
Venue: The Stadium, Monza, Italy. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Roland Dakin.
Fight Summary: Although the champion kept Bossi (153) well under control in the early rounds it was the latter who eventually made most of the running to build up a lead from the ninth onwards. Warned several times to keep his head up, Little (152) failed to raise his game when he needed to, relying on countering and clinching prior to being battered in the final session with solid right hooks to the jaw. Little, who was upset at the decision, claimed that the reason he had struggled through the latter stages was due to his left hand being injured yet again.
29 April 1971. Carmelo Bossi drew 15 Jose Hernandez
Venue: Sports Palace, Madrid, Spain. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Bernard Mascot.
Scorecards: 70-71, 70-70, 75-75.
Fight Summary: In a closely fought contest, the deaf-mute Hernandez (154), showing excellent movement as well as a fighting heart, went so close to becoming the new champion when taking Bossi (154) right down to the wire. Both men had opened slowly, testing each other out, and the taller Hernandez soon realised he would profit by using his longer reach when staying on the outside, while Bossi did his best work at close quarters. Bossi, who complained of hurting his right arm in the fifth, was the classier fighter and threw more punches, but with many of them missing the target the result was a fair one.
The next man up for Bossi would be Koichi Wajima, who had fought mainly in Japan and was an unknown quantity. As the reigning Japanese champion, he had 22 wins from 24 contests.
31 October 1971. Koichi Wajima w pts 15 Carmelo Bossi
Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Harold Valan.
Scorecards: 72-70, 68-67, 70-73.
Fight Summary: Carrying the fight to Bossi (153¼) from the start, Wajima (152¾) bobbed and weaved his way in to the attack in such a manner that belied the fact that he had only been boxing for three years. There was no doubt that Wajima’s unorthodox tactics completely took the wind out of the champion’s sails, perplexing him and bewildering him to the point that he was forced to hold at every opportunity. With Wajima getting stronger as the contest moved into the latter stages, Bossi was forced into all-out retreat, and at the final bell his face was reddened and swollen from the punches that he had endured.
7 May 1972. Koichi Wajima w rsc 1 (15) Domenico Tiberia
Venue: Fukuoka Sports Centre, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Yusaka Yoshida.
Fight Summary: Following a feeling-out period, with Wajima (153) soon pounding away at Tiberia (154) it was quickly seen that the latter had no immediate answer as to how to deal with the vicious blows coming his way. Having been backed to the ropes by the champion Tiberia was dropped by a right-left hook to the head, and on getting up at ‘nine’ he was under immense pressure before going down again. Although the referee had already counted to ‘three’, once the towel was thrown in by Tiberia’s corner he immediately called the fight off on the 1.49 mark to allow the Italian to receive treatment.
3 October 1972. Koichi Wajima w co 3 (15) Matt Donovan
Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Takeo Ugo.
Fight Summary: Wading in to Donovan (151¾) almost from the opening gong, throwing lefts and rights to the body, the champion took the first round by a wide margin. It was much of the same in the second round as Wajima (150½) continued to go for Donovan with hard punches to head and body, and apart from landing with a few straight lefts the latter was again very much on the run. With there being no respite in the third as Wajima kept his work-rate going, after 53 seconds of the session Donovan was counted out, having been dropped by a cracking left hook to the jaw following a flurry of heavy blows.
9 January 1973. Koichi Wajima drew 15 Miguel De Oliveira
Venue: Municipal Gym, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Hiroyuki Tezaki.
Scorecards: 73-71, 71-71, 71-71.
Fight Summary: While most of the cleaner punching came from De Oliveira (153½), the champion never stopped working despite being ineffectual in the early stages. However, Wajima (152), sending in blows from both hands, started to land more effectively from the tenth onwards as De Oliveira tired, and by sheer aggression he forced his way back into the contest. At the final bell neither man complained at the result.
19 April 1973. Koichi Wajima w pts 15 Ryu Sorimachi
Venue: Prefectural Gym, Osaka, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Nobumitsu Inukai.
Scorecards: 72-71, 72-71, 71-71.
Fight Summary: Crowding Sorimachi (151¼) from the start the aggressive champion, deciding as always that attack was the best form of defence, hammered away at his fellow countryman who was only too happy to fire back. With both men being known punchers the exchanges had the fans on the edge of their seats in anticipation, but it was the strength of Wajima (154) that eventually won the day by a slight margin. Although Sorimachi ripped through Wajima’s defences at times, especially with right crosses, it was the latter who finished the fresher.
14 August 1973. Koichi Wajima w rtd 12 (15) Silvano Bertini
Venue: Makomanai Ice Arena, Sapporo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Takeo Ugo.
Fight Summary: Making his fifth defence, Wajima (153¾) once again proved too strong for a challenger when forcing Bertini (153) to retire at the end of the 12th round. Although Bertini had taken a fair amount of punishment the end came as a surprise as he had gone well in the earlier sessions, scoring with solid body shots, and had never looked to be in trouble. After six rounds it had seemed as though the title was going to change hands, but from there onwards it was Wajima who picked it up, crowding his opponent and ripping in solid uppercuts. Bertini later explained that he had retired because his right hand was badly swollen and that blisters on his feet were making life even more difficult.
5 February 1974. Koichi Wajima w pts 15 Miguel De Oliveira
Venue: Metropolitan Gym, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Seiji Ebine.
Scorecards: 73-70, 74-71, 73-73.
Fight Summary: In what was a return match after De Oliveira (153¾) had drawn with the champion previously, Wajima (153) crowded the Brazilian from the opening bell and smashed in punches relentlessly. Not to be deterred, De Oliveira still made life difficult for Wajima, who was wild at times, when coming back strongly to mix it up. Unfortunately for the taller De Oliveira, having been cut on the right eye early on the sheer aggression of the champion eventually forced him to defend for all he was worth, but he still proved a dangerous foe when ramming accurate blows home. With some of the rounds being extremely hard fought it was only in the last three or four sessions that Wajima made sure of the verdict.
With a record of 48 wins, one draw and six losses, Oscar Albarado would be next for Wajima. A pro since 1966, and a solid puncher, he had beaten L. C. Morgan (2), Pedro Adigue, Raul Soriano and Rodolfo Martinez.
4 June 1974. Oscar Albarado w co 15 (15) Koichi Wajima
Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/WBC. Referee: Yusaku Yoshida.
Fight Summary: Lacking his normal drive, speed and power, the champion came unstuck against the hard-hitting Albarado (151¾) when caught early on by stinging left leads before being eventually knocked out at 1.54 of the final session. Starting well, the first three rounds were dominated by Albarado, with his best punch being a left uppercut to the body. However, by the seventh through to the 11th Wajima (153¾) was right back in the frame, especially when the American was deducted a point for going low. Although the next two rounds were hard fought, Wajima came on strongly in the 14th when nailing Albarado against the ropes, but faded badly in the 15th when he was dropped by a long right to the head for the compulsory ‘eight’. Back on his feet, Wajima was soon down again when hurt by a series of combination punches, and on getting up he was quickly floored again, this time for the full count.
With the weight division being recognised throughout the world of boxing for the first time in October, and Albarado holding both of the main titles, he should be recognised as being the world champion.
8 October 1974. Oscar Albarado w rsc 7 (15) Ryu Sorimachi
Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: World. Referee: Dick Young.
Fight Summary: Albarado (154) soon made his presence felt when meeting up with Sorimachi (152¾), and after a hard-hitting opener Sorimachi was dropped in the second by a solid left for the statutory ‘eight’. By the fourth it looked all over for Sorimachi, who had been chased from pillar to post, but he remained upright before being smashed down by a heavy one-two in the fifth. Now bloody and battered, when Sorimachi tried to get on his bike he was soon hunted down, being decked by Albarado again in the seventh prior to the referee coming to his rescue at 2.17 of the session.
Having made short work of his first challenger, Albarado was next matched against Koichi Wajima, the man he had taken the WBA and WBC belts from. Coming into the contest with a record showing 29 wins, one draw and three defeats, Wajima was quietly confident.
21 January 1975. Koichi Wajima w pts 15 Oscar Albarado
Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: World. Referee: Dick Young.
Scorecards: 69-67, 70-69, 74-68.
Fight Summary: A return contest saw Wajima (153), initially changing his style to completely confuse the champion, using evasive tactics to bob and weave away from trouble instead of mixing as previously. Making Albarado (154) miss badly on numerous occasions Wajima was well in front by the sixth before deciding to go toe-to-toe. Thereafter, both men fought on strongly and, although Albarado did better, Wajima maintained his lead to run out a good winner. There were no knockdowns this time round, Wajima stating the following day that his decision to hold back his punches until the last moment had come from watching Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman.
When Wajima decided against meeting Miguel De Oliveira, who had already been involved in two very close fights against him, the WBC declared the title vacant on 25 February. Wajima’s next challenger would be Jae-Doo Yuh, the current OPBF middleweight champion. Having never fought outside South Korea, although little was known of him he carried a record of 37 wins, one draw and one loss and was said to be more than useful.
7 June 1975. Jae-Doo Yuh w rsc 7 (15) Koichi Wajima
Venue: Municipal Gym, Kitakyushi, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Yusaku Yoshida.
Fight Summary: Both men started fast, but it was the champion who was the most successful early on as he chased the taller Yuh (154) down when trying to get to close quarters where he could work him over. However, the tricky Yuh had other ideas, Wajima (154) being left bleeding from the left ear in round three. At the end of the fifth there was a sensation when Wajima was floored moments after the bell rang to end the session. Following that, it was felt Wajima was not fully recovered by the start of the sixth. When Yuh came on strong in that session, although Wajima survived the round he was being hit and wobbled by fast combinations. It was clear that Wajima was now on his last legs, and in the seventh after being battered and dropped three times the referee was forced to call a halt on the two-minute mark under the ‘three knockdowns in a round’ ruling.
11 November 1975. Jae-Doo Yuh w rsc 6 (15) Masahiro Misako
Venue: Sumpu Arena, Shizuoka, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Takeo Ugo.
Fight Summary: Using hit-and-run tactics, Misako (153½) bewildered the champion with speedy punches in the opening two sessions before getting back on his bike and using every inch of the ring. By the third, however, with Yuh (154) beginning to find the range there were some good exchanges. Expecting to get to grips with Misako in the fourth, Yuh was badly wobbled by a big right to the head, and although it took him a while to find his bearings by the fifth he was finally firing on all cylinders, especially when smashing in solid body shots. After those punches weakened Misako, who for the first time was not moving so well, Yuh took advantage of the situation to batter the challenger to the canvas three times in the sixth to enforce the ‘three knockdowns in a round’ ruling on the 2.16 mark.
Looking to become a three-time champion at the weight, Koichi Wajima would be Yuh’s next challenger. Having come unstuck in their previous meeting, it was clear that Wajima had to control Yuh and not allow him to have a free rein on the inside.
17 February 1976. Koichi Wajima w rsc 15 (15) Jae-Doo Yuh
Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Jae-Duk Kim.
Fight Summary: Surprisingly one-sided, Wajima (153) was always in the face of the champion, throwing punches from a crouching position and forcing him to back off almost throughout. From the second through to the fourth, Wajima threw combinations of lefts and rights at Yuh (153), and on stepping up the pace he continued to march forward for round after round, smashing in hard blows and often scoring at will. Way down on the cards, Yuh gamely stuck to the task, despite taking a pounding, before a thundering left sent him crashing in the 15th. Although Yuh managed to get to his feet the referee continued with the count while he was leaning over the ropes, the fight coming to an end at 1.47 of the session.
Having regained his title, Wajima’s next challenger would be Jose Manuel Duran, a clever all-round fighter who had 59 wins, nine draws and four defeats from 72 contests. A former EBU champion, Duran had beaten Angel Robinson Garcia, Jean Josselin, Domenico Tiberia, Giancarlo Garbelli, Eckhard Dagge and Johann Orsolics.
18 May 1976. Jose Manuel Duran w co 14 (15) Koichi Wajima
Venue: Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Yusaku Yoshida.
Fight Summary: Having already had a crack at the WBC version of the title the challenger did better this time around when meeting up with Wajima (154). Although Wajima started the first round strongly, Duran (154) soon picked up the pace before opening up with combinations and solid rights to the head in the second prior to dropping the Japanese fighter for the mandatory ‘eight’ with a right to the jaw. From the third through to the 12th, Duran, not known as a puncher, continued to catch the advancing Wajima with shots to the head, while the latter concentrated on the body. In the 13th Duran made his move, sending Wajima down with blows to the head from both hands, and even though the champion made it to the end of the round he was through. Tearing out of his corner in the 14th, Duran threw punch after punch at Wajima, who was sent down to be counted out on the 50-second marker after taking a crashing right to the jaw.
Duran’s first defence would be against Miguel Castellini, a former undefeated Argentine champion who had 61 victories to his name, with ten draws and five loses, and had beaten Raul Soriano, Matt Donovan, Carlos Marks, Ramon La Cruz and Norberto Cabrera.
8 October 1976. Miguel Castellini w pts 15 Jose Manuel Duran
Venue: Sports Palace, Madrid, Spain. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.
Scorecards: 146-142, 147-144, 146-147.
Fight Summary: Boxing on the back foot, once Duran was knocked down in the third round following a right to the head, and realising the added power of Castellini (153¼), the champion stayed in the countering position for the rest of the contest. Duran (153) became even more negative after a clash of heads in the fifth left him cut on the forehead and Castellini suffering a two-inch gash over the left eye. Instead of picking it up at that point, Duran continued to land light, tapping blows to the head whilst on the run, while Castellini, always looking to make the fight, put in a fast finish over the last few sessions to make sure of the decision.
The unrated Eddie Gazo, the WBC Fecarbox champion, whose record showed 30 wins, two draws and four losses would be Duran’s first challenger. Little was known of him other than he had lost two of his first three contests and had five quick wins in his last five.
5 March 1977. Eddie Gazo w pts 15 Miguel Castellini
Venue: National Baseball Stadium, Managua, Nicaragua. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Jay Edson.
Scorecards: 148-144, 148-143, 149-144.
Fight Summary: The aggressor throughout, Gazo (153) landed the hardest punches of the fight and totally confused the champion with his unorthodox style, keeping him off balance for much of the time. After Castellini (151) was cut over the left eye in the seventh he allowed Gazo to dominate continuously, while often throwing nothing back. For such an experienced fighter as Castellini it was a strange way to make his first defence, and following the contest he admitted that he could not get started and did not seem to have any real interest.
7 June 1977. Eddie Gazo w rsc 11 (15) Koichi Wajima
Venue: Martial Arts Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Jay Edson.
Fight Summary: Right from the start the challenger did not appear to be his normal self, despite confusing Gazo (152½) with his stance and sudden punching from a crouching position, and as the contest proceeded his power gradually diminished. Both men suffered cuts early on, Wajima (154) on the forehead in the second and Gazo over the left eye in the third. From the fourth through to the tenth, with Gazo piling up points as Wajima tired, the deficit became even greater. This was especially noticeable when Wajima was being belted against the ropes in the eighth and ninth sessions. Right on the bell to end the tenth Wajima was dropped by a right to the jaw, and although he came out for the 11th he was soon in further trouble. After being floored for the second time, by a cracking left hook, when Wajima was back on his feet the referee halted the contest after the latter’s corner threw the towel in on the 45-second mark to save their fighter from taking further punishment.
13 September 1977. Eddie Gazo w pts 15 Kenji Shibata
Venue: Martial Arts Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Carlos Berrocal.
Scorecards: 71-69, 72-71, 73-71.
Fight Summary: The southpaw challenger made a fair start when shooting jabs into the five-inch shorter Gazo (153¾), but although it took a round or so to sort himself out by the fourth the latter was beginning to work the body and having some success. At this point Shibata (153½) was lost when it came to infighting, preferring to keep Gazo at distance where he could connect with his longer punches. The fight had evened itself out in the latter stages, and although Shibata had a very good 13th he then faded from sight as Gazo moved up a gear to win a close decision.
18 December 1977. Eddie Gazo w pts 15 Jae-Keum Lim
Venue: Sunin Gym, Inchon, South Korea. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Marty Denkin.
Scorecards: 147-146, 147-144, 148-150.
Fight Summary: In his third defence, Gazo (153¾), using his favoured hit-and-run tactics, just about got home against Lim (152½) on a split decision. There were no knockdowns in what was a dreary affair, and although Lim got through with some good punches he was more often than not tied up when getting set. That Lim got a crack at the title at all was surprising as he had been knocked out in the seventh round of his previous contest by Jae-Doo Yuh.
Gazo’s next challenger would be the unrated Masashi Kudo, the Japanese middleweight champion, who had never fought outside Japan and had 19 wins from 19 contests.
9 August 1978. Masashi Kudo w pts 15 Eddie Gazo
Venue: City Gym, Akita, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Marty Denkin.
Scorecards: 146-143, 147-145, 145-146.
Fight Summary: Being cut over the left eye as early as the second did not do the champion many favours, but luckily for him many of the left jabs and one-twos tossed in by Kudo (153¼) throughout the opening four rounds missed the target. Boxing out of a crouch as normal, Gazo (152¼) seemed strangely lethargic before getting home in the fifth with some wide rights. Although working well inside with short hooks and uppercuts over the next round or so Gazo eventually allowed himself to be pegged back again. By the 11th Gazo was fading, being deducted a point in the 12th for holding and, although Kudo began to increase his lead in the eyes of two of the judges, the last three sessions saw more negative action as both men continually hit and grabbed.
13 December 1978. Masashi Kudo w pts 15 Ho Joo
Venue: Prefectural Gym, Osaka, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Paul Field.
Scorecards: 148-144, 149-144, 145-148.
Fight Summary: Although expected to go forward from the opening bell, Kudo (153½) began cautiously and was happy to pick up points from distance while having a good look at his challenger. From the fourth onwards, Joo (154), a hard-hitting counter-puncher, perked up when sending in left hooks to Kudo’s face, and at the same time was looking to smash in heavy uppercuts. By the eighth it looked as though Kudo had finally worked Joo out, darting in to land fast one-twos until getting on the back foot again, with the latter lacking the mobility to catch him. While the ninth through to the 11th were slow rounds, Kudo piled up more points in the 12th with great combinations to Joo’s head before things became extremely messy with lots of clinching as the champion ran the fight down.
14 March 1979. Masashi Kudo w pts 15 Manuel Ricardo Gonzalez
Venue: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Luis Sulbaran.
Scorecards: 148-147, 146-144, 146-146.
Fight Summary: Bouncing left jabs off the champion repeatedly to take most of the opening seven rounds, Gonzalez (153) showed the Japanese crowd just what a skilled operator he was despite his lack of a concussive punch. Gonzalez was also adept at defending when on the ropes while sending in countering blows from both hands at the same time. Unable to connect with Gonzalez solidly other than on the odd occasion, Kudo (154) often resorted to sending out batches of punches in the hope of catching his man, and even when he went flat out in the last two sessions he appeared not to make up much leeway. When the scores were announced there were gasps of amazement, and in order to save face the WBA fixed up a return almost immediately.
20 June 1979. Masashi Kudo w rsc 12 (15) Manuel Ricardo Gonzalez
Venue: City Gym, Yokkaichi, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.
Fight Summary: Although he had controversially outpointed Gonzalez (152) three months earlier, the champion started better in the return match when sending in sharp one-twos to the head and not hanging around to trade. Gonzalez came back well in the fifth through to the ninth when countering with solid rights to the head as Kudo (153¾) missed with stinging left leads, and in the tenth he sent the latter staggering into the ropes with solid lefts and rights. Hammering away non-stop at Kudo it seemed as though Gonzalez was on the verge of winning, but having absorbed everything thrown at him the champion suddenly cut loose, a cracking left to the Argentine’s jaw just before the bell changing the course of the fight. Badly stunned, Gonzalez did not know where he was from that point on. After taking a beating in the 11th, when Gonzalez was staggering around the ring in the 12th the referee halted the contest after his corner threw in the towel nine seconds into the session to save him from taking further punishment.
As the outstanding challenger for over a year, Ayub Kalule would finally get his chance of a shot at Kudo. This followed a WBA demand on 25 July that the latter defend his title against the Ugandan within 90 days. Kudu had been reported to have signed up to meet Emiliano Villa which, if true, was stopped in its tracks. The Commonwealth middleweight champion was unbeaten in 30 (17 inside the distance) contests and had defeated Elisha Obed, Rudy Robles, Alvin Anderson, Miguel Castellini, Jose Hernandez, Milton Owens, Sugar Ray Seales, Kevin Finnegan, Ho Joo, Monty Betham and David Love, all top men. A southpaw who was feared for his ability with right hooks and uppercuts, Kalule was a big pre-fight favourite.
24 October 1979. Ayub Kalule w pts 15 Masashi Kudo
Venue: Prefectural Gym, Akita, Japan. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Bobby Ferrara.
Scorecards: 149-139, 146-139, 149-145.
Fight Summary: With the upright champion adopting a defensive approach, Kalule (153¾) took charge from the opening bell. Cutting the ring down from the second through to the fourth Kalule began firing in some solid shots, the prime one being the southpaw straight left to the body. In the fifth, realising that he was in trouble, Kudo (154) started to let straight rights go, one of which had Kalule stumbling. Although Kudo began to punch it out later in the fight, invariably he was coming off worse when being caught by heavy counters. Despite his left eye beginning to close Kudo did reasonably well in the 12th and 13th, but when Kalule dropped him on the bell to end the 13th it seemed to be all over. Surprisingly, Kalule did not press his advantage in the 14th or the 15th, being happy to cruise to victory.
6 December 1979. Ayub Kalule w pts 15 Steve Gregory
Venue: Brondby Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Tony Perez.
Scorecards: 149-135, 150-135, 150-147.
Fight Summary: Having floored Gregory (152) in the opening round with a looping southpaw right, whenever the champion got the opportunity he would force his rival to the ropes in order to work him over with body shots. When Kalule (153) upped his work-rate in the third, pumping in blows to Gregory’s body before firing in uppercuts, the latter had no defence for the punches coming his way other than covering up or retreating if he could. Gregory, who was as game as they come, had some success in the 11th and 12th with good left hands, but before too long he was again taking punishment. The fight entered the final session with Kalule still trying to win inside the distance, Gregory being under attack from a barrage of uppercuts to the head before making it to the bell.
17 April 1980. Ayub Kalule w rtd 11 (15) Emiliano Villa
Venue: Brondby Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Joe Santarpia.
Fight Summary: In a battle of southpaws, Kalule (153½) took it relatively easy at the start as Villa (150¾) made the early running, concentrating on the body while looking to put the champion under pressure. By the fourth, however, Kalule was beginning to take over when making good use of his jab. From there on, although Villa was still in the contest, his work was becoming wild and less effective. As the fight moved on, Kalule was more and more in control, his jabs and hooks slowly but surely grinding Villa down, and at the end of the 11th session the latter's corner advised the referee that he had suffered enough. At the time of closure Villa had cuts over both eyes and a badly swollen mouth.
12 June 1980. Ayub Kalule w pts 15 Marijan Benes
Venue: The Stadium, Randers, Denmark. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Max Stranfeld.
Scorecards: 149-145, 149-142, 149-147.
Fight Summary: Starting well, the southpaw jab finding Benes (153) time and again in the opening five rounds, the champion built up a good lead before the stocky Yugoslav came on strongly in the sixth. Piling in, throwing hooks from both hands, Benes started to make life difficult for Kalule (153½), and if he had been wearing normal gloves other than the ten-ounce variety agreed for the contest there might have been a different result. As it was, Kalule boxed his way back into a good lead and survived a strong finish from Benes in the last two sessions to finish a worthy winner.
6 September 1980. Ayub Kalule w pts 15 Bushy Bester
Venue: Athletics Stadium, Aarhus, Denmark. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Davy Pearl.
Scorecards: 147-138, 147-138, 147-139.
Fight Summary: Although Bester (152½) was not expected to pose much of a threat to Kalule (153¼) he provided a real challenge, almost having the latter over in the sixth round when he had him on the ropes bewildered and hurt. While Kalule had the class and moved up a gear from thereon in, Bester never gave up and was always in there working away against his fellow southpaw, leaving him badly bruised and cut over the left eye. Not being a puncher did not help Kalule’s cause. Despite repeatedly landing hooks and uppercuts to Bester’s head, unable to stop the South African in his tracks he ultimately had to settle for a points victory. Making the fight from start to finish, Bester, who was cut over the right eye towards the end, left the ring to great applause, having forced Kalule to fight on his terms.
Kalule’s next defence would be against Sugar Ray Leonard, the 1976 Olympic champion and current WBC welterweight champion. With just one defeat at the hands of Roberto Duran and 29 victories on his record he was seen as the future of boxing, having beaten Duran in a return and eliminated all of the top welters around.
25 June 1981. Sugar Ray Leonard w rsc 9 (15) Ayub Kalule
Venue: The Astrodome, Houston, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBA/Lineal. Referee: Carlos Berrocal.
Fight Summary: Moving up a weight division to challenge Kalule (153) for the junior middleweight title, Leonard (153) had to overcome a few initial problems. However, once he had settled and made the body his target the writing was on the wall for the Ugandan southpaw. Although Kalule came back with hooks and uppercuts from both hands at times Leonard proved to be more versatile, and in the ninth a series of blows had the champion rocking before a right-left-right combination dropped him. Back on his feet but looking decidedly shaky, the referee decided that Kalule was not fit to continue and the fight was over. Announced as a stoppage at 2.59 of the ninth round, in reality it was effectively six seconds into the interval as the timekeeper had forgotten to ring the bell. On winning, Leonard became a two-weight world champion.
Leonard relinquished the WBA and lineal titles on 22 September to concentrate on unifying the welterweight division. My version of the 'world' title would next be on the line when the top-ranked Wilfred Benitez’s next defence of the WBC title would be against Thomas Hearns, the division’s number two man. A former WBA welterweight champion, having lost to the incomparable Sugar Ray Leonard in what was his only defeat in 36 contests, Hearns was a vicious puncher who more often than not capitalised on his huge reach to take opponents out. A two-weight world title holder, having previously been an undefeated NY and WBA junior welterweight champion and WBC welterweight champion, Benitez had 44 wins, one draw and one defeat on his slate.
3 December 1982. Thomas Hearns w pts 15 Wilfred Benitez
Venue: The Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Octavio Meyran.
Scorecards: 144-137, 144-139, 142-142.
Fight Summary: Using a brilliant left lead and helped by an eight-inch-reach advantage, Hearns (153¾) picked his punches with cool precision to outbox the champion in all but the middle rounds. How one judge had them level on points at the end beggared belief. Despite having a point deducted in the fourth for pulling Benitez’s head down and being counted on in the ninth after slipping over, Hearns appeared to win handsomely. Benitez (152), who was dropped in the fifth by a right to the jaw, had great difficulty in catching Hearns, and even when he managed to get to close quarters he was more often than not outpunched. Not an exciting contest by any means, but in Hearns, who became a two-weight world champion on winning, the New York-born Benitez had undoubtedly met his match.
11 February 1984. Thomas Hearns w pts 12 Luigi Minchillo
Venue: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Waldemar Schmidt.
Scorecards: 120-109, 120-110, 118-109.
Fight Summary: Despite the challenger being game to the core he lacked the power to really trouble Hearns (153¾), something that gave the latter an ideal platform on which to exhibit his skill as well as keeping his suspect right hand under wraps. Minchillo (153), who finished with a badly swollen left eye, was always trying. However, even when Hearns appeared to be tiring he could not close him down, and although fighting hard in the tenth and 11th he was a spent force in the final session.
15 June 1984. Thomas Hearns w rsc 2 (12) Roberto Duran
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.
Fight Summary: Having finally recognised that his right hand would stand up under duress, the much taller champion marched into Duran (154), using his left lead as a pathfinder. Keeping up the pressure, before the end of the opening round Hearns had smashed Duran down with a right to the jaw. Having made it to his feet, Duran, cut over the left eye, was soon put down again by a short left prior to being saved by the bell. Although he looked to have recovered during the interval it could be quickly seen that Duran was still dazed, and Hearns (153¼) took full advantage of the situation when blasting in punches to the head from both hands. With Hearns in full flow it was no surprise that after a big right to the chin had dropped the Panamanian like a log, the referee did not even bother to count, calling it off on the 1.07 mark.
15 September 1984. Thomas Hearns w rsc 3 (12) Fred Hutchings
Venue: Civic Centre, Saginaw, Michigan, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Fight Summary: Standing 6’2”, an inch taller than the champion, Hutchings (153¾) gave it his best shot but was simply outgunned by a man at the top of the tree. Coming out with the left jab, looking to find a way inside, Hutchings was nailed by countering left hooks and solid rights as Hearns (154) got into gear, being dropped twice before the first round was over. Although Hutchings made a fair fist of it in the second, despite being hurt, it was already clear that he was not going to be around much longer, and when Hearns started to throw punches from both hands without respite the referee stepped in with four seconds of the third session remaining. In no fit state to continue, Hutchings was damaged inside the mouth and had swellings and cuts around both eyes.
23 June 1986. Thomas Hearns w rsc 8 (12) Mark Medal
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Davy Pearl.
Fight Summary: Away from the division for nearly two years, his last two contests being at middleweight, Hearns (154) started well enough when flooring Medal (154) with a heavy right to the jaw in the first round. Getting back on his feet and forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’, Medal had difficulty lasting out the session. Allowed to continue, Medal made his way into the eighth where he shipped plenty of punishment without going down as Hearns hit him at will at times. The fact that Hearns damaged his right hand in the second probably explains why Medal remained upright for so long, but at 2.20 of the eighth the referee stopped the contest when it became apparent that the latter had no chance of winning.
Hearns relinquished the WBC title on 28 September due to difficulty making the weight. Further to that, the fourth-ranked Duane Thomas and John Mugabi, rated at number one, were matched to find a new WBC champion in a contest that should also be seen as involving my version of the vacant 'world' title. Coming off the back of a bad defeat at the hands of Marvin Hagler, his first loss, and dropping down a division, Mugabi had previously run up 25 wins, all inside the distance, and had beaten Eddie Gazo, Frank Fletcher and Earl Hargrove. Thomas was also a good puncher, having scored 28 victories, with 21 of them coming by the short route. Thus far, Buster Drayton had been the only man to beat him, while his biggest win had come at the expense of Sumbu Kalambay.
5 December 1986. Duane Thomas w rsc 3 (12) John Mugabi
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.
Fight Summary: Fighting for the right to be Thomas Hearns’ successor, it was Thomas (152¼), a stablemate of the latter, who came though the odds against the vicious, hard-punching Mugabi (153½) to become the new champion. Although rocked by heavy rights in the second and third rounds, Thomas fought a cool and patient fight, while waiting to land his left hook when Mugabi threw wide punches. Several times Thomas was hurt by the power of Mugabi’s blows, but in the third the tide changed when the latter was sent into the ropes after being caught by several left hooks. With Thomas now rampant, Mugabi, claiming he had been thumbed in the left eye, suddenly turned away from him and leaned over the ropes, whereupon the referee stopped the fight after 56 seconds of the session. While Mugabi’s damaged left eye was clear for all to see afterwards, the referee was adamant that it was a punch that had caused the damage.
Matched to challenge Thomas at Caesar’s Palace on 6 April 1987, Lupe Aquino stopped the late substitute, Davey Moore, inside five rounds after the champion had pulled out injured a week earlier. With 30 wins (22 inside the distance) and one draw from 33 contests, despite one of his two defeats coming at the hands of Marlon Starling, Aquino had earlier beaten Steve Hearon and had made rapid strides to earn a title shot.
12 July 1987. Lupe Aquino w pts 12 Duane Thomas
Venue: Merignac Sports Complex, Bordeaux, France. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Larry O’Connell.
Scorecards: 116-111, 117-110, 114-113.
Fight Summary: A big underdog, Aquino (154) surprised the champion when taking the fight to him right from the opening bell. Aquino then shook Thomas further when putting him down in the second round with a big left hook. Although Thomas (154) made it to his feet and fought back bravely, landing some big punches of his own, he was unable to quell the spirited Aquino, and even when it looked as though he might be getting on top the latter came back strongly in the eighth. After the ninth was evenly contested, Thomas faded badly in the remaining three sessions, being knocked down by a solid right in the last and finishing with cuts over both eyes to go with badly swollen features.
Aquino’s first defence would be against the European champion, Gianfranco Rosi, who was tall and awkward but effective. With a record comprising 41 wins and two defeats, Rossi had beaten Perico Fernandez and Chris Pyatt, but had come unstuck against Lloyd Honeyghan.
2 October 1987. Gianfranco Rosi w pts 12 Lupe Aquino
Venue: Sports Palace, Perugia, Italy. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 115-114, 115-114, 118-113.
Fight Summary: Using the ring well and showing great judgement, the challenger made Aquino (154) look clumsy at times as he jabbed, countered and often had the better of matters on the inside with right uppercuts through the middle. There was no doubting that Aquino was the bigger puncher of the pair, but having difficulty in finding the target on a regular basis he only threw one punch at a time while Rosi (153½) was always prepared to work. Overcoming a bad cut on his right eye, suffered in the fourth round, Rosi went on the attack in the 11th and 12th, punching it out with Aquino and forcing him up against the ropes to earn an ovation at the final bell.
3 January 1988. Gianfranco Rosi w rsc 7 Duane Thomas
Venue: Sports Palace, Genoa, Italy. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Larry O’Connell.
Fight Summary: Making his first defence and against all expectation Rosi (153¼) was soon tearing into Thomas (154) with wide left hooks and overarm rights that completely took the latter by surprise. By the fourth both men were cut, Rosi between the eyes and Thomas over the right eye, but continued to trade. Having been taken out of his stride, Thomas was beginning to fade by the sixth, and in the seventh after being rocked by heavy rights he was slammed into the ropes by a barrage of blows as Rosi opened up with both hands. With it being clear that Thomas was through for the night, the referee called the fight off just as the American was slumping to the canvas. The finish was timed at 57 seconds.
The next man to challenge Rosi would be the former world welterweight champion, Donald Curry, who had beaten Carlos Santos and Lupe Aquino since moving up. With a record of 29 wins and two defeats, the stylish Curry was still a force to be reckoned with.
8 July 1988. Donald Curry w rtd 9 Gianfranco Rosi
Venue: The Portosole, San Remo, Italy. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Octavio Meyran.
Fight Summary: The champion started well enough when shaking Curry (153¾) with a right hand in the opening round but after that it was all downhill as the latter began to put his punches together. Knocked down by a short left hook in the second, Rosi was floored again in the fourth, three times in the seventh and once in the eighth. It was now clear that Rosi could not take Curry’s punches and after his legs were buckled by another big right in the ninth it had become a hopeless position. Thus it was no surprise when he retired, claiming an injured hand, at the end of the session. Curry, despite being cut over both eyes at the finish, obviously hit too hard for Rosi, and while not the classy box-fighter of a year or so earlier he was far too good for the Italian. Curry became a two-weight world champion on winning.
The European champion, Rene Jacquot, a stand-up fighter with hands held high, would be Curry’s first defence. With 23 wins, one draw and nine defeats on his record, it was hard to see Jacquot as a world title challenger, but he was unbeaten in his last 11 contests and had defeated Nino La Rocca, Luigi Minchillo and Romolo Casamonica.
11 February 1989. Rene Jacquot w pts 12 Donald Curry
Venue: Sports Palace, Grenoble, France. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Jean Deswert.
Scorecards: 117-113, 118-115, 118-116.
Fight Summary: Often outhustled and outpunched, the champion was a shell of the man who won the welterweight title a few years back, having great difficulty stemming the tide as the vigorous Jacquot (153) took over in the sixth and proceeded to build up points. Although he made a reasonable start, taking four of the opening five rounds, Curry (154) had difficulty landing effectively once the Frenchman got into his stride. Curry also had problems lifting himself when he needed to. By the eighth it was clear that the flat-footed Curry was tiring badly, and Jacquot took full advantage of the situation when driving his rival around the ring, landing lefts and rights to the head. Occasionally, Curry smashed in solid blows but the mechanical Jacquot, despite being shaken up at times, merely backed off until coming again.
Jacquot’s first defence would be against John Mugabi, who had already been stopped by Duane Thomas in a previous crack at the title. He had also been kayoed by Marvin Hagler when challenging for the middleweight crown. However, with 33 wins, all won inside the distance, he spelt danger to any man with a suspect defence.
8 July 1989. John Mugabi w rsc 1 Rene Jacquot
Venue: Cergy-Pontoise Mirapolis Amusement Park, Paris, France. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Arthur Mercante.
Fight Summary: Pitted against the hard-hitting Mugabi (153½) was not the ideal contest for Jacquot (152½) to make his first defence, and right from the opening bell it looked as though he would be overpowered. The contest started with Mugabi stalking Jacquot before a looping right hand to the head sent the latter crashing, his left leg bent under him. Although Jacquot got up quickly it could be seen that he was hobbling. Despite the WBC commissioner shouting for it to be stopped the referee called ‘time out’ to allow the champion’s corner to work on what turned out to be knee-ligament damage. It was certainly a contentious decision. After approximately two minutes, still unable to stand properly, Jacquot was sent out again only to be floored immediately and stopped. The finish was given as 2.53.
The fifth-ranked Terry Norris would be Mugabi’s first challenger, having proved to be fast and explosive, especially in his winning contest against Steve Little. With a record of 24 wins and three defeats, he had also beaten Gilbert Baptist (2), Quincy Taylor and Buster Drayton, and was a tough test for the champion.
31 March 1990. Terry Norris w co 1 John Mugabi
Venue: The Sundome, Tampa, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Eddie Eckert.
Fight Summary: Having become champion in less than a round, Mugabi (154) lost it in the same manner when destroyed by Norris (153¾) who came well prepared in how to deal with the slow moving champion. Caught by early punches that whistled through his guard, Mugabi should have been warned, but he persisted in carrying his right low and paid the price when Norris had him down with two chopping rights. Having taken the mandatory count, a dazed Mugabi was all over the place, and at 2.47 of the opening round he was counted out after being dropped by another heavy right to the head.
13 July 1990. Terry Norris w pts 12 Rene Jacquot
Venue: Skating Rink, Annecy, France. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 117-109, 120-107, 119-108.
Fight Summary: After losing to John Mugabi in peculiar circumstances, Jacquot (153¾) was given a crack at Norris (152½), who had taken over from the Ugandan a few months previously. Although Jacquot was knocked down in the first and second rounds, with great heart he struggled back into the contest without ever looking likely to win, using stalling and clutching tactics as a substitute for defence. It was easy for Norris, but his lack of experience enabled the hardy Jacquot to stay the distance, even though he was dropped again in the 11th by a left-right-left combination to the head.
9 February 1991. Terry Norris w pts 12 Sugar Ray Leonard
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Arthur Mercante Jnr.
Scorecards: 116-110, 120-104, 119-103.
Fight Summary: Coming back to the ring for the first time since defending his WBC super middleweight title on 7 December 1989, the 35-year-old Leonard (154) was given a chance to win the 154lbs title when taking on the champion, Norris (152½). Once the finest fighter on the planet, Leonard was a shadow of his former self, being dropped twice, in the second and seventh, and hammered without let-up throughout. Well beaten, it was only Leonard’s pride and courage that got him through, and he was often picked off by long punches from either hand as Norris boxed on the outside. The last two sessions were especially difficult for Leonard, his left eye swelling fast, as Norris staggered him repeatedly and belted him along the ropes, but although the decision was a lopsided one he made it to the final bell to receive an ovation from the crowd. Leonard returned for one last fling in 1997, but was demolished by Hector Camacho inside five rounds.
1 June 1991. Terry Norris w co 8 Donald Curry
Venue: Radisson Resort, Palm Springs, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Chuck Hassett.
Fight Summary: Having won every round coming into the sixth, the champion had outspeeded and outpunched Curry (154), taking the best the latter had to offer almost nonchalantly. He was also ready to step up a gear. Shrugging off Curry’s best punch of the fight, a cracking left hook, when Norris (151) went to work in the seventh the former champion was saved by the bell after being dropped by a long right hand. Although fighting back gamely in the eighth it was clear that Curry’s days were numbered, and following a barrage of two-fisted blows and three crashing right hands to the head he went down to be counted out with seven seconds of the session remaining.
17 August 1991. Terry Norris w rsc 1 Brett Lally
Venue: Sports Arena, San Diego, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Rudy Ortega.
Fight Summary: Despite making a tentative start, the champion soon picked it up when under pressure, and having being knocked off balance by a lead right he fired in a left hook that dropped Lally (154). Stunned, but back on his feet, when Lally tried to brawl his way out of it he was sent to the boards. With Norris (153) in full cry and Lally allowed to carry on it was just a matter of time, a barrage of blows followed by a thudding right to the jaw dropping the latter for the third time before the referee called it off. The finish, timed at 2.40, was one of the quickest in the division’s history.
13 December 1991. Terry Norris w pts 12 Jorge Castro
Venue: Bercy Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 117-111, 118-109, 120-108.
Fight Summary: Superior in every department, the champion boxed brilliantly, whether in defence or attack, and although he failed to knock Castro (154) down it was due more to the Argentine being tremendously tough rather than a lack of power. Picking his punches and jabbing strongly at all times, Norris (151¼) was a revelation. Even when put on the defensive by the charging Castro he either moved out of range or was able to cover up without taking too much. While always dangerous Castro lacked the ability to open the champion up.
22 February 1992. Terry Norris w rsc 9 Carl Daniels
Venue: Sports Arena, San Diego, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Lou Filippo.
Fight Summary: Not one to miss an opportunity, the challenger took the opening two rounds when scoring well with southpaw jabs and crosses to leave Norris (152) confused. However, Norris came back well in the third and was soon forcing Daniels (152) to the ropes where he consistently scored with heavy two-handed blows to the head. It was clear by the eighth that the inexperienced Daniels, his left eye badly swollen, was being worn down. And when a barrage of punches sent him to the canvas in the ninth the referee pulled him out of the contest on the 2.37 mark without even bothering to take up the count.
9 May 1992. Terry Norris w rsc 4 Meldrick Taylor
Venue: Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mills Lane.
Fight Summary: Impressing even more than previously, the champion made quick work of the once gifted Taylor (149), who was clinically taken apart. Although Taylor came out fast to knock Norris (149) off balance by the third he was under pressure as two-handed punches thudded in to his head and body. Coming out for the fourth Norris ripped into Taylor, a battery of solid punches seeing the latter slide to the floor. Up at ‘seven’, Taylor tried to fight back but was soon put down again. Having taken the mandatory count for the second time, Taylor was allowed to continue before the contest was called off on the 2.55 mark when he was being battered without response.
20 February 1993. Terry Norris w rsc 2 Maurice Blocker
Venue: Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Richard Steele.
Fight Summary: Never making proper use of his three-inch-reach advantage Blocker (151½) was unable to trouble the champion, who soon found that his left hook would be his best weapon on the night when dropping his rival with that punch in the opening session. Having taken the mandatory count, Blocker was all at sea and reeling around the ring before being dumped again by Norris (150), this time by a crashing right to the head. Somehow, Blocker made it to the bell, but with there being little time for him to recover he was rescued by the referee after 49 seconds of the second when he was swaying badly following a non-stop attack from Norris.
19 June 1993. Terry Norris w rtd 3 Troy Waters
Venue: Sports Arena, San Diego, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Marty Denkin.
Fight Summary: Treating the London-born Waters (152) with disdain, Norris (154) ripped into his challenger from the opening bell looking for a quick finish. Punching with blinding speed, Norris eventually found a blow to drop Waters, a cracking overarm right to the temple, but was lucky to escape a severe censure when hitting his man while down. With the end seemingly near, Waters not only made it to his feet but lasted out the round with clever defensive boxing. Then, in the second, with the champion firing in solid punches, Waters put him down with a right to the temple. Badly embarrassed, when Norris got up the pair went at each other to see the session out. After being dropped by a right to the head in the third, Waters, gashed on the cheek and over both eyes, somehow lasted the round out before being retired by his corner during the interval.
10 September 1993. Terry Norris w rsc 1 Joe Gatti
Venue: The Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: David Avalos.
Fight Summary: Not up to championship standard, Gatti (153¾) only lasted 88 seconds while hardly landing a blow in anger as the champion dismantled him with ease. Within moments of the opening bell, when Norris (153½) slipped a lead and countered heavily it could be seen that it was going to be an early night for him, confirmation of that coming when Gatti was dropped by a left hook. Having taken the mandatory count Gatti tried to fight back, but was overwhelmed by all manner of heavy shots before crashing down from a vicious right hand to the temple. That was it as far as the referee was concerned, waving it off without starting to count.
Norris would next defend against Simon Brown, the former WBC champion at 147lbs and undefeated IBF title holder at that weight. With 39 wins and two defeats on his record, since moving up in weight the smooth, hard-hitting Brown was rated at number nine.
18 December 1993. Simon Brown w co 4 Terry Norris
Venue: Cuauhtemoc Stadium, Puebla, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Lupe Garcia.
Fight Summary: After overcoming heart ailments and a detached retina, and with his best days apparently behind him, Brown (153½) came back to beat seemingly unbeatable Norris (151¼) in what was recognised by The Ring magazine as the ‘Upset of the Year’. Having survived the opening assaults of Norris and further heavy bombardments, Brown struck with a big right which was followed up with a left hook to put the champion down. Probably saved by the bell, Norris was still dazed when getting back to his corner. However, he ripped into Brown again in the second round, looking to take the latter out, before being hurt at the end of the session when wobbled by a solid left hook. Although Norris was still laying into Brown in the third he was having less success, being caught more and more, and a left-right-left hook had him finishing the round in bad shape. The fourth saw Brown picking it up as Norris’ punches began to have less effect on him, and following a heavy exchange the latter was sent crashing by a right to the head to be counted out on the 1.06 mark. Brown became a two-weight world champion on winning.
29 January 1994. Simon Brown w pts 12 Troy Waters
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mitch Halpern.
Scorecards: 118-111, 116-112, 114-114.
Fight Summary: Following on from his upset victory over Terry Norris, it was something of a surprise when Brown (153) only outpointed the tough Waters (153) on a majority decision despite having many advantages. With so little action the early rounds were difficult to score, and it was only from the ninth onwards when Waters was tiring that Brown began to up the pace. Working well on the inside and turning southpaw in order to rest his left hand that had been damaged earlier, Brown kept the punches going regardless of his right eye being opened up in the 12th from an accidental head butt.
Since losing his WBC title to Simon Brown in dramatic fashion, Terry Norris had beaten Armando Campas and was hoping to put matters right when given an early opportunity to challenge the champion. Coming to the ring with a record of 37 wins and four losses to his name, Norris knew that he had to stay out of trouble this time round if he wanted his old belt back.
7 May 1994. Terry Norris w pts 12 Simon Brown
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mitch Halpern.
Scorecards: 116-112, 117-111, 119-109.
Fight Summary: Putting the earlier loss to Brown (154) behind him, Norris (152) came back a totally different fighter to completely outbox the former. This time round Norris looked to outspeed Brown rather than trying to knock him out, and although he failed to work hard enough in some rounds he was almost always going too well for the champion. Using a good left hand, coupled with fast combinations, Norris gave Brown few chances to land solidly, being one step ahead when it counted.
A tough out-and-out slugger, Luis Santana would be Norris’ first challenger despite the fact that he had lost seven of his last ten and had been out of the ring for a year. Although his 55-fight record that comprised 38 wins, two draws and 15 defeats was littered with big names, the only men of note that he had defeated were Manning Galloway and Jorge Maysonet.
12 November 1994. Luis Santana w disq 5 Terry Norris
Venue: City Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mitch Halpern.
Fight Summary: In what was a fight that should not have taken place, Santana (152½) was amazingly handed the win after Norris (151) was disqualified for rabbit punching in the fifth round. Right from the opening bell Norris made the mistake of trying to knock Santana out, especially in the third when both men stumbled down and the champion was given the mandatory count. Then, in the fourth, Norris was deducted a point following a clash of heads with the clumsy challenger. Realising that he had to do better Norris began to get his punches off more cleanly in the fifth, but disaster struck when he unleashed a chopping left to the back of Santana’s head that sent him crashing down. At the moment of impact, Santana had been totally defenceless, having stumbled through the ropes. Although the ringside doctor claimed that the Dominican was faking it, after 12 minutes of inaction it eventually became apparent that he was not when failing to recover quickly enough. The time of the disqualification was later given as being 2.02 of the fifth.
8 April 1995. Luis Santana w disq 3 Terry Norris
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Fight Summary: Once again it was pure madness that cost Norris (153) as he threw away the opportunity of beating Santana (153), with the latter becoming the first man to win back-to-back championship fights by disqualification while being carried out of the ring on a stretcher. The fight had started with Norris boxing smartly and hurting Santana with solid punches before dropping the champion in the second round. Although Santana fought back he was cut over the left eye and being battered. In the third it was more of the same as Santana was floored again, this time by a solid right to the head. With Santana back on his feet and being pummelled, Norris went for the kill, but before any further damage could be done the bell sounded to end the session. It was then that Norris completely lost it when, five or six seconds into the interval, he went for Santana and left the Dominican prostrate on the deck from a big right hand to the jaw. With nothing really settled following two fights that ended in disqualification, Santana and Norris would come together in a rubber to decide once and for all who was the best man..
19 August 1995. Terry Norris w rsc 2 Luis Santana
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: Bringing the men together for the third time was probably more than Norris (152) deserved, but this time round he took advantage of the situation. Fighting with controlled aggression Norris let Santana (154) come on to him in the opening session, almost finishing the fight there and then when a left-right sent the champion staggering into a corner only for the referee to hold the action up for no discernible reason. In the second Santana was under pressure right from the off, and after being dropped three times he was rescued by the referee on the 2.09 mark.
16 September 1995. Terry Norris w rsc 9 David Gonzalez
Venue: Mirage Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Richard Steele.
Fight Summary: Back in the ring again just 26 days after beating Santana, Norris (151) was surprisingly sluggish when defending against Gonzalez (152), and after having the latter over with a booming right in the first round he failed to follow up. Again, in the fourth, Norris had Gonzalez down twice, only to let his man off the hook before really opening up in the ninth. On several occasions the tough Gonzalez had looked a beaten man, but this time there was no reprieve as Norris bombarded him with heavy blows from both hands before the referee came to his rescue with just one second of the session remaining. Gonzalez had given of his best, but with blood pouring from his nose, which was feared to be broken, and badly swollen eyes the ending did not come a moment too soon. The general feeling was that regardless of the result, Norris, who allowed himself to be pushed over five or six times, was a fighter in decline.
16 December 1995. Terry Norris w pts 12 Paul Vaden
Venue: CoreStates Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC. Referee: Rudy Battle.
Scorecards: 119-109, 120-108, 118-110.
Fight Summary: With both men putting their respective titles up for grabs it was Norris (151½) who won through, while Vaden (154), whose performance was considered woeful, had his entire purse withheld pending a hearing. At least Norris tried to make a fight of it, continually hunting Vaden down and getting off punches to head and body, but he was unable to sustain the pressure against a man content to stay on the ropes with his gloves held high. That was generally the story of the fight, and although Vaden made something of an effort in the tenth when going after Norris the action quickly petered out.
27 January 1996. Terry Norris w co 2 Jorge Luis Vado
Venue: Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC. Referee: Roger Yanez.
Fight Summary: Technically defending all of his belts, despite the contest not being recognised by the WBC, Norris (152½) was soon teeing off against the limited Vado (153½), who winged in long, wide punches normally associated with a club fighter. With Norris having taken a good look at his challenger in the first round it seemed clear that he would be going for a kayo. Thus, it was no surprise when a burst of punches followed by a terrific right to the jaw saw Vado counted out after 42 seconds of the second.
24 February 1996. Terry Norris w rsc 8 Vincent Pettway
Venue: The Coliseum, Richmond, Virginia, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC. Referee: Larry Doggett.
Fight Summary: Putting all of his belts on the line, Norris (150¾) came out firing, but with Pettway (151) moving back at speed he made a difficult target. However, towards the end of the first round when a cracking right to the jaw sent Pettway skidding downwards, although he got to his feet the bell came to his aid. Coming back in the second with surprise punches Pettway twice stunned Norris, but in the third after the challenger went down from a punch to the head it looked as though it would be an early night. Strangely, Norris allowed Pettway back into the contest, taking it in turns to fire off blows for several rounds before the latter began to tire. Still Norris was getting caught by punches he should have avoided. Then, in the eighth after a perfect left hook to the body sent Pettway crashing the referee called a halt with 19 seconds of the session remaining.
7 September 1996. Terry Norris w rsc 5 Alex Rios
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC. Referee: Mills Lane.
Fight Summary: Having taken a good look at his southpaw challenger Norris (153) began to warm to the task, and several times in the third round it looked like he was going to have his man over. Norris moved up a gear in the fourth, getting on his toes while looking to draw Rios (153½) on to him. Following that, he put Rios down for ‘five’ after finding him with a heavy left hook-left uppercut combination. With Rios now walking through the punches to get his own off, although he stunned Norris briefly in the fifth he was eventually pinned in a corner and rescued by the referee on the 2.08 mark when not fighting back.
11 January 1997. Terry Norris w rsc 10 Nick Rupa
Venue: The Arena, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBC. Referee: Marty Denkin.
Fight Summary: Although not really up to championship class, Rupa (152¼) proved to be a real tough guy as he stood in front of the champion virtually from the opening bell and took his best punches unflinchingly for almost ten rounds. Finding his man repeatedly, especially with overarm rights, Norris forced a mandatory count in the fourth when Rupa was adjudged to have touched down. With Rupa being outclassed, by the middle sessions there was little coming back. At that stage of the contest Norris’ much harder shots were beginning to take their toll on Rupa, who was told by the referee before the start of the eighth that he would be given one more round to change things. Strangely, after taking a battering for the next couple of sessions Rupa was still there, and it was only in the tenth after a heavy one-two combination had dropped him that the third man thought fit to rescue him, the finish being timed at 2.34.
Norris forfeited the IBF version of the title on 1 March when negotiating a fight against Felix Trinidad and refusing to meet Raul Marquez, the mandatory challenger. His next defence would be against the unranked Keith Mullings, who had a record of 14 wins, four defeats and a technical draw. Durable and aggressive, the 29-year-old Mullings, a Gulf War veteran, did not take up boxing until the age of 22 and was looking to make up for lost time.
6 December 1997. Keith Mullings w rsc 9 Terry Norris
Venue: Boardwalk Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Tony Perez.
Fight Summary: Getting another opportunity at championship level following his excellent showing against Raul Marquez three months earlier, Mullings (153½) took full advantage when blasting Norris (154) to defeat in the ninth round. There was no real hint of what was to come during the opening four rounds, the champion seeming to have things well in hand even if he was not at his best. Although Mullings came on to win the fifth, Norris handed out a boxing lesson in the sixth. Things changed in the seventh when Mullings got home with several solid blows, and in the eighth as the pair traded Norris was suddenly dropped by a straight right to the jaw. Badly hurt, Norris was in dire trouble when the bell came to his aid. Even though he came out for the ninth, with Mullings throwing punches like there was no tomorrow there was only going to be one ending. Almost out on his feet, the brave Norris was finally put out of his misery when rescued by the referee after 51 seconds.
14 March 1998. Keith Mullings w rtd 5 Davide Ciarlante
Venue: Trump Taj Mahal Casino & Resort, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Larry O’Connell.
Fight Summary: Boxing in determined fashion the challenger gave Mullings (154) a run for his money before a broken nose and gashes under each eye saw him pulled out of the contest by his corner at the end of the fifth round. If the corner had not made that decision the referee certainly would have. Although Ciarlante (153¾) threw the greater volume to put himself level on the cards at the time of the finish, it was Mullings’ blows that carried the greater weight and proved to be more effective.
The aggressive, hard-punching Javier Castillejo, a former undefeated European champion, would be the next man to challenge Mullings. With a record of 43 (28 inside the distance) wins and four defeats, and having already had an unsuccessful crack at the WBA title in 1993, he was looking to come good this time around. Apart from losing to Laurent Boudouani twice, wins against Harry Arroyo, Saoul Mamby, Juan Ramon Medina and Akhmet Dottuev proved his ability at this level.
29 January 1999. Javier Castillejo w pts 12 Keith Mullings
Venue: Cubierta Bullring, Leganes, Spain. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Bob Logist.
Scorecards: 116-112, 115-114, 114-114.
Fight Summary: Much faster than the pedestrian champion, Castillejo (153¾) was making inroads as early as the first round when showing excellent hand-speed and good movement to leave his man chasing shadows. After a few more sessions Castillejo knew he had the beating of Mullings (153½), continuing to dart in with straight lefts and occasional left-rights to take a good lead by the end of the seventh. At that stage Mullings had won two rounds at best, but with Castillejo beginning to showboat he came on much stronger, hooking to the head and body before slowing towards the finish. Realising it could be closer than it seemed Castillejo won the final session in the eyes of all three judges, but had he not done so Mullings would still have been the champion.
14 May 1999. Javier Castillejo w rsc 4 Humberto Aranda
Venue: Cubierta Bullring, Leganes, Spain. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Lupe Garcia.
Fight Summary: Castillejo (153¾) was always in control of this one, dominating Aranda (153¾) behind the jab and banging in harder shots when the openings were there. By the third Aranda was on the back foot, having been hurt by a left hook to the jaw and rights to head and body, and towards the end of the round a bad cut opened up on the Costa Rican’s left eye. Clearly on borrowed time, Aranda went for Castillejo in the fourth, but was being battered around the ring before three right uppercuts sent him crashing to the floor. Although Aranda bravely made it to his feet, after the referee called for the doctor to inspect the injured eye the fight was stopped with just eight seconds of the session remaining.
10 September 1999. Javier Castillejo w rsc 7 Paolo Roberto
Venue: Europa Pavilion, Leganes, Spain. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Daniel Van De Wiele.
Fight Summary: Although Roberto (154) started well with the southpaw right jab, the champion was content to take his time before picking it up in the fourth round when landing hard blows to the body. The tactic paid off as Roberto was visibly pained, and in the fifth and sixth Castillejo (153¾) was totally dominant as he fired in blows almost at will to leave the challenger a spent force. Following a three-punch combination that left Roberto dazed the referee called it off at 1.47 of the seventh to save the latter from taking unnecessary punishment.
17 December 1999. Javier Castillejo w rsc 7 Michael Rask
Venue: Cubierta Bullring, Leganes, Spain. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Alfred Asaro.
Fight Summary: Never out of control for one moment the champion was soon busying himself, hurting Rask (153¼) with a big left uppercut at the end of the first round before going for the body in the next couple of sessions. By the fourth, with Rask cut on the left eye, Castillejo (154) was opening up with solid shots to head and body, and at the end of the sixth the Dane was saved by the bell after being hurt by heavy lefts and rights to the head. With Castillejo spearing Rask with accurate jabs in the seventh, and the latter now cut over the right eye as well as the left, the referee halted the contest at 1.41 on the advice of the ringside doctor.
21 July 2000. Javier Castillejo w pts 12 Tony Marshall
Venue: Cubierta Bullring, Leganes, Spain. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Daniel Van De Wiele.
Scorecards: 116-114, 117-112, 118-110.
Fight Summary: Stronger than his American-based challenger, Castillejo (153¾) quickly got down to work with the jab, being in the main unconcerned by anything coming his way. There was no doubting that Marshall (154) had a good, tight defence and was especially adept at moving his head to let punches miss, but he lacked the aggression to gain a foothold in the contest to any extent, apart from throwing the odd right uppercut. How one judge made it just two points between them was strange, as Castillejo, throwing sharp combinations and solid right hands to head and body, had won clearly in the eyes of the vast majority.
21 October 2000. Javier Castillejo w rsc 4 Javier Martinez Rodriguez
Venue: Salon 21 Nightclub, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Lupe Garcia.
Fight Summary: Contested the day before the WBC Convention, as soon as the fight got underway it was apparent that Castillejo (154) was looking to win in the quickest possible fashion. In a battle between Spaniards on foreign soil, Martinez (152¾) was forced to suffer three knockdowns and a badly cut right eye before being rescued by the referee after 1.43 of the fourth round had elapsed.
Castillejo’s next defence would be against Oscar De La Hoya, an undefeated WBO champion at junior lightweight, an undefeated IBF/WBO champion at lightweight, an undefeated WBC champion at junior welterweight and a WBA/WBC champion at welterweight. Fighting in world class almost from the day he turned pro after a wonderful amateur career, De La Hoya had 33 wins and two defeats at the hands of Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley on his record.
23 June 2001. Oscar De La Hoya w pts 12 Javier Castillejo
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Vic Drakulich.
Scorecards: 119-108, 119-108, 119-108.
Fight Summary: Moving up a division, De La Hoya (154) had just too much of everything for the upright, pedestrian champion, who was outspeeded throughout. After making a poor start, when Castillejo (154) began to motor in the third although he was unable to get his normal punches off he occasionally hurt De La Hoya, especially with left-rights to the head. It was only in the tenth that all three judges gave Castillejo the round, when he tore into De La Hoya with solid blows from both hands. However, De La Hoya was well on top again thereafter, eventually dropping the Spaniard for the mandatory count immediately prior to the final bell. De La Hoya became a five-weight world champion on winning.
14 September 2002. Oscar De La Hoya w rsc 11 Fernando Vargas
Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: With both men putting up their titles up for grabs, even though it was not one of De La Hoya’s better nights he did more than enough to win. Both men had their successes, but at the end of the tenth De La Hoya (154) was ahead by a couple of rounds, having had Vargas (154) wobbling when sending in solid blows to head and body in the last session. Starting the 11th very much as he had ended the tenth, De La Hoya kept the punches going before finding a cracker of a left hook to the jaw to drop Vargas, and despite the latter getting up he was under so much pressure that the referee stopped it on the 1.48 mark.
3 May 2003. Oscar De La Hoya w rsc 7 Luis Ramon Campas
Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Vic Drakulich.
Fight Summary: Defending his championship belts against Campas (153½), despite not being able to put the latter down the ‘Golden Boy’ virtually used his challenger as target practice as he flitted through the rounds with jabs and combinations to head and body. The problem for the brave Campas was that he only ever threw one punch at a time, while his lack of defence saw him hit flush again and again as De La Hoya (154) teed up. In the sixth, finding it hard to breathe, Campas was deducted a point for spitting out his gumshield. Finally, in the seventh, with Campas almost being hit at will his chief second stood up on the ring apron to implore the referee to stop the unequal contest, which he did with just ten seconds of the session remaining.
Shane Mosley, who had previously been an undefeated IBF lightweight champion and a WBC welterweight title holder, would be De La Hoya’s next challenger. With 38 wins, a technical draw and two defeats to Vernon Forrest on his record, Mosley had long proved to be a slick, smooth, stylist with quick reflexes and good mobility, who also packed a fair bit of power into his punches. Having already beaten De La Hoya, he was confident of a repeat.
13 September 2003. Shane Mosley w pts 12 Oscar De La Hoya
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 115-113, 115-113, 115-113.
Fight Summary: Regardless that all three judges went with the challenger it was difficult to see how Mosley (154) outscored De La Hoya (154) when one examines the punch stats; De La Hoya connecting with 106 jabs to Mosley’s 33 and with 115 solid blows to 94. According to the round-by-round punch stats, De La Hoya won the fight 11 to one, landing at the rate of three to one in the third, fourth and seventh. There were no knockdowns, and there was never that much between them on the face of it, but according to all three cards Mosley won the last four rounds. It was during these sessions that he landed with his best punches, a tremendous right to the body in the ninth almost dropping De La Hoya. Having being cut over the right eye in the fourth following a clash of heads, De La Hoya may well have been more protective than usual, but even when on the retreat he scored well with countering jabs and deserved better. On winning, Mosley became a three-weight world champion.
Mosley’s first defence would be against the IBF champion, Ronald Wright, a slick and clever southpaw who was rated at number two by The Ring magazine and had 46 wins and three losses on his record. Wright had earlier held the WBO version of the title after beating Bronco McKart, making three defences against Ensley Bingham, Steve Foster and Adrian Dodson before being beaten by Harry Simon. Following an unsuccessful crack at Fernando Vargas for the IBF title, he eventually won it when defeating Robert Frazier. He then went on to make successful defences against Jason Papillion, McKart, Juan Carlos Candelo and Angel Hernandez, and had solid wins over men such as Ernesto Sena, Tony Marshall and Andrew Council and Keith Mullings.
13 March 2004. Ronald Wright w pts 12 Shane Mosley
Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Tony Weeks.
Scorecards: 117-111, 117-111, 116-112.
Fight Summary: In addition to three titles being on the line Wright (154) joined the elite when unanimously outscoring Mosley (154), having gone well with his solid southpaw jab throughout allied to a sound defence. From the second round onwards it was clear that Mosley somehow had to find a way through Wright’s tight guard but even with a two-inch-reach advantage he had little success. Wright was also proving the stronger on the inside. Having piled up the points with the jab, backed up with solid left crosses, by the end of the tenth Wright was way in front, and although Mosley won the last two sessions on pure aggression he was unable to turn things around. Wright was stripped of the IBF title on 19 April when unable to meet his number one challenger due to contractual commitments.
20 November 2004. Ronald Wright w pts 12 Shane Mosley
Venue: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Scorecards: 115-113, 114-114, 115-113.
Fight Summary: Defending his belts against the man he took them off, Wright (154) outpointed Mosley (154) yet again, although the margin was not so great this time around. At the start of the ninth Mosley was just ahead according to the cards, but he took so much out of himself in the eighth, as Wright put up a clever defence, that he was not the same afterwards. It was clear that Wright had paced himself well when pumping out the southpaw jab in the ninth to great effect as Mosley failed to get the majority of his punches off. In the tenth there was only one man in it and it was not Mosley, and while he came back in the 11th to nick the session after dragging Wright into a brawl it was the latter who dominated the final round to retain his titles.
Wright forfeited the WBA title on 10 April 2005, having signed to meet Felix Trinidad in an official WBC middleweight eliminator. He then decided to move up on a permanent basis, relinquishing the WBC title. My version of the 'world' title eventually came up for grabs when the second-ranked Saul Alvarez, the WBC champion, met Austin Trout, rated at number three, further to the top-rated Floyd Mayweather Jnr being unavailable. A box-fighter with great potential, Alvarez had put together 41 wins and a draw since starting out in 2005. He would also be putting the WBC title that he had won when defeating Matthew Hatton on the line, having successfully defended it against Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley and Joseito Lopez. With a solid southpaw jab in his locker and unbeaten in 26 contests, Trout would be bringing his WBA ‘second tier’ title to the party.
20 April 2013. Saul Alvarez w pts 12 Austin Trout
Venue: The Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBC/The Ring. Referee: Laurence Cole.
Scorecards: 115-112, 118-109, 118-111.
Fight Summary: Trout's WBA 'second tier' title and Alvarez's WBC crown were both on the line in this one. With height and reach advantages in his favour Trout (153¼) got away well, his southpaw jab keeping Alvarez (153½) at bay to some degree, but before too long the latter was closing the distance to get his heavier shots off. As far as the cards were concerned Alvarez was always in front, although he had not landed enough on Trout to discourage him. That all changed in the seventh, however, when a straight right to the jaw sent Trout down, and although the latter got up and fought back from thereon in it was all Alvarez.
Floyd Mayweather Jnr, the five-weight champion, would be next for Alvarez. With 44 straight wins under his belt, the brilliant ring stylist was well on his way to surpassing Rocky Marciano’s record of an unbeaten 49 victories. Mayweather was the current WBA champion at 154lbs, having beaten Miguel Cotto on 5 May 2012.
14 September 2013. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Saul Alvarez
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Scorecards: 116-112, 117-111, 114-114.
Fight Summary: With Mayweather's WBA title and Alvarez's WBC belt and my version of the 'world' crown on the line it was all to fight for. Although Alvarez (152) did well, the experienced Mayweather (150½) was just too good for him, his jabs and superb movement being too difficult to match. As Mayweather ran up the rounds it was only when he backed off in the latter sessions that Alvarez got into the fight, but even then the latter was forced to take some heavy uppercuts and right hands in return for his pressing. Announced as a majority points win for Mayweather, when it was clearly a hands-down victory, the judge who made it a draw had to ride out the volume of criticism that came his way in the aftermath.
13 September 2014. Floyd Mayweather Jnr w pts 12 Marcos Maidana
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Scorecards: 116-111, 116-111, 115-112.
Fight Summary: Having already successfully defended his WBA/WBC welterweight titles against Maidana, this return match that was billed for the same titles was also surprisingly seen by the WBC as involving Mayweather's 154lbs crown. Because of that I have also shown the WBA title under ‘Recognition’ as it could well have affected the rest of Mayweather’s title claims had he lost. Yet again a relatively tough fight, the champion being forced to work at all times, Maidana (146) was always there or thereabouts. Although Mayweather (146½) was by far the better boxer, Maidana was always trying to rough him up even though he was forced to take some heavy shots in return. In the ninth Mayweather complained that Maidana had bitten into his left glove, hurting his fingers and numbing his hand from thereon in. When Mayweather was blatantly pushed over in the tenth a point was deducted from Maidana's total, which only made the latter even wilder. Following a wild right that hurt Mayweather, and with blows being tossed in from all angles, the champion calmly boxed his way through to the final bell without putting himself in the firing line.
Mayweather forfeited The Ring recognition on 11 August 2015, having not fought at 154lbs since beating Saul Alvarez almost two years earlier. Despite announcing his retirement on 13 September 2015, the WBC eventually accepted that Mayweather was not coming back and vacated the title on 4 November 2015. This was followed by the WBA finally removing him as their champion on 31 January 2016. My version of the 'world' title once again became available when the WBA champion, Erislandy Lara, and Jarrett Hurd, the IBF title holder, were matched in a unification battle. Having inherited Mayweather’s WBA title on the latter’s retirement, Lara had successfully defended it against Vanes Martirosyan and Yuri Foreman prior to meeting Hurd, and had 25 wins, two draws, including one of the technical variety, and two losses on his tab. His opponent, Hurd, was unbeaten on 21 (15 inside the distance) and had won the vacant IBF title when beating Tony Harrison before forcing Austin Trout to retire in a defence.
7 April 2018. Jarrett Hurd w pts 12 Erislandy Lara
Venue: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Scorecards: 114-113, 114-113, 133-114.
Fight Summary: This was a match-up between the top-ranked Lara (153½) and Hurd (153), rated at number three. Although Lara was the more skilful, the taller Hurd had a two-and-a-half-inch reach advantage and was the harder puncher. It was always going to be close, but in the end it was Hurd’s pressure that just about prevailed. In the 12th Hurd finally got to Lara with a left hook to the chin which floored the latter, who made it to his feet only to hear that the split decision was not in his favour.
1 December 2018. Jarrett Hurd w co 4 Jason Welborn
Venue: Staples Centre, Los Angeles, California, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Lou Moret.
Fight Summary: Putting both of his belts on the line, along with my version of the 'world' title, Hurd (152½) was far too good for the game Welborn (152½) who gave everything he had. With Welborn going all out from the start, Hurd initially stood back before upping his efforts in the fourth, and following a cracking right hand to the body the gallant Englishman was counted out on the 1.55 mark.
Julian Williams would be the next challenger for Hurd, having already had an unsuccessful crack at the IBF title when stopped inside five rounds by Jermall Charlo. For him it was a bad night, but with 26 wins, one draw, one defeat and a technical draw on his tab, allied to a great jab, the eighth-ranked Williams felt he had a chance even if the punters did not.
11 May 2019. Julian Williams w pts 12 Jarrett Hurd
Venue: EagleBank Arena, Fairfax, Virginia, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Bill Clancy.
Scorecards: 115-112, 115-112, 116-111.
Fight Summary: Coming back from a bad defeat at the hands of Jermall Charlo, Williams (153¾) tore up the form book when outscoring the confident champion. With his titles on the line Hurd (153¾) made a poor start, being hammered to the floor in the second round by a left hook to the jaw which followed a left uppercut that had stunned him. Although Hurd showed resolve, Williams always seemed to be one move ahead of him. Having won the fifth, Hurd looked as though he might be coming back to life, only to be badly hurt in the sixth by head to body combinations. Again, badly shaken up in the ninth by lefts and rights to head and body he was almost taken out by a heavy right uppercut as Williams cut loose. Despite winning two of the last three sessions it was never going to be enough for Hurd, his longer reach and added height negated by the hard-hitting Williams.
18 January 2020. Jeison Rosario w rsc 5 Julian Williams
Venue: Liacouras Centre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Benjy Esteves Jnr.
Fight Summary: Making his first defence of the IBF and WBA titles, although Williams (153¼) made a reasonable start, by the end of the second he had been badly cut over the left eye and had been on the receiving end of several solid shots as Rosario (153) came good. Holding it together, Williams came through the third without further hitches, but in the fourth his eye worsened and he began to ship punishment. Sensing victory, Rosario went after Williams in the fifth round, slamming in blows from both hands to drop Williams for what the referee gave as a slip. Having some difficulty in finding his feet, Williams was stopped at 1.37 after he took several heavy punches to the head and was swaying on the ropes.
26 September 2020. Jermell Charlo w co 8 Jeison Rosario
Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Harvey Dock.
Fight Summary: Three of the main four title belts were on the line in this one, as well as The Ring Championship Belt being up for grabs due to the top-ranked Charlo taking on Rosario, rated at number two. It was Charlo (153¾), the WBC champion, who made the better start when dropping the IBF/WBA title holder in the opening round with a solid left to the temple. Although Rosario came back strongly to take the next three sessions as he forced the fight he showed poor defence in the sixth when he was dropped by a left-right combination. Despite that, he looked to be well in the fight until a short left to the body sent him down to be counted out after 21 seconds of the eighth. The punch had looked innocuous enough, but with Rosario crying out in pain it had obviously caused some damage.