McCallum devastating KO of Curry still remembered
One of the biggest differences between boxing and other sports is that one punch can end it all. And, there was no bigger, classic example in the 1980s than, World Jr. Middleweight champ Mike McCallum’s, thunderous left hook which immediately ended his title defense against fellow former World Champ, Donald Curry.
July 18th, 1987 at the Caesars Palace indoor Pavilion in Las Vegas was the date and the site, as the “Body Snatcher,” McCallum, 31-0, was making the six defense of his WBA 154 lb. title.
His opponent across the way was the former World Welterweight champion at 27 – 1, in the Texas based Curry.
One fascinating source of anger and backdrop for the fight was Curry having sued former fellow World Welterweight Champion Sugar Ray Leonard for $1 million for what he alleged was Leonard advising him not to pursue a possible lucrative Middleweight Title Showdown with Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
As it turned out, Leonard, himself was pursuing coming out of a three-year retirement and fighting Hagler, whom he defeated him in April of ’87.
Curry and his team were so enraged that they tried unsuccessfully to have Leonard removed off the HBO Sports Broadcast with Barry Tompkins and Larry Merchant for the McCallum fight. Curry also demanded that Leonard not be present at the pre-flight meeting the day before with him.
And, perhaps the “Lone Star Cobra” was a bit distracted by all of the out of ring anger at Sugar Ray that would eventually lead to his downfall on this night in the desert.
Curry, who had always demonstrated lethal power with either hand as a Welterweight, actually shook McCallum in the second round of the fight with a good right hand, but was unable to follow up with anything more significant.
The Jamacian born- New Yorker, McCallum then gained control of the fight in the third and the fourth rounds, scoring with the more significant punches. Curry was also beginning to be bothered by swelling over his left eye.
And, that all led to the booming, dramatic, quick finish.
McCallum had been trying to set up a big left hook for the first four rounds by using a feigning right to the body to get Curry to lower his hands. And, just :50 sec into that fifth round came the moment where his trap would work.
McCallum landed his glancing body shot and then, with Curry’s hands down around his waist he leapt at him and landed the “lightning bolt” left to the chin. That sent Curry splatting to the canvas, flat on his back with his arms outstretched above his head.
Famed referee, Richard Steele, counted over a near motionless Curry, who tried faintly to rise at the count of 9 but it was obviously over, and Steele reached 10.
McCallum would vacate Super Welterweight belt and fight for the vacant WBA Middleweight title in March of 1988, where he lost a decision to Sumbu Kalamby. However, he won the same belt just over a year later with a decision against England’s Herol Graham.
McCallum held the WBA 160 lb, title until late 1991, when he was stripped for failing to defend against their mandatory challenger. McCallum would later gain the WBC Light Heavyweight Championship in July of 1994 by decisioning Australian Jeff Harding. But, would lose that title two fights later in June of 1995.
McCallum eventually lost his last two fights to Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney and retiring in 1997 with a 49 – 5 – 1 record.
As for Curry, he was never the same after that night and having his lights turned out.
Even though he recaptured a World Title by beating Gianfranco Rossi by TKO a year later in July of 1988 for the WBC Jr. Middleweight belt, he lost that title on a decision to Frenchmen Renee Jacqot in February of 1989.
He was later knocked out by American Michael Nunn in 10 rounds in October of 1990 for the IBF Middleweight championship and then, in his next fight in June of ’91, was dispatched over 8 rounds by Terry Norris after moving back down to fight for the WBC 154 lb. title, again.
Curry retired in 1997 with a 34 – 6 record.
McCallum’s bomb against Curry was named “The Knockout of the Year” by KO Magazine and still resonates as one of the great one-punch endings Jr. Middleweight or Middleweight Championship history.
Having been a three division World Champ, Mike McCallum went into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003 with his win over Donald Curry being arguably his most recognizable night for him in the sport.