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Boxing History

Modern Classics: Curry-McCrory

By: Sean Crose

Donald Curry was a rising star in the sport of boxing. Milton McCrory, too, was a fighter on the rise. Both men were welterweights. Both men held world titles. A unification match was in order for divisional supremacy, and to further the career of the winner. And so, on the 6th day of December 1985, Curry and McCrory met at the Las Vegas Hilton to decide who was the best man at welterweight. The 23-0 Curry was the favorite walking in, but the 27-0-1 McCrory, who fought out of Detroit’s famed Kronk Gym, had over 22 knockouts on his resume. “McCrory,” HBO’s Larry Merchant said before the bout: “is regarded as a good fighter. Curry is regarded as possibly a great fighter.”

The difference in skill and outlook between the two men was evident immediately. McCrory entered the ring looking completely relaxed, so relaxed that one might have wondered if he was focused enough on the task at hand (although the fighter looked to be in top physical condition). Curry, on the other hand, oozed intensity during his walk to the ring. Here as a man on a mission. He had wanted to face McCrory for a while. Now was his chance.

The first round was a story of strength. Although considerably taller than Curry, McCrory was unable to keep his man at bay. Curry, who was nicknamed “The Cobra” for a reason, was able strike from his high defense at will. What’s more, Curry’s shots were powerful, far more powerful than anything McCrory was able to land. By round’s end it was clear that McCrory was unable to keep the relentless Curry off of him. In between rounds, trainer Emanuel Steward told McCrory to employ his left more effectively. “I believe he’s going to burn himself out,” he said of Curry. “Keep the left hand out there.” 
Curry, however, wouldn’t let the fight last long enough to have to worry about burning out. At 1:36 in the second round, he floored his man with a thunderous left hook.

McCrory was able to somehow beat the count, but what followed bordered on frightening. Curry raced forward and delivered a vicious right hand. McCrory crashed to the mat and lay there with his eyes open, barely conscious, if conscious at all. Referee Mills Lane counted to ten and the world had a new undisputed welterweight king. Curry had entered the ring with the WBA and IBF belts, now he had McCrory’s WBC belt, as well. The sky seemed to be the limit that night for the 24 year old Texan. Although he may not have gone on to attain the heights former welterweight powerhouses Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, and Roberto Duran did, there was little doubt in Las Vegas that evening as to who was the current top man in the division. 

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