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Modern Classics: McCallum-Curry

By: Sean Crose

Call it the shot heard round the boxing world. With a single punch, the widely unknown, masterfully skilled Mike McCallum knocked out former welterweight kingpin Donald Curry on a summer night in 1987, rattling a public that saw Curry as being on the comeback trail. Not that McCallum-Curry was supposed to be a walk in the park for the Texan. It’s just that Curry was a true big name who, after encountering a bump in the road when he faced Lloyd Honeyghan less than two years earlier, was attempting to regain his momentum at junior middleweight.

McCallum, however, had other ideas. Some terrific fighters simply find themselves in the shadows. This was particularly true in the case of the hard hitting Jamaican. Whereas Curry had been spoken of as a potential superfight opponent for names like Leonard and Hagler, McCallum had been left feeling on the margins. The undefeated WBA junior middleweight champ had a real chance to prove himself against the high profile Curry, however. Needless to say, he would make the most of his opportunity. Before the fight, McCallum spoke of his body shots impacting the popular challenger. McCallum was known as “The Body Snatcher,” after all. The shot that would lay out Curry, however, would seemingly come from nowhere.

July 18, 1987: McCallum vs Curry: Classic Crossroads FightThe Fight City

Still, the fight was a grueling affair. As the rounds added up in the scheduled fifteen round battle, it was worth wondering whether or not either man would be able to go the distance. There was much inside fighting, and Curry’s eye was swelling. Still, the judges were not appearing too keen on giving McCallum many rounds. What’s more, Curry certainly wasn’t doing bad. By the fifth, he had begun to keep his distance from McCallum, which some may have considered a smart move. It wasn’t. Distracting Curry with a largely ineffective right to the body, McCallum fired a left to Curry’s head.

It was lights out. Curry spent the first several seconds of the referee’s count seemingly unconscious with his eyes open on the mat. When he did start to move about, it was clear Curry would not be able to beat the count. After the referee reached ten, the battle was over, and Mike McCallum had proven to the world just how seriously he should be taken. Although a dreamed up superfight with Thomas Hearns never materialized, McCallum ultimately found himself in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, as, in fact, did Curry.

It’s a place both men deserve to be.

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