By Shawn M. Murphy
Recently I spoke with former Lightweight and Light Welterweight champ Greg Haugen. Haugen turned pro in 1982 and with an 18-0 record, received a title shot against Jimmy Paul in 1986. Haugen decisioned Paul to become the IBF Lightweight champ. Haugen lost the title in his first defense to Vinny Pazienza. The following year Haugen met Pazienza again, winning the back the title via a unanimous decision. After two defenses, Haugen lost the title to Pernell Whitaker. In 1991 he upset Hector “Macho” Camacho for the WBO Light Welterweight title, only to lose it later that year to Camacho in a rematch. In his final bout for a major title, Haugen lost to Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993 by a 5th round TKO. Haugen retired in 1999 with a 40-10-1 record.
Greg Haugen: I was around 5 years old. My dad was a Marine, and I was pretty small, got picked on a lot. I had my head shaved every Saturday, and the guy who cut my hair, Tim Montgomery, was starting a boxing club. He asked my dad to let me start there, I became pretty good. I fought from ages 5-15 and then quit until I was 20. There was a lot of politics and favoritism up there at some of the clubs. I think I was like 320-25 as an amateur.
BoxingInsider.com: What were paydays like back in the early years of your pro career?
Greg Haugen: Pretty bad, like $100 a round if you were lucky. I started out fighting ten rounder’s instead of the usual four. Money was bad back then.
BoxingInsider.com: What about your title fight with Jimmy Paul, how confident were you going in?
Greg Haugen: I was real confident in every fight, up to my later fights, when my skill began to go. But for the longest time there was never any doubt in my mind that I could win every fight. You gotta believe in yourself, believe in what you’re doing.
BoxingInsider.com: What about the decision in the first Pazienza fight.. Did you think you won that fight?
Greg Haugen: I know I won that fight! I didn’t have hardly a mark, a little cut over my eye from a head butt. He had a broken nose, eye was shut. There was no doubt in my mind I won. I was disgusted that they robbed me of my title, my first loss. He was obviously the favorite, in his town. We had a rematch clause that he would go to my town for a rematch and he wouldn’t honor it. So I beat him in New Jersey instead.
BoxingInsider.com: You won the title back in a rematch, why were things different?
Greg Haugen: I was in better shape, just beat him up. I was still real mad about the first fight and went after him big time. I just took out my anger on him.
BoxingInsider.com: You lost that title the following year to Pernell Whitaker, thoughts?
Greg Haugen: I was pretty disappointed at that time with my management. They didn’t know boxing and I didn’t know much about the fight business. They were throwing me to the wolves every fight. I was mad, pissed off because I was the champ and I am fighting on the road again. It was kind of my protest fight, a boycott against management. I just didn’t throw many punches and lost.
BoxingInsider.com: What about the first Camacho fight, winning the WBO title. Did Camacho give away the decision by refusing to touch your gloves?
Greg Haugen: The rule is that you only have to touch gloves in the first round. I was the one who refused in the final round. I said a lot of derogatory things to him during the fight, got under his skin. He got mad about me not wanting to touch his gloves and tried to sucker-punch me. They took a point away and he lost by a point. Doesn’t matter how I won, I won the fight!
BoxingInsider.com: Give me your thoughts on the second Camacho fight, losing the title?
Greg Haugen: I got him to do it again in this fight, out of frustration. So the way I look at it, do it once its luck, and do it twice its skill. I thought I won as well, a lot more that the first one! He knows I won because he was halfway to his dressing room and they had to bring him back. If you watch the fight, he’s pissed off, walks out of the ring and they lead him back. They wanted him to fight Chavez anyway and I knew something was up, that I wouldn’t get the decision. I sparred with him in 1981 in Alaska, I studied him a lot so I thought I beat him easily.
BoxingInsider.com: Before your fight with Chavez in 1993, it’s reported that you made some rather derogatory remarks about Chavez, set the record straight.
Greg Haugen: I made a couple remarks, but there were a lot of remarks attributed to me that were made by Don King. The only thing I said was a couple remarks about his wife. There was a reporter asking me if I was scared of Chavez. He was 88-0, but he’s fought a lot of Tijuana taxi drivers. That was all I said, Don King said the rest to promote the fight and sell tickets. I had death threats, 24-hr bodyguards and it was ugly for awhile. I guess it didn’t help that I came into the ring to “Born In The USA”!
BoxingInsider.com: How good was Chavez, he is always ranked highly pound for pound?
Greg Haugen: I can’t really judge that, I know he was one of the better fighters I fought. When I fought him I was training on cocaine and vodka, going through a bad divorce. My mindset was in no place it should have been. When you fight a guy like Chavez, you have to be 100%. He took my legs out quickly because I wasn’t in shape. He wasn’t unbeaten for no reason. I still consider Whitaker the best skilled I fought though, Chavez number two.
BoxingInsider.com: You had fifteen fights after Chavez, retiring after the Nave fight in 1999. Any comments about the failed drug test?
Greg Haugen: I was taking speed to make weight, I wasn’t training well as I knew it was my last fight. My mindset wasn’t there. Boxing is not a sport that you can be mediocre in or you will get hurt.
BoxingInsider.com: Ever any thoughts of a comeback?
Greg Haugen: Never, none! I thought I fought a couple fights too many anyways. There’s a lot of guys who just can’t walk away from it. I miss the competition the most. I never needed people to know me or to get rich. I just miss the competition the most. Boxing is a fine art.
BoxingInsider.com: What has Greg Haugen been doing in retirement from the ring?
Greg Haugen: I worked for awhile for an Indian tribe, working for their boxing program. Working with kids is great, much better than adults. Kids you can mold and shape into something special. I also am training a good fighter named Jante Willis; they call him “Rock Steady”. He’s undefeated as a Heavyweight right now.
BoxingInsider.com: What is the Greg Haugen Foundation I have heard about?
Greg Haugen: Were up and going now, the website is up and going to, it’s www.greghaugenfoundation.com. Were having a dinner in August to benefit Autism. We have a lot of great fighters signed up; Norton, Foreman, Frazier, Duran, ect. Ali and Mancini are not committed yet. Twenty ex-champions so far. It’s dear to my heart because it has affected my family also. So many people out there are directly or indirectly affected by Autism. About one in every eight people I talk to are affected. I’m trying to make enough money to build a hospital or somewhere families can go to get all the help they need, under one roof. It’s a great cause to get involved with, please go to the website.
BoxingInsider.com: What’s the future hold for you?
Greg Haugen: Just hanging in there! Every day you wake up is a good day! Just going to try and get the foundation going and would like to open a community center where kids can go to box or to hang out. We need to keep them off the streets. A lot have parents, one parent, that needs to work, and the kids are left alone. If I can use my name or celebrity to help them then why the hell not!
BoxingInsider.com: Any final words Greg for the fans out there?
Greg Haugen: Just to watch for Jante Willis. H was #1 as an amateur last year in the USA, like #6 in the world. We hope to sign a promotional contract soon. We have to get the Heavyweight title back in the USA. So look for Jante soon.