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Boxing – 1978 – 12 Rnd WBC Light Heavyweight Title Fight – Marvin Johnson Vs Mate Parlov


Marvin “Pops” Johnson is an American former boxer….who was a 3-time light-heavyweight champion of the world…..who fought as an amateur in the 1972 Munich Olympics….where he won the bronze medal …. and made his way up the professional ranks in the light heavyweight division soon thereafter….when Pops lost to Matthew Saad Muhammad and Lottie Mwale in the build-up….but would win the WBC light heavyweight title from fellow southpaw Mate Parlov of Yugoslavia with a 10th-round KO in Italy in December 1978….as seen in this video herewith….then he lost that same title the following April in a rematch to Saad Muhammad….in what was perhaps 1979’s Fight of the Year for many observers….as Johnson was in control in the early going…. but the Philadelphia fighter hung in there, and came back to wear down Johnson….stopping him in the 8th round despite bleeding severely from the nose and from cuts around his eyes.

Johnson would again win the WBA version of that belt later that year by fighting the rugged Victor Galindez from Argentina….when after a see-saw battle through the first ten rounds….Johnson nailed and floored Galindez with one of his fabled ‘over-the-top-from-underneath’ left hands….and the title changed hands when the champion’s corner surrendered after Galindez hit the canvas.  Again, it was down and out for Johnson in his 1st title defense in 1980 against Eddie Mustafa Muhammad ( formerly Eddie Gregory) outworked, out-hustled, and outclassed Johnson en route to an 11th-round TKO. Things looked bleak when Johnson fought the up-and-coming Michael Spinks in early 1981—just before Spinks dethroned Johnson’s latest conqueror, Mustafa Muhammad. Johnson was off to a promising start in this fight….but the 1976 Olympian Spinks landed his famous “Spinks jinx” that put Johnson out for good in the fourth round.  Johnson recovered and proceeded to win 16 straight fights, defeating good fighters like Prince Charles Williams along the way, and in February 1986 would again be before his Indianapolis fans, fighting Leslie Stewart of Trinidad and Tobago for the WBA light heavyweight title that became vacant when Spinks abdicated to become a heavyweight. Stewart gave Johnson some fits, but cuts would take their toll on Stewart and were the reason that the fight was stopped in the 7th round, thus making Johnson the first ever three-time champion in the division.

Pops opponent in this fight was Mate Parlov….a Yugoslav and Croatian boxer…who was an Olympic gold medalist….who was European and World Champion as amateur….who as a professional is the greatest Croatian boxer of all time…who was the Croatian sportsman of the 20th century.

Parlov won twelve of his first thirteen fights as a professional boxer before successfully challenging for the European light-heavyweight title….then In 1976, he faced the future world champion Matthew Saad Muhammad. In their first fight in Milan….when he was defeated following the referee’s decision….and In a rematch, he and Muhammad struggled to a ten-round draw.  After successfully defending the European title three times….he met Miguel Angel Cuello in Milan for the WBC world light-heavyweight title in January 1978….as the two men had been scheduled to meet in the quarter-finals at the Munich Olympics ….but Cuello withdrew due to an injury.  Parlov knocked out Cuello in the 9th round of their title fight to become the first professional world champion from a communist country….and would lose his title on his 2nd defense against Marvin “Pops” Johnson….and would later challenge for the World cruiser-weight title without success.

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