This 1987 IBF Lightweight Championship fight between than Champ Greg Haugen vs Vinnie Pazienza featured two really good to almost super great lightweight boxers during the golden age of boxing (1964 – 1995)….at least in this lil ole chiweenie Sportsphiles’ opinion….and because they both fought when they did….they were seriously overshadowed by the legends of the lightweight division like Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Duran, Alexis Arguello, Julio Cezar Chavez, Hector “Macho” Camacho and Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker during this awesome era of lightweight division boxing.
Greg Lee Haugen is a retired American boxer….who was champion at both the Lightweight and Light Welterweight divisions….after turning pro in 1982 and winning his first 17 fights before challenging for a world title….when on December 5, 1986….Haugen captured the International Boxing Federation Lightweight Title with a majority decision over reigning champion Jimmy Paul….only to lose his title in his first defense to Vinny Pazienza by decision….however, he won the title back in a rematch with Pazienza in 1988. He defended this title against Miguel Santana….followed by a win against future WBO welterweight champion Gert Bo Jacobsen. Greg Haugen lost the IBF Lightweight title to Pernell Whitaker in 1989 by decision….which was his biggest paycheck at that time at $426,000.
On February 23, 1991, Haugen captured the WBO Light Welterweight Title with an upset victory over then undefeated Hector Camacho by split decision….in an outcome that resulted from Camacho being deducted a point for illegally hitting Haugen when Haugen refused to touch gloves at the beginning of the last round….and then later that year, lost in a rematch with Camacho, again by split decision.
In 1992, he captured the vacant NABF light welterweight title with a knockout win over Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini…..then on February 20, 1993, he challenged Mexican legend Julio César Chávez for the WBC Light Welterweight Title at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City….a fight attended by 132,247 spectators. Haugen’s legacy is likely best defined by the Chavez fight….but not for his performance in the ring…..but rather for a statement he made leading up to the bout in saying that many of Chavez’s wins “came against Tijuana taxi drivers that my mom could whip.”….which generated a huge uproar in the Mexican community and ignited publicity for the bout. After the loss to Chávez, a dominant TKO loss, Haugen stated: “They must have been very tough taxi drivers.” Haugen never again challenged for a major belt…and when asked in an interview who was the greatest fighter he ever fought….Haugen replied, “Hands down, Pernell Whittaker.” He retired in 1999 with a record of 40–10–1-2.
In the 1980’s, Vinny Pazienza built a reputation along the East Coast by putting together an impressive streak of wins over fighters Melvin Paul (KO 2), Joe Frazier Jr. (TKO 7), Harry Arroyo (UD 10), Nelson Bolanos (TKO 6) and Roberto Elizondo (KO in 10). His first world title fight came on June 7, 1987, in Providence, RI….where he outpointed Greg Haugen over 15 rounds to become the IBF World Lightweight Champion….as seen in this video below….for the pair would meet two more times as this boxing trilogy were true grudge matches between two great lightweights who simply did not like each other….with Haugen recovering the title in an immediate rematch in 1988…..and Pazienza prevailing in a 10-round decision in their rubber match in 1990.
Pazienza failed in title tries in the junior welterweight division: in 1988 against WBC World Champion Roger Mayweather…..and against both WBO Champion Hector “Macho” Camacho and WBA World Champion Loreto Garza. It was during this time period that Pazienza was having difficulty making weight for his fights. After the Roger Mayweather fight, Pazienza collapsed in the dressing room from near-fatal dehydration and was rushed to the hospital. After the loss to Garza, Pazienza decided to move up to a more natural weight class. In 1991, Pazienza made the move to the junior middleweight division and in his first fight at this weight class he won the USBA Championship against Ron Amundsen in a 12-round decision….as Pazienza looked faster, healthier and stronger. He then received a shot at the WBA World Title and was successful in defeating the WBA World Jr. Middleweight Champion Gilbert Dele with a 12th-round TKO win in Providence, RI. With this world title win, Pazienza became the second fighter in boxing history to win both the lightweight and junior middleweight world championships. Pazienza was considered the underdog going into the fight but delivered what many believe was the finest performance of his career.
Shortly after this fight, Vinnie Paz was in a car accident where he broke his neck…. returning to the ring 13 months after the accident to beat future WBC World Jr. Middleweight Champion Luis Santana via a 10-round decision….and establishing what is considered the greatest comeback in boxing history….which he followed with wins over Brett Lally and former world champion Lloyd Honeyghan….then Pazienza went on to win the vacant IBO Middleweight World Title in 1993 with an 11th-round KO over Dan Sherry.
Vinnie Paz went on to beat Roberto Duran twice via decision….with the IBC Super Middleweight Title on the line both times. In June 1995, Roy Jones, Jr. vs. Vinny Pazienza….a fight billed as The Devil and Mr. Jones….resulting in a loss in the world title bid against IBF World Super Middleweight Champion Roy Jones, Jr. In 1996, Pazienza inflicted then-prospect Dana Rosenblatt’s only loss (4th round KO) to win the vacant WBU Super Middleweight World Championship….and in 2002, Paz lost to WBC World Super Middleweight Champion Eric Lucas in what would be his last shot at a world title.
Vinnie Pazienza career ended in 2004 with a career record of 50-10, with 30 wins by knockout and five world titles….IBF Lightweight Championship, WBA Jr. Middleweight Championship, IBO Super Middleweight Championship, IBC Super Middleweight Championship and the WBU Super Middleweight Championship.
Any way you cut the pie….two super great lightweight boxers during the golden age of boxing….stepped into the ring for this the 1st of three epic grudge matches between guys who didn’t like each other….for a fight for the ages….which for any boxing fan is MUST SEE TV!!!