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Boxing – USBA Junior Middleweight Title – Donald Curry VS Tony Montgomery


CBS Sports has always brought a wide array of sports…..with its Sports Saturday and Sports Sunday programs…..they brought a great deal of boxing with the CBS boxing commentator team of Tim Ryan and Gil Clancy at the helm……but on this day’s Sports Saturday program boxing event for the USBA junior middlewight title between Donald Curry vs Tim Montgomery….Ryan was off on assignment, so CBS introduces Tim Brandt…..who like Chris Berman, Bob Ley, Brian Gumble, Greg Gumble, et al…..are all still with us today.

The fight between Curry and Montgomery was one of the dirtier fights I have ever seen….as Montgomery continually headbutt Curry….while throwing several cheap shots at the Champ….but boxing has a tendency to bring out less desirable qualities in boxers….as the fight was stopped by the referee after a Montgomery head butt that had purpose behind it….infuriating Curry to the point that he actually walked over to where the referee was escorting the disqualified Montgomery to his corner when Curry comes over and delivers an overhand right of great significance…..after the fight had been called.  Curry simply did not appreciate the intention of the final head butt.

Donald Curry is an American former professional boxer….who held the undisputed welterweight title as well as the WBC light middleweight title. He scored notable wins over Marlon Starling and Milton McCrory…..and for this reason is why I give Donald Curry a rating of “really good to almost great”……for he too might have been really great in another era other than the golden age of boxing (1964 – 1995)…..but because Curry fought during the golden age…..he will get lost in the history books because there were so many “great to super great to legendary boxers during this time frame.

Curry, won his professional debut with a first-round knocked of Mario Tineo on December 26, 1980. at age 19 saying…. “I didn’t start thinking about turning pro until I was about 18,” Curry said. “I didn’t pay attention to the pro game. I couldn’t have told you the names of more than two world champions, and they were Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali.”.  With a record of 11-0, Curry knocked out former world title challenger Bruce Finch in three rounds to win the NABF welterweight title on May 5, 1982….then Curry fought future WBA/WBC welterweight champion Marlon Starling for the USBA welterweight championship on October 24, 1982. Curry bruised his ribs during training and also had a lot of trouble making weight. He reportedly was nine pounds over the 147-pound welterweight limit less than a week before the fight. Despite these problems, Curry won by a twelve-round split decision to unify the USBA and NABF welterweight titles and hand Starling his first pro loss. The win earned Curry the unified #2 spot in the rankings behind Milton McCrory for the welterweight title.

On February 13, 1983, Curry fought Jun-Suk Hwang for the WBA welterweight championship….which had become vacant after the retirement of Sugar Ray Leonard. Curry suffered a flash knockdown in the seventh round but otherwise dominated the fight and won by a lopsided fifteen-round unanimous decision. Three months later, Curry’s older brother, Bruce, won the WBC light welterweight title….becoming the first pair of brothers to hold world titles simultaneously.

After making his first title defense, a first-round knockout of Roger Stafford, Curry had a rematch with Starling. Curry, mixing up punches to the body and head, stayed on top of Starling and pounded out a fifteen-round unanimous decision to retain the titles of the WBA and the newly formed IBF….which had elected to recognize Curry as their champion before the fight. Curry’s next three fights were successful title defenses….stopping Elio Diaz in eight rounds….Nino LaRocca in six….and Colin Jones in four. His next two fights were non-title fights at junior middleweight….when he stopped James “Hard Rock” Green in two…then Pablo Baez in six.

On December 6, 1985, Curry fought undefeated WBC welterweight champion Milton McCrory to unify the welterweight titles….for in the second round, Curry slipped a McCrory left jab and countered with a left hook to the chin that sent McCrory down….as McCrory struggled to rise is when Curry dropped him again with a solid right cross….as referee Mills Lane counted him out….and Curry became the first undisputed welterweight champion since Sugar Ray Leonard retired in 1982. Curry’s first defense of the undisputed championship was in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. His opponent was Eduardo Rodriguez, whom he knocked out in the second round with a left-right combination to the head. Curry was 25-0 with 20 knockouts, and many boxing experts considered him to be the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.…as Curry’s next defense of the title was against Lloyd Honeyghan of the United Kingdom on September 27, 1986 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Honeyghan was 27-0 and ranked #1 by the WBC.

Curry’s training was disrupted by managerial issues. His managerial contract with David Gorman was to expire on September 30, 1986, and Curry announced that Akbar Muhammad would become his new manager. Muhammad said he wanted Gorman to remain a part of Curry’s team, but Gorman said he wouldn’t accept a position as co-manager and would not let Curry work out of his gym if he was not Curry’s manager. Curry told Gorman to stay away from his training camp, but shortly before the fight, Curry asked him to work in his corner for the fight and Gorman agreed….which gives the boxing fan a wonderful example of how deep the relationships are between boxers and their trainers…..Ali and Dundee, Futch and Frazier, D’amato and Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Angelo Dundee, Thomas Hearns and Emanual Steward, et al…..cuz it really is like Rocky and Mick…..it runs deep.

Oddsmakers considered Curry vs. Honeyghan to be such a mismatch that some would not offer a betting line. However, Honeyghan came into the fight with great confidence and bet $5,000 on himself at 5-1 odds. “I want people to know how much I believe in myself,” he said. “I can’t wait to start punching Curry on the head. I’m going to smash his face in.”….as Honeyghan easily won the opening two rounds by pressuring Curry and rocking him badly in the second round….but Curry came back to win the next two rounds….seemingly having little left after that…..for it was apparent that he was drained from struggling to make weight…..having to lose 11 pounds three days before the fight…. “I was weak and sluggish. I had no strength in my legs, and my timing just wasn’t there. I wasn’t myself,”  Curry said after the fight. “I won’t fight as a welterweight again.”

Akbar Muhammad said Curry weighed 168 pounds six and a half weeks prior to the fight, before he went to New Orleans to train. Then his grandfather’s death caused the fighter to lose concentration. “His weight went up to 157, 158. He told me, ‘I don’t think I can make the weight.’ He wanted to pull out of the fight,” Muhammad said. “I told him he was a professional and had an obligation to meet.”….to which Honeyghan manhandled Curry in rounds five and six. Late in the sixth, an accidental headbutt opened a bad cut over Curry’s left eye. Returning to his corner after the sixth, with blood flowing down his face, Curry shook his head and was heard to tell his corner, “I’m through.” Ringside physicians Frank Doggett and Paul Williams examined the cut after the sixth round and told referee Octavio Meyran to stop the fight, giving Honeyghan a TKO victory. The Ring magazine named the fight Upset of the Year”.  After losing to Honeyghan, Curry moved up to the light middleweight division.

Curry defeated Tony Montgomery to win the USBA light middleweight title on February 7, 1987….in which Montgomery was disqualified in the fifth round for intentional headbutts as seen in this video herewith. Curry’s next opponent, former IBF light middleweight champion Carlos Santos, was also disqualified in the fifth round for intentional headbutts.

On April 6, 1987, the day Sugar Ray Leonard defeated Marvelous Marvin Hagler for the world middleweight championship and two days after defeating Santos, Curry filed a million dollar lawsuit against Leonard and his attorney, Mike Trainer. The suit stated that Leonard and Trainer took “undue and unconscionable advantage of Curry” through fraud, conspiracy and breach of financial responsibilities, and they “conspired to prevent Curry from entering the middleweight divisions to assure Leonard’s unobstructed opportunity to fight the middleweight champion.”

Curry said he asked Leonard and Trainer for advice concerning his future, and they advised him to stay at welterweight and not to move up in weight to fight WBA light middleweight champion Mike McCallum or middleweight champion Hagler. Curry was going to face McCallum on June 23, 1986, but he decided to back out and stay at welterweight. Several weeks later, Leonard announced that he was coming out of retirement to fight Hagler.

Curry fought Mike McCallum on July 18, 1987 for the WBA light middleweight championship. The fight was televised live on HBO. Curry tried to have Sugar Ray Leonard, who worked for HBO as a commentator, removed from the broadcast team, but HBO decided to include Leonard as part of the telecast.

McCallum, 31-0 with 28 knockouts, was boxing’s longest reigning champion. Curry, a 2-1 betting favorite, boxed well and was leading on all three scorecards after four rounds. In the fifth, McCallum caught Curry on the chin with a left hook, putting down for the count. “I don’t know what he hit me with,” Curry said forty minutes after the fight. “I don’t know what happened.”….for you can hear on this video when HBO commentator Barry Tompkins tells his broadcasting partner Sugar Ray Leonard, “You settled a case out of court here.”

After outpointing former WBC champion Lupe Aquino….Curry got another title shot when he traveled to Italy to fight Gianfranco Rosi for the WBC light middleweight title on July 8, 1988….a fight in which Curry put him down five times….only to have Rosi retire on his stool after the ninth round. “I trained hard for five months to win this title and it paid off,” Curry said….who once again was a champion….but his reign didn’t last very long…..for he lost the title in his first defense by dropping a twelve-round unanimous decision to the lightly regarded Rene Jacquot on February 11, 1989 in France. Curry built an early lead, but Jacquot came on in the second half of the fight. “I just got tired,” Curry said afterward. “I thought I was in the best condition of my life but in the seventh, eighth and ninth rounds my legs just went.” The fight that was named The Ring magazine “Upset of the Year.”  I guess it is fights like this and the Honeygan fights that just won’t allow me to put Curry in my “great boxer” category…I guess cuz the great ones didn’t lose fights like this.

Following two knockout victories, Curry went back to France to fight Lineal / IBF middleweight champion Michael Nunn on October 18, 1990….and although Curry found the target….he just didn’t have the power to hurt the bigger champion….allowing Nunn  to drop him with a flurry of unanswered punches in round ten….as the referee stopped the fight.  In his next fight, Curry returned to light middleweight to fight Terry Norris for the WBC title. The fight took place June 1, 1991 in Palm Springs, California….which was a rough and competitive fight for seven rounds….but in the eighth, Norris put Curry down for the count with a series of right hands.

Curry retired after the Norris fight with a career record of 34 wins 6 losses with 25 KO’s….but in his 6 losses, he was KO’d 5 times…..and that stat is why Donald Curry was not quite a great boxer during the golden age of boxing…..but he was a really good boxer and deserves to be remembered for his talents.

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