1980sABCBoxingJim LampleyLight Heavyweight ChampionsLight Heavywt ChampionshipsWide World of Sports

Boxing – WBA Light Heavyweight Title – Champ Marvin Johnson VS Leslie Stewart


ABC’s Wide World of Sports was a leader is sports television…..which brought all kinds of sports from all over the world…..and some of the best profile pieces of athletes and sporting events…..and this video starts off with a great piece on the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics vs Detroit Pistons on the game when Larry Bird and Bill Lambier get into a fight on court and get ejected from the game.

However, the piece brought to the viewer on the Indy 500…..with highlights of the 24 days leading up to the All American Race…..with Al Trautwig, Jim Lampley, Becky Dixon, Sam Posey and Bobby Unser giving wonderful insight into the race…..with highlights of all the ingredients of the race….the Unsers, Danny Sullivan, A J Foyt, Johnny Rutherford and more.

ABC fight commentators Al Michaels and Alex Wallau brings the fight from Port-O-Spain, Trinidad between 3 x world light heavyweight champion Marvin Johnson takes on Leslie Stewart for the 2nd time…..with a look at both fighters boxing careers preceding the fight…..as this was the 2nd time that Johnson and Stewart had bought….with Stewart losing on a 7th round TKO just one year prior to this fight.

This was a very good light heavyweight championship fight……with lots of punches being thrown by each fighter…..as each of these boxers were world light heavyweight champions in their career and rank a “really good” fighter and a “great fighter” in my best of the boxers in the golden age of boxing (1964 – 1995)……an era that was loaded to the brim with “really good fighters”……”great fighters”……”super great fighters”……and “legendary fighters”……for Johnson was “great” and Stewart was “really good”

Marvin “Pops” Johnson is an American former boxer who was a 3-time light-heavyweight champion of the world. As an amateur, Johnson fought in the 1972 Olympics in Munich….winning a bronze medal….who made his way up the professional ranks in the light heavyweight division soon thereafter……then he lost to future world light heavyweight champion Matthew Saad Muhammad and Lottie Mwale, a top contender……before getting his chance at the WBC light heavyweight crown from fellow southpaw Mate Parlov of Yugoslavia with a 10th-round KO in Italy in December 1978.  Pops then lost that same title the following April in front of his hometown Indianapolis fans…..in a rematch to Mathew Saad Muhammad in what was perhaps 1979’s Fight of the Year for many observers. 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 eighth round…..despite bleeding severely from the nose and from cuts around his eyes.

Johnson would again win the WBA light heavyweight title by fighting the rugged Victor Galindez from Argentina in New Orleans….as part of a three-fight ‘card’ that included two title bouts (Antuofermo-Hagler I and Benitez-Leonard) staged in Las Vegas. 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….as the title changed hands when the champion’s corner surrendered after Galindez hit the canvas. However, it was down and out for Johnson in his first title defense when in March 1980…..Eddie Mustafa Muhammad 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, 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…..then 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 seventh round….thus making Johnson the first ever three-time champion in the division. An injury postponed his first defense against Jean-Marie Emebe of Cameroon….but the two would hook up in Indianapolis in September of that year. It was the first time that Johnson would both enter and leave the ring as champion….by becoming the winner by 13th-round TKO.

Next, it was on to Trinidad for a rematch with Stewart on May 23, 1987. However, it was all Stewart this time, as he floored Johnson several times in the first few rounds and while Johnson always regained his feet and was never counted out…..he did tell his corner-men after eight rounds that enough was enough….and by doing so Marvin Johnson became an ex-champ for a third time…..and would retire after that bout.

Leslie Matthew Stewart was a Trinidadian boxer known as “Laventille Tiger”….who turned professional in 1982 and challenged for the Vacant WBA light heavyweight title in 1986….but was TKO’d by Marvin Johnson when the bout was stopped on cuts. In the rematch the following year, Stewart dominated Johnson, and Johnson’s corner retired the fighter in the ninth round. Stewart lost the belt in his first defense to Virgil Hill. In 1988 he challenged WBC light heavyweight title holder Donny Lalonde….but lost via TKO. In 1998 he took on WBO light heavyweight title holder Michael Moorer….but again lost via TKO…..retiring in 1990. 

Anybody who fights four times for a world light heavyweight title….winning one….rates as a really good fighter in this lil ole Chiweenie Sportsphile’s opinion….so Leslie was a really good boxer…..and anyone who wins 3 x world light heavyweight titles rates as a great boxer with me…..and Pops was great.




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