Mccallum's The Name In Middleweight Game

Posted: July 20, 1987

LAS VEGAS — Donald Curry's name didn't even come up Saturday night when conversation turned to the future of the middleweight division.

Curry, whose name always used to be mentioned in those conversations, got knocked out of the immediate future by a Mike McCallum left hook that left him dazed on the canvas of the Caesars Palace Sports Pavilion.

He was pulling back from an exchange when McCallum's textbook hook slammed into his chin and sent him crashing to the canvas. Referee Richard Steele's 10 count was a mere formality; Curry didn't stir until he jerked his torso forward seemingly in response to Steele's eight count. But he later would admit that he never heard Steele shouting out the count just above his head.

Promoter Bob Arum, World Boxing Council light-heavyweight champion Tommy Hearns and some others who had seen their futures tied up with Curry's also looked a little dazed as Steele counted out Curry. But they were fully recovered moments later.

"I see no reason why Mike McCallum shouldn't fight the winner of the Tommy Hearns and Juan Roldan fight for the (World Boxing Association) middleweight title," Arum told the press a few minutes later. "I've gone on record as saying this winner should face that winner."

"This was Mike's last defense (of the World Boxing Association junior middleweight crown)," said Lou Duva, who decides McCallum's moves inside and outside the ring. "Mike is ready to go after the middleweight title. We'll be waiting for Tommy Hearns."

The Hearns party left not long after Duva made that point. Hearns has not been much of a McCallum fan since McCallum bolted from the Kronk Gym stable three years ago.

McCallum left after Hearns, then the WBC 154-pound champion, signed to fight Roberto Duran, the WBA champion in a title unification instead of giving a title shot to McCallum. McCallum was the top contender for both titles. He felt that Emanuel Steward, who managed him and Hearns at the time, should have been working to get him the shot.

Since then, he has taken a special delight in beating Kronk fighters. He already has beaten David Braxton and Milton McCrory. And he would love to hang Hearns's pelt over his door.

''Hearns is scared," said Dan Duva, Lou's son and president of Main Events, Inc. "Him and Emanuel don't want it.

"They know what Mike used to do to Tommy in the gym . . . we'll fight him at 160 or 175 if Tommy wants to fight for his (World Boxing Council light- heavyweight title). Mike walks around at 175-180; he can go up two if he has to."

Later, at a party in Arum's suite, Steward was starting to warm up to the idea. He had penciled in Curry's name on his list of options. But he was beginning to see some value in a grudge match between Hearns and McCallum.

"Of course we like it because it gives us another option," Steward said. ''Tommy will win the middleweight title on October 29. After that, we were thinking about moving back to the light-heavyweights to fight Bobby Czyz for the International Boxing Federation title.

"We've already got an informal agreement to fight Marvin Hagler for the middleweight title after Roldan. He wants to fight again.

"Now, we've got another option in the middleweights. After we beat Roldan, Tommy's going to be able to call the shots."

Curry was fresh out of options as he sat on a stool in the bathroom of his suite patiently answering reporters' questions. In an adjoining room, his family and close friends sat silently in front of a TV watching a videotape replay of the knockout.

Curry had fought his way back from a devastating defeat 10 months ago after quitting on his stool six grueling rounds into his battle with Lloyd Honeyghan. That loss cost him the undisputed welterweight title and his cloak of invincibility.

He moved into the junior middleweight division and built his record to 27-1 with victories over Tony Montgomery and Carlos Santos. Then he set his sights on McCallum's title, figuring a win over the undefeated (32-0, 29 KOs) McCallum would reestablish his reputation and set him up for an eventual middleweight title shot.

But that dream had vanished by the time he woke up on the canvas.

"I don't know if I want to go on," he said softly. "I don't know if the motivation is there to work as hard as I have to work to get ready for a fight.

"I don't want to go out a loser. But I don't want to risk everything fighting fights that don't motivate me. At least that's the way I'm thinking now.

". . . I thought I was controlling the fight. I knew I was ahead. But I got careless and he caught me."

Curry was ahead on all three scorecards when the hammer fell.

He had won a tactical first round by blocking McCallum's body shots and countering over the top with left hooks. He was starting to set the pace in the second round when he landed the hardest punch of the fight.

McCallum had backed into the ropes when Curry jolted him with a looping right that almost dropped the champion.

"I was hit today with a very good left hook," McCallum said. "Donald Curry came to fight. He's a very good puncher.

". . . Was it a right hand? I know it caught me near the ropes. I felt myself going down."

Curry must have felt him going down, too, because he hesitated before returning to the attack. The moment's hesitation was all McCallum needed.

"Like a lot of punchers," McCallum's trainer Georgie Benton said later, ''Curry was used to guys just going down when he hit them with his best shot.

"So, he just stood there for a second and admired his work. If he had followed up, he might have stopped Mike."

"I didn't want to get out of control," Curry said later. "I was throwing punches but he got very defensive-minded. He's a good defensive fighter."

A round later, McCallum was fully recovered and looking to land his best shot. When he found the opening, there was no need to follow up.

"We practiced that punch in the gym," McCallum said. "Georgie Benton had me in the mold of Sugar Ray Robinson. He wanted me to throw two or three left hooks.

"He was looking for the left to the body. I showed him the right uppercut then, when I came with the hook, I switched from the body to the head."

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