Remember when Britain’s Kell Brook tried to shake up the sports world by challenging knockout puncher Gennady Golovkin? Brook was a big underdog as he moved from welterweight to middleweight in the hopes of conquering the Kazakh beast, and in the pre-fight build-up his ballsy challenge of one of the fight game’s most respected talents had pundits recalling other “giant-killers” from the UK, as well as huge “shockers” from the past. But while Brook failed to shock Golovkin or the boxing world, it was in fact a British fighter who scored one of the biggest upsets in fight history on this date back in 1986.
When Lloyd Honeyghan traveled across the pond three decades ago to challenge undisputed welterweight champion Donald Curry, he too was a massive underdog. Curry, aka “The Cobra,” was considered one of the top pound-for-pound talents, having claimed all the welterweight belts while amassing a glittering 25-0 record. He had shown tremendous skill and power, and was so highly regarded that prior to his fight with Honeyghan there was talk of a potential superfight with middleweight kingpin Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Thus the outcome of Curry vs Honeyghan came as a massive shock to fight fans everywhere.
No upset in sports ever occurs by accident; there are always reasons why David topples Goliath. Curry vs Honeyghan was no different, as there were a number of pre-fight factors influencing the outcome. Apart from the distractions of having become one of the sport’s newest stars, Curry struggled to make weight. And having logged just four rounds of action in over a year, the champion also had some serious issues in terms of ring rust. Meanwhile, if the Brit was a significant underdog, he happened to also be an undefeated fighter with boundless confidence.
And it was evident from the opening bell that Honeyghan wasn’t playing around. He started in attack mode, winging hard power shots and not showing an ounce of trepidation. Even though his bombs weren’t landing, he made it abundantly clear he had no respect for the champion. The authority and speed of Curry’s punches paled in comparison to those of his rival, and his energy didn’t match the magnitude of a world title fight. While neither combatant landed any blows of consequence in the first round, the challenger won it on sheer aggression.
Honeyghan’s efforts to land a crushing shot paid off in the second when a lead right over Curry’s low left rocked the champion. Through the rest of the round it was clear who held the advantage as Honeyghan outmuscled Curry and landed hard body shots and the Britisher punctuated the round by landing another looping right. In the third Honeyghan continued to bully the champion, ripping hooks to the body at every opportunity. Curry finally showed some life, responding with a hard left hook to the liver followed by a solid right to the head that got the challenger’s attention, but Honeyghan responded with a heavy left hook, determined as he was to maintain his momentum.
Early in the fifth, the challenger landed a hard jab-straight combination that hurt “The Cobra” and turned his legs to spaghetti. Curry recovered but midway through the round found himself again in deep trouble as he was blinded by Honeyghan’s jab and nailed by another sharp right. Ringside commentator Gil Clancy summed up the bout perfectly: “Honeyghan is too quick for him … in and out, nailing him with punches and getting back out … just too quick and too active.”
Halfway through round six, a bad cut opened above Curry’s left eye and the match was now a one-sided beating. Honeyghan continued to unload heavy shots and a right-left-right combination stunned Curry and buckled his legs again. It was another round in the bag for the challenger and it would be the last as shortly after it ended the ringside doctor deemed Curry’s cut too dangerous to allow the match to proceed. Fans looked on in shock as Lloyd Honeyghan celebrated one of the sport’s biggest upsets, an inspiring tale from boxing history for all the scrappy underdogs out there who dream of shocking the world. — Jamie Rebner