Sept. 27, 1986: Curry vs Honeyghan

Time flies and it’s already more than five years since Britain’s Kell Brook tried to shake up the boxing world by challenging feared knockout puncher Gennady Golovkin at The O2 Arena in London. Brook was a huge underdog as he moved from welterweight 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 and was stopped in round five, it was in fact a British fighter who, on this date back in 1986, scored one of the biggest ever upsets in boxing history.

Brook succumbed to GGG in the 5th round
Brook succumbed to GGG in the 5th round

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 demonstrated impressive skill and punching power, and was so highly regarded that prior to his title defense against 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.

Donald Curry was riding high in 1985.
Donald Curry was riding high in 1985.

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 in the days leading up to the bout. 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 was, unlike Curry, primed, prepared and ready for combat. He attacked from the opening bell, winging hard power shots and not showing an ounce of trepidation. And while his his bombs weren’t landing yet, the ferociousness of his assault made it abundantly clear he had no respect for the esteemed champion. In fact, the authority and speed of Curry’s punches paled in comparison to those of his rival, as the champion appeared listless and hesitant by comparison. While neither combatant landed any blows of consequence in the first round, the Honeyghan took it on sheer aggression.

curry vs honeyghan
Honeyghan lands a left.

The brash challenger’s unceasing efforts to land a crushing shot paid off in the second when a lead right over Curry’s low left rocked “The Lone Star Cobra.” Through the rest of the round it was clear who held the advantage as Honeyghan outmuscled Curry to land hard, energy-sapping body shots as the Britisher punctuated the round by landing another looping right. In the third Honeyghan continued where he left off, bullying the champion and ripping hooks to the body at every opportunity. Curry finally showed some life, getting home a hard left hook to the liver followed by a solid right to the head that got the Lloyd’s attention, but the challenger then came back with a heavy left hook of his own, determined as he was to sustain his momentum and keep the upper hand.

lloyd-honeyghan-vs-donald-curry-444

Early in round five, Honeyghan broke through again to land a vicious left jab-straight right combination that seriously hurt Curry and turned his legs to spaghetti. The champion appeared to recover but then midway through the round found himself again in deep trouble as he was blinded by Honeyghan’s jab and nailed by another heavy right. Ringside commentator Gil Clancy summed up the action perfectly: “Honeyghan is too quick for him … in and out, nailing him with punches and getting back out … just too quick and too active.”

Curry vs Honeyghan
A proud Honeyghan shows off his new belts at the post-fight press conference.

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 big round 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 all-time biggest upsets, an inspiring tale from boxing history for all the scrappy underdogs out there who dream of shocking the world.         — Jamie Rebner 

One thought on “Sept. 27, 1986: Curry vs Honeyghan

  • October 2, 2019 at 12:52 pm
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    Curry was never the same after that beating, although in hindsight, this was more of a case of a flawed “superstar” being exposed than it was a major upset, although it was regarded as such at the time. Footnote:. I remember when Honeyghan later threw away the WBA belt in protest after refusing to fight South African contender Harold Volbrecht for political reasons. Sort of like the religious stand Muhammad Ali took in relinquishing his first heavyweight title in the late 1960s.

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