Born in Fort Worth Texas on September 7th 1961, Donald Curry would rise to have a superlative boxing career that came only a little too late. He dominated the welterweight division (147lbs) hard on the heels of the departure of such legendary names as Leonard, Herans, Duran, and Benitez to the ranks of the middleweights, yet nonetheless was considered by many to be the best Pound-for-Pound fighter in the world, and therefore better than any of them.
Standing 5’10” with good reach, good power, and an all-around boxer-puncher style, Curry’s only liability was a sub-par chin that would get him in trouble as he got older. He enjoyed an outstanding amateur career between 1979-80, winning two national titles, the national Golden Gloves, the boxing World Cup, and making the Olympic Team that was canceled in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Unable to pursue Olympic gold, Curry turned pro on the day after Christmas, 1980 and pursued pro gold instead.
Curry Rises to Contention
Curry had turned pro one month after Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran fought the legendary “No Mas” rematch. It was a the second step in defining a pattern in his career. He missed the Olympics only because of political events beyond his control; he missed big money fights that would have made him a popular sports star only because he was a little too young to catch up with the great icons of the day. Nonetheless, Curry rapidly shot to the top of the welterweight ranks, and by October 1982 the 14-0 fighter was ready to challenge 25-0 Marlon Starling in a NABF/USBA title unification (the North American affiliates of the WBC and WBA – in theory, the winner would be the “US welterweight champion”). Due to rib injuries, Curry has been unable to train properly for the fight, he still won a Split Decision victory over Starling.
The win earned him a February 1983 shot at the vacant WBA 147lbs title against South Korean Jun-Suk Hwang, which he easily won on points. It was the beginning of a long reign as world champion.
In 1984 Curry met Marlon Starling in a rematch, with Starling having been recognized as by the newly formed IBF as welterweight champ. Able to properly prepare this time, Curry won a thumping, unanimous decision over Starling and became the WBA-IBF champion. For the rest of 1984 and 1985, Curry would defend the two belts multiple times against whoever got in the ring with him, winning mostly by knockout.
By December 1985 he was 25 years old and set to meet undefeated Milton McCory, the WBC welterweight champion. Curry crushed him in two rounds with a perfectly place, short left hook, becoming the Undisputed World Welterweight Champion by knockout. After this win, many authorities were ranking Curry as the best fighter in the world, above even the now more famous names of Leonard, Hearns, and Hagler. Indeed, speculation of a move up to middleweight and a meeting with Hagler was rampant.
Curry Loses His Spice
However, Curry’s sudden and mysterious decline was already in motion. In September 1986, he met Britisher Lloyd Honeyghan, was busted up in 5 rounds and quit in the 6th. It was a dramatically awful showing from a man who had been riding high less than a year before.
Curry rebounded somewhat by moving up to Super Welterweight (154lbs). Winning two tune-up fights, he challenged Mike “The Bodysnatcher” McCallum for the WBA belt. McCallum was making his 6th defense, but Curry still crunched him with a right in the 2nd. Shaken, but undeterred, McCallum came back to knock Curry cold with a left hook in the 5th. It was Curry’s first knockout loss.
Not quite done yet, Curry got back to work and managed to get a shot at the WBC version of the 154lbs championship in 1988, beating Gianfranco Rosi badly – Rosi was knocked down in the 2nd, 4th, twice in the 7th, and again in the 8th. He quit after the 9th Round, giving Curry his a title in a 2nd weight class. However, he just as quickly lost it: in 1989 and making his second defense, Curry was embarassed by unheralded Rene Jaqout and outpointed, losing his title in The Ring’s Upset of the Year.
It was Curry’s last hurrah. He was stopped by Terry Norris and Michael Nunn, retired, made a short and ill-fated comeback in 1997 (despite being in the midst o renal failure), and then retired for good.
Sources: http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1121738/index.htm; http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1123028/index.htm; boxrec.com; cyberboxingzone.com; YouTube footage; ESPN Classic Sports