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Boxing in the 1980s

Boxing in the 1980s was filled with important fights, events and personalities that shaped the sport. Boxing in the 1980s was shaped by many different situations, such as the continuous corporate battles between the different world sanctioning organizations, the void left by Muhammad Ali as the sport's ambassador and consequent search for a new boxing hero, the continuous presence of Don King as the sport's most famous promoter, the surge of rival promoters as Bob Arum, Butch Lewis and Murad Muhammad, and major rule changes. In 1986, Mike Tyson crowned himself world Heavyweight champion, and he was considered by many to be the savior of the Heavyweight division, which had seen a decline in champion quality level (particularly in the WBA side) after Ali's retirement and, later on, after longtime WBC ruler Larry Holmes' prime. In addition, the IBF and WBO began operating.

Another important aspect of boxing in the 1980s was the rivalry between five world champions: Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard. Of all the possible match-ups between these five, Benitez-Hagler was the only one that never happened. The circle of fights between these five gladiators actually began on November 30, 1979, when Leonard beat Benitez by knockout in round fifteen to win the WBC world Welterweight title, on the same night Hagler drew (tied) with Vito Antuofermo in his first bid to become the world's Middleweight champion.

1980

1981

1982

(September 21 - The National Football League Players Association launches a strike against the NFL, wiping out seven games. CBS adds additional boxing telecasts during the strike.

  • November 9- Sugar Ray Leonard announces the second of multiple retirements in Baltimore. (Leonard's first retirement came after the 1976 Olympic Games).
  • November 12- The Battle of The Champions, Aaron Pryor retains his WBA world Jr. Welterweight title with a fourteen round knockout of Alexis Arguello, who was attempting to become boxing's first four division world champion, in Miami.
  • November 13- Tragedy in the ring: Ray Mancini retains his WBA world Lightweight title by knockout in round fourteen in Las Vegas over Duk Koo Kim, who passes away five days later, leading to the instituting of twelve rounds at the most as the mandatory fight distance and mandatory eight counts quickly. It was also the last fight to air as part of strike replacement programming on CBS because of the NFL strike, which ended three days later.
  • November 26- Larry Holmes retains his WBC world Heavyweight title with a fifteen round unanimous decision over Randall "Tex" Cobb, fight after which Howard Cosell quits as a boxing commentator, disgusted by what he described as mismatches.
  • December 3- the Carnival of Champions: Wilfredo Gómez retains his WBC world Super Bantamweight championship with a fourteen round knockout over Lupe Pintor and Thomas Hearns becomes the WBC's world Jr. Middleweight champion with a fifteen round majority decision over Wilfred Benitez.

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

  • March 7- Mike Tyson unifies the WBC and WBA world Heayweight titles with a twelve round unanimous decision win over James Smith, in Las Vegas.
  • March 9- Thomas Hearns becomes the ninth boxer in history to win world titles in three divisions, and the first American to do so since Henry Armstrong, knocking out WBC world Light-Heavyweight champion Dennis Andries, born in Guyana but a British resident, in round ten in Detroit.
  • April 6- In what is considered by many to be the greatest comeback in boxing history, Sugar Ray Leonard comes back after three and a half years without fighting to outpoint Marvin Hagler and win the undisputed world Middleweight championship in Las Vegas. Leonard becomes the tenth boxer in history to be world champion in three different divisions.
  • May 30- Don King's Heavyweight tournament continues as Tony Tucker defeats James Douglas to win the IBF's world Heavyweight title that had been vacated by Michael Spinks, and Mike Tyson retains his WBC and WBA titles with a sixth round knockout over former world champion Pinklon Thomas in Las Vegas.
  • August 1- The final of Don King's Heavyweight tournament: Mike Tyson defeats Tony Tucker by a twelve round unanimous decision to become undisputed world Heavyweight champion.
  • October 4- Wilfredo Vazquez wins the first of three world titles by knocking out WBA world Bantamweight champion Chan Young Park in ten rounds at Seoul, South Korea.
  • October 28- Jorge Vaca dethrones WBC world Welterweight champion Lloyd Honeyghan with a controversial eighth round technical decision in London. The controversy was that a point deducted to Honeyghan by the referee that night proved to be the margin of difference.
  • October 29- Thomas Hearns makes history, becoming the first boxer in history to win world titles at four different divisions, knocking out Juan Roldan in four rounds for the WBA's vacant world Middleweight title in Las Vegas.

1988

  • January 22- Mike Tyson retains his undisputed world Heavyweight championship with a fourth round knockout win against former world champion Larry Holmes in Atlantic City.
  • March 7- Jeff Fenech becomes the eleventh boxer to win world titles in three different divisions, knocking out former world champion Victor Callejas in ten rounds at Sydney, Australia, for the vacant WBC world Featherweight title.
  • March 29- Lloyd Honeyghan recovers the WBC world Welterweight championship with a third round knockout of Jorge Vaca in their rematch at London.
  • April 9- Evander Holyfield unifies his WBA world Cruiserweight title with the WBC one, knocking out Carlos De Leon in eight rounds at Las Vegas.
  • June 6- Iran Barkley conquers the WBC world Middleweight title with a third round knockout of Thomas Hearns, who had cut Barkley seriously in round two, in Las Vegas.
  • June 27- Mike Tyson retains his undisputed world Heavyweight title with a first round knockout of former world champion Michael Spinks in Las Vegas.
  • July 29- In an extremely controversial bout, Colombia's Tomas Molinares becomes WBA world Welterweight champion by knocking out Marlon Starling in six rounds in Atlantic City. Starling's camp protested that the knockout punch had landed after the bell to end the round, therefore, it shouldn't have counted. After further review, the WBA agreed with Starling's camp, but decided not to withdraw recognition from Molinares as world champion.
  • August 4- The last fifteen rounds bout, as Jorge Paez defeats Calvin Grove by a majority decision to become the IBF's world Featherweight champion.
  • October 29- Julio César Chávez unifies his WBA world Lightweight title with the WBC one, beating his friend and neighbor, Jose Luis Ramirez, by a technical decision in round eleven in Las Vegas.
  • November 7- The first fight involving titles in two different categories and the world Super Middleweight championship sees Sugar Ray Leonard become boxing's second four division world champion and its first five division world champion when he knocks out WBC world Light Heavyweight champion Donnie LaDonde in the ninth round, also winning the WBC's vacant Super Middleweight championship, at Las Vegas.

1989

  • February 24 - Roberto Duran makes history by becoming the third fighter to win world titles in four different divisions and also the fighter with the longest period between his first and latest world championships (17 years) when he defeats Iran Barkley by a split decision to become the WBC's world Middleweight champion, in Atlantic City.
  • February 25- Mike Tyson retains his undisputed world Heavyweight championship, with a fifth round knockout over future world champion Frank Bruno in Las Vegas.
  • March 6- The WBO's first world championship bout, as Héctor Camacho defeats Ray Mancini by unanimous twelve round decision, to win the WBO's vacant world Jr. Welterweight title and become boxing's twelfth world champion in three different divisions, at Las Vegas.
  • May 13- Julio César Chávez becomes the thirteenth boxer to win world titles in three or more different categories, knocking out Roger Mayweather in ten rounds in their rematch, to win the WBC's world Jr. Welterweight title in Los Angeles.
  • May 17- Carlos De Leon becomes the first boxer to win the world Cruiserweight title four times (and also joins a handful of champions who have won world titles in one division that many times) when he knocks out Sammy Reeson in nine rounds in London, picking up the WBC belt that had been vacated by his former conqueror, Evander Holyfield, when Holyfield moved to the Heavyweight division.
  • June 12- Sugar Ray Leonard retains his WBC world Super Middleweight title with a twelve round draw in a rematch with Thomas Hearns in Las Vegas.
  • December 7- The decade in boxing finishes almost where it started, as Sugar Ray Leonard defends his WBC world Super Middleweight title with a twelve round unanimous decision victory over Roberto Duran in their third encounter.

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