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Lloyd Honeyghan: Reflecting on the 'Ragamuffin Man' P1

By Terence Dooley

Lloyd Honeyghan must have thought that he had seen it all going into his November 27 1985 contest against Sylvester Mittee. 'The Ragamuffin Man' had compiled a perfect 25-0 slate and was the EBU welterweight champion. There had been few surprises in Lloyd's career thus far but British and Commonwealth boss Mittee managed to throw the 25-year-old a curveball ahead of their clash by presenting Lloyd with a bunch of flowers.

Mittee was riffing on the recent street scuffle between middleweights Mark Kaylor and Errol Christie. The St. Lucia-born boxer warned Honeyghan to steer clear of the thorns yet it was Mittee who was cut to shreds come fight night. Referee John Coyle stopped the bout at 1:39 of round eight on the advice of the ringside physician. Sylvester had been floored twice and despite a few bright spots was well beaten.

Lloyd had successfully annexed Mittee’s British and Commonwealth titles; he was now on the brink of breaking new ground as a pro. Flora and fauna from Sylvester and now the possibility of world title garlands as news filtered through that both Don Curry and Milton McCrory were struggling to boil down to the 147lb weight limit for their December 6 unification fight. Whispers suggested that should both men would miss the weight the fight itself would still take place minus the WBC, WBA and IBF titles.

Curry's manager, Dave Gorman, had previously insisted that his man was making the trip down to welterweight for the final time, leaving the winner of Honeyghan-Mittee free to fight for the vacant belts. Both men eventually made weight and Curry prevailed via a one-sided, two-round icing of his world title rival. However, the lure of defending the unified titles proved too much for the 'Lone City Cobra'.

Don was riding high in the P4P rankings. Many US critics had him ahead of Marvin Hagler, no small feat when you consider that Marvin had the scalps of Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns on his slate.

Honeyghan was rated highly in Europe yet his single-minded approach had turned a few people off him. Especially when he did the unthinkable and dispensed with the services of trainer Terry Lawless, claiming that, “Everywhere I went with Terry I got the feeling I was only there because Frank [Bruno] was. I wanted individual attention because I knew I would be a champion”, when announcing the split.

Lawless was hugely respected. Honeyghan was perceived as headstrong, he did not care; the undefeated fighter employed Bobby Neill, a former British featherweight titlist, as his coach and moved on.

The rest is history, Lloyd went over to Atlantic City in September 1986 and ripped the WBC, WBA and IBF titles from the undefeated pound-for-pound kingpin at a time when British fighters tended to fail on foreign soil.

Lloyd joined Hagler as the sport's sole undisputed ruler after forcing Curry to withdraw after six rounds due to a cut to his left eye – the wound required twenty stitches. Lloyd gave his opponent a broken nose to boot, doing enough damage to prompt the ringside doctors, Paul Williams and Frank Doggett, to pull Curry from the firing line. Hey presto, Lloyd was now an international name and, in his mind, worthy of a spot in the record books.

“I just walked along the boardwalk and someone recognised me,” said Lloyd (The Guardian, September 29 1986). “They said they were glad I'd beaten Curry because he was arrogant. I called my mum and dad in England and they said the papers there didn't give me a chance either, but they believed in me. The papers'll have to eat their words. I bet Donald Curry discovers now who his real friends are. But I'm not going to let it change me. I'll keep the friends I've always had.”

Honeyghan, never shy when assessing his own ability, had the world at his feet yet he had been quick to remind the assembled press that he was also the ruler of Britain, Europe and the Commonwealth. He said, “That makes six championships in all. That should put me in the Guinness Book of Records.”

Despite the nature of the win over Curry there was a certain amount of scepticism in the US. Curry had battled the scales in previous title contests, famously resorting to chewing gum to generate saliva when drying down to 147 for a WBA and IBF defence against Colin Jones in January 1985.

Indeed, the champion was rumoured to have dropped 21lbs in three weeks ahead of the fight with Honeyghan, with 10lbs coming off during fight week. When winning contests, Curry's battle with the scales had added to his mystique, defeat turned everything on its head; the revisionists insisted that Don had been an accident waiting to happen. That it happened against an unknown and bolshie Brit was too much to bear.

Lloyd, though, was now allegedly $170,000 richer, a figure he later denied, and could add the world title straps to his colourful wardrobe. He had also emulated his idol, Muhammad Ali.

“When I was 12-years-old, I saw Muhammad Ali on television, and I said 'I want to be like that man, champion of the world'. I watched the tapes (of Curry) twice and gave them to my trainer. I've seen enough, I said. He fought the same way. He came straight ahead, and he held his hands up high. When I got inside, I turned on him and there was nothing he could do about it,” insisted Lloyd when speaking to the stunned media.

“I am a quick learner. All the praise people have been giving to Curry, they can now give to me. All the talk coming into this fight was about how good he was. Now it's my turn to do the talking. I wanted to come over here and get the respect of the American people. I fought a couple times in America before and looked real lousy. I guess that's one reason they made the fight. Who would take me seriously?” (The Times, 29 September 1986)

Lloyd's logic was easy to follow; he had beaten The Man so he was now The Man. American fight figures disagreed. “Honeyghan is a good fighter but it is hard to measure how good when he was fighting the ghost of Don Curry,” blasted Curry's business manager, Akhbar Muhammad (The Times, 1986).

Top Rank's publicity director, Irving Rudd, was stunned, telling the same publication that, “We knew very little about Honeyghan before the fight and everyone tended to write him off though you can never write off a Mickey Duff fighter. But still it has all been so sudden and stunning that it has thrown all future matches into a cocked hat. We shall put up a couple of suggestions but it is up to Duff to approve.”

Lloyd had kept his side of the bargain, he had been true to his pre-fight claim that he would “Punch his (Curry's) face in and take his title.” Now came the hard part, convincing the USA that it was not a fluke, a quest that would bring success, controversy and heartache for Britain's biggest upset king since Randy Turpin. Certainly, Lloyd was insightful when declaring that his victory would inspire a future generation of British fighters and fans.

“All this stuff is good because young kids look up to me. I don't drink, smoke or take drugs. The occasional glass of wine doesn't hurt anyone. Kids these days need heroes and there aren't many around. They look up to me because I beat a legend. I'm a legend, the undisputed champion of the world,” (The Times, 1986).

There were dissenting voices. It was hard to knock Honeyghan's in-ring form so his colourful personal life was often cited as a worry, the fighter was popular with women, fair enough when he was a contender, not quite as acceptable when you become a household name. The tabloids painted Lloyd as a wild womaniser, a charge that would dog Lloyd throughout his championship career and which led the boxer to successfully hit The Sun with a libel writ in 1988 after they ran an article entitled Big Headed Honeyghan which read as a character assassination.

When hit with the accusations of lasciviousness in the wake of his win over Curry, Lloyd said, “Well, that's the Press for you. What can I do if they want to print things like that? Sure, I like women, just like everybody else. I love women. There's no two ways about it. When I was younger, yeah, sure I used to make love, go training, make love, fight and then make love when I'd finished. But now I'm champion of the world, I can't do that. I've got to set an example to young kids. But I'm not reformed. I'm the same Lloyd Honeyghan. I'm not changing for anyone, but I'm world champion now,” (The Times, 1986).

There was always a truthfulness to Honeyghan, his swagger stretched way back to his amateur days, when he was billed as 'The Master of Disaster' and used to come to the ring in a swanky, personalised robe. Lloyd was clearly enjoying his time in the sunlight, if not the tabloids, honest to a fault, perhaps, but a million miles away from the robotic banality of many major sports stars.

There was even time for a spot of political protest. Honeyghan was ordered to defend his WBA belt against Harold Volbrecht of South Africa. Apartheid was all over the headlines; Lloyd made it clear that he could not countenance the thought of defending against a white South African.

“I would not fight Volbrecht for a million pounds – either here or in South Africa. How could I look myself in the mirror each morning or face my own people on the streets if I agreed?” declared Lloyd, although throwing the WBA belt into a bin would require a bit of PR repair work from manager Micky Duff further down the line (The Sunday Times, December 23 1986).

Duff did have immediate plans for his latest champion. American idol Mark Breland was 16-0. Breland picked up the vacant WBA belt by defeating Volbrecht in Atlantic City on February 6 1987. His early paid career had failed to live up to his glittering 110-1 amateur slate but the Brooklyn-raised boxer was highly rated in the USA. First, though, there was the small matter of Honeyghan's maiden defence against Johnny Bumphus at Wembley's Grand Hall, London on February 22.

A former WBA light-welterweight title-holder, Bumphus was an interesting character, the Nashville-based southpaw brought over an exotic entourage member for his first and last welterweight title tilt. Dominic Giacobbe may sound like a character from The Sopranos yet the New Jersey fight figure was not your regular camp member, he was Bumphus's secret weapon, an expert in meditation who would focus the challenger's mind and ensure that Lloyd was hit with a dose of instant Karma come fight night.

“We meditate. It is a Zen type of meditation, 2,000 years old. It gives Johnny mental and physical flexibility when the going gets tough,” said Giacobbe when asked about his crucial role (The Times, February 17 1987).

Bumphus had brought the guru into the fold after losing his WBA belt to Gene Hatcher, a future Honeyghan victim, in 1984. Dominic introduced Bumphus to Tang Soo Do; Johnny introduced the concept to his manager Lou Duva and before you know it five of the 1984 Olympic starlets – Meldrick Taylor, Evander Holyfield, Tyrell Biggs, Mark Breland and Pernell Whittaker – were part of the Tang Soo Do crew.

“I knew Dominic could help me when I saw the kind of things he could do like put motorcycle spokes into his arm and hang cans of water on them,” explained the challenger. It certainly made for a strange pre-fight warm-up routine. “We get into the lotus position and focus on a candle and the fire power enters our bodies through the eyes. Concentration gives you internal power - ki - something I learned in the Orient,” revealed Giacobbe.

A deputy sheriff in his hometown of Nashville, Bumphus listed the Smith & Wesson as his favourite firearm only to be undone by a machine gun-like start from Honeyghan, who knocked his man down in the first round before racing out as soon as the bell went for round two and scoring another knockdown at 0.72 of the session. A move that took everyone by surprise – including referee Sam Williams.

Williams was engaged in a tussle with the BBC's cameraman and barely had time to register the fact that Lloyd had raced across the ring and hit his foe. Lloyd’s rush was within the rules but was deemed not in keeping with the spirit of the sport.

“I felt this tugging at my trouser leg,” recalled a bemused Williams (All the Honeyghan-Bumphus quotes are taken from The Times, March 1 1987). “It was a gentleman from the BBC. He wanted me to move over to the other neutral corner. I was in the way of his camera, I was trying to explain to him that I didn't think this request was quite appropriate when suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw Honeyghan headed across the ring.”

Or as Lloyd famously put it, “The bell went 'ding' and I went 'dong'.” Sam’s take was far more sober. “The offending blow didn't even land. It didn't hurt Bumphus. Honeyghan already had destroyed him,” argued the third man, who called a 'no knockdown'.

Bumphus's team were upset. They made two things clear. Firstly, they were going to launch an appeal in order to obtain justice. Secondly, Duva insisted that his man would never again step into the ring with Honeyghan. “We only want to see justice done. We're not going back into the ring against that guy. In fact, Johnny may never fight again,” raged Lou, he was right, Bumphus called it a day

Still, Lloyd's actions forced the BBBoC to implement the ten-second warning rule. Thereby giving the ref, the fighters and the cameramen an opportunity to brace themselves ahead of the next session.

Not one to be shy with his opinions, Mills Lane – experienced referee, sheriff and Robert Duvall-alike – lumped all the blame on Williams, a fellow officer of the law (Williams worked the streets of Detroit as a policeman). “It should never have happened. The referee lost control of the fight and that's all there is to it,” blasted Lane.

IBF president Bob Lee drew a line under the latest 'Ragamuffin' controversy. “I gave him [Honeyghan] a little whisper after the fight. I told him that for his own good, and others, he had better not do it again,” sighed Lee when asked for the IBF's official ruling on the incident.

It was an eventful first defence, even by Lloyd's standards; the champion's rapid response went down in history as one of boxing's maddest moments whilst the fight itself joined the annals of one-sided beat-downs. Bumphus had been well and truly caught cold; perhaps he was still in a meditative state. It seemed that the British upstart was on his way to showing the entire world that he deserved his place on the P4P list.

A further step towards universal acceptance came during a hard-fought points win over undefeated American challenger Maurice Blocker at London's Royal Albert Hall on the 18th of May 1987. Lloyd moved to the south of France ahead of the fight only to relocate as the date approached. Honeyghan had ran out of sparring partners – American imports Tony Montgomery and Mike Tynley left Cannes six days early – so the champion headed back to his London stomping ground in search of fresh meat.

“I hired Montgomery to spar not less than three rounds and not more than six, but after a day he would not do any more than two. Tynley decided he was not getting enough money, asked for more, but I told him to catch the next plane home. It could have become serious if we had stayed in Cannes for another five or six days,” marvelled Duff when explaining the decision (The Times, April 2 1987).

Lloyd was soon back on form, drafting in Kirkland Laing and James Cook for sessions. Laing had initially planned to join the champion over in France only to misplace his passport ahead of the trip, par for the course for Laing, himself a mercurial character. Outside the ropes, Lloyd was proving a model champion, literally – Duff netted his charge a six-figure deal with FU jeans ahead of the WBC and IBF title defence.

Honeyghan, however, still had a few more surprises up his sleeve; the 26-year-old subjected the press to the equivalent of his second stanza mugging of Bumphus during a short, 45-seconds, press conference.

Lloyd told the massed media that he was going to “surprise everyone”; he then outlined his future plans. “I'm cheesed off with boxing, and if my next fight is not against Sugar Ray Leonard or Duane Thomas, I am retiring,” he announced before exiting stage left (The Times, April 10 1987).

The astonished writers broke the news to Bobby Neill, “He told me something about it last night, but I did not take it seriously,” shrugged the bemused trainer. As build-ups go, it was unusual and resulted in a mixed performance on the night as Lloyd went the twelve-round distance for the first in his career.

Worryingly, the Jamaican-born boxer faded as the fight progressed. Bob Miles, trainer of Bumphus, believed that cracks were starting to appear. “I would never have believed that a man with Honeyghan's frame would start to fade from body shots as early as the sixth round. In the last round, why was Honeyghan, the pressure fighter, running? Did you see the lumps on Honeyghan's face?” asked Miles (The Times, April 20 1987).

Lloyd did what any Brit would do – he blamed France. He said, “My strategy was right. The only trouble was my fitness. Working in the South of France was a good idea that went wrong. I only managed to spar four times.”

Duff had seen enough, insisting that they would prepare for fights in the USA in future. Lloyd was now 30-0, the undisputed force at welterweight and on a 'Ray Leonard and retire' mission, his next outing would see him go from the circus of France to a bullring in Spain and, again, the 'Ragamuffin Man' made it a night to remember.

The next part sees Honeyghan lose his title, regain a portion of it and finally net that elusive Breland showdown.

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Lloyd Honeyghan Part II: Reflects on Breland, Beyond

By Terence Dooley

By 1987 Lloyd Honeyghan was living the dream, the Jamaican-born, British-based WBC and IBF world welterweight champion had the scalps of Don Curry, Johnny Bumphus and Maurice Blocker strapped to his belt.  Lloyd, however, was hankering for a showdown with former amateur legend Mark Breland, who had picked up the WBA title vacated by Honeyghan after 'The Ragamuffin Man' had refused to take on South Africa's Harold Volbrecht in 1986. 

Breland's decision to fight for the vacant title impacted massively on a potential unification with Honeyghan as the WBC had a policy of removing fighters from their rankings if they took on South African opposition.  Mark's title win against Volbrecht in February 1987 had placed a two year embargo on a meeting with Honeyghan, it would be three years, and a whole lot of changes, until the two men met to settle the question of 147lb superiority.

In the meantime, Lloyd took his show to Marbella, defending his belts against American challenger and former WBA 140lb titlist Gene Hatcher.  Their fight took place in the Nueva Andalucia Bullring; the defending champion was cast as the matador by promoter Mickey Duff – Honeyghan helped sell the fight by sullenly dressing up in bull fighter clothing and punching a stuffed bull. 

Lloyd's bullish behaviour was starting to attract its share of criticism.  Claims that he was shouting at everyone and anyone who crossed his path were exacerbated by Hatcher's father and trainer, Ron, and Dave Gorman, Gene's manager.  “I went to offer my hand. Honeyghan looked through me and brushed past.  He may want millions but there ain't no millions for being champ unless you're also a personality,” blasted Gorman (The Sunday Times, August 23 1987).

Lloyd was typically defiant when told about Team Hatcher's observations.  “They are my enemies, why should I bother with them?  Hatcher has come to take my living away,” stressed Lloyd.  Hatcher, though, continued to turn the screw.

“I hear people in Britain don't like him either; in America all those who have met him think he's arrogant, he's too arrogant for his own good and I'll teach him a lesson when we get in the ring,” pledged Hatcher.  “The good Lord gifted me with these fists and I am a mean, green, fighting machine.  I am not a finesse fighter, I am a 'mad dog', real aggressive,” (The Times, August 29 1987).

It turned out that Lloyd was a madder dog.  A rain delay had pushed the fight back a day yet there was no delay on the night, Honeyghan clattered his man with a left hook to bring about the KO finish at 0:45 of the first session.  Hatcher went down heavily, he was on the canvas for considerably longer than the duration of the bout itself, leaving the fresh, fired-up champion keen to bounce into his next defence.

There are many things a fighter needs to make it in the sport of boxing, two of the most important things are his fists – hand and knuckle injuries are massively debilitating to a fighter.  Honeyghan, like many fighters before and after, was carrying hand damage going into his October 28 1987 title defence against the unheralded Jorge Vaca.

The champion kept turning southpaw to ease the stress on his right hand only to lose his way, an accidental clash of heads in the eighth left Vaca with a gash over his right eye.  Lloyd's inability to take control was borne out by the scorecards; the champion was deposed, suffering defeat for the first time in his career via a split technical decision.

Curry, Bumphus, Blocker and Hatcher had been seen as potential slip ups, Vaca had been viewed as a chance to work on technique.  Honeyghan was typically enigmatic when asked what went wrong.  He said, “I just want to be by myself for a while.  I just want to hang out in the street and chill out,” (The Times, October 30 1987).

Honeyghan had come close to withdrawing from the contest three weeks prior to the first bell, hand problems had hindered his training.  A specialist was brought in, a special padded glove was utilised and Lloyd was soon back on the road to full sharpness.  There was, however, the small matter of his alleged personal problems, his relationships with women were legendary at the time, there were fears that Honeyghan's popularity had impinged on his performances.

Lloyd was phlegmatic, blaming Vaca for failing to light the notoriously short Honeyghan fuse.  “I wish he had made me mad before the fight”, whispered the former champion, “but he was too nice.  He even came up and said 'hello' to me.  The next time, if there is a next time, the fight will not go 12 or 15 rounds.  I will win.”

It was not back to the drawing board for the former undisputed 147lb king.  At first, Honeyghan was reluctant to begin the rebuilding process, telling people that, “I don't think I will fight again - not because of the hand, but because I don't want to”, before heading to New York to see a specialist as he sought to get rid of the arthritis that was spidering along his hands and arms.

Duff ensured that the Honeyghan title machine rumbled on, netting a March 1988 return with Vaca at London's Wembley Arena.  It was also a date with history, the 27-year-old was bidding to become the first British boxer since Ted 'Kid' Berg to regain a world title.

Lloyd went for Vaca with a venom that had been missing in their first meeting, trapping his man on the ropes in the third before unleashing a torrent of shots that forced referee Joe Cortez to intervene at 2:58 of the session. 

The sullen, listless Lloyd of their first encounter was instantly forgotten.  Honeyghan was a man transformed by the time he sat in front of the assembled press in the wake of his revenge win.  There had been talk that his confidence had been a façade built of the shifting sands of that victory over Curry, that the real 'Ragamuffin Man' was using his weakened hands to mask a shattered self-belief.  Lloyd shrugged off such speculation. 

“I'm back on top of the world,” bubbled Lloyd.  “I killed him on the ropes.  Sometimes you've got to dig your boots in and fight.  In a fight you've got to take chances. I knew that if I’d lost I'd have retire.  Thank God I've done it.  All my problems are behind me, I've got something to live for.  I'm back to my rightful place,” (The Times, March 30 1988).

Lloyd also had a new face in his team, trainer Bobby Neill joined Terry Lawless and Jimmy Tibbs in the ranks of 'Former Advisors to Lloyd Honeyghan' to make way for American coach Jimmy Williams of Florida. 

Williams analysed Lloyd's next opponent, Yung-Kil Chung, and decided that his charge needed a new style if he was to impress against the 5' 11'' South Korean.  With Breland's recent conqueror, Marlon Starling, now the chief medium-term target, Williams felt that this potentially tough sequence of fights required a tip-top Lloyd; the 61-year-old dipped into his coaching manual and came up with a master plan.

“Honeyghan has to stay down and stick on him like white on rice and when Chung throws that left hook Honeyghan knows he has to tip his hat to him.  Like you tip your hat to a lady.  How do you tip your hat to a lady?  That's right, when you can't get hit,” opined Williams when asked how they were going to approach the Chung test, perhaps unaware that the last thing Lloyd required was advice on how to engage women.

Williams had studied under the greats, he looked at Lloyd's 5' 8½'' inch frame and decided that one thing was needed, “The Triangle”.  This style had been employed by Tiger Flowers to historic effect, Tiger was the first African American world middleweight champion.  Flowers passed the technique, which posits the opponent's head as the tip of a triangle with the ribs the two other points, onto a budding fighter called Sugar Ray Robinson - it was now in the hands of Honeyghan. 

“You never go down the pipe (straight on) unless you are in a position to move quickly to the side of the triangle,” enthused Williams.  Mickey Duff was unmoved by the new regime.  “Honeyghan is not changing his style, he is merely building on it”, insisted Duff, “at any time in the fight he can change back to his old ways.” 

Mickey was back to his old self, a recent operation had not dented his desire, the promoter was still eyeing a fight against Breland even though Mark had lost his '0' to Starling the previous August.  “Starling is very good at beating Breland.  If Breland attacked me in the street I would send for Starling,” scoffed Duff when asked about the threat posed by Starling.

Both Honeyghan and Starling kept their end of the big fight bargain, albeit in strange circumstances; Honeyghan scored a win over Chung after the Korean refused to box on after taking a low blow; Starling was knocked out by an illegal blow thrown by Tomas Molinares at the end of round six of their WBA fight.  The result was recorded as a loss only to be declared a NC by the NJSA; the WBA, however, still recognised Molinares as their champion, adding salt to Starling's wounds.

Strangely, the animosity shown by Starling prior to his February 1989 WBC title fight against Honeyghan seemed to stretch go beyond the usual big fight pale.  “I don't like him, and he doesn't like me,” glowered the 'Magic Man' after arriving in Las Vegas for the Caesars Palace grudge match.

Starling hated the fact that he had been knocked unconscious by Molinares via a foul; he resented Lloyd because Honeyghan was the defending belt holder; he also felt that his victory and subsequent draw over Mark Breland had been passed over.

There was also the small matter of bad omens and terrible historical precedents.  Honeyghan appeared confident yet there were constant reminders of the task ahead of him.  Reporters pointed out the roll call of British defeats in Las Vegas: Maurice Hope had been knocked out by Wilfred Benitez, Colin Jones was out-pointed by Milton McCrory, Cornelius Boza-Edwards lost to Bobby Chacon and Barry McGuigan had suffered greatly against Steve Cruz.  Only Alan Minter had escaped the jinx, taking home a contested world middleweight title decision win over Vito Antuofermo in 1980.

Lloyd shrugged off these bitter facts; he was Lloyd Honeyghan, improved by defeat, bolstered by “The Triangle”, a mature character who was not about to disrespect his opponent.  Well, maybe just a little.  “I feel more mature. I've done my work and there is no way Starling can beat me. You want the truth?” asked Honeyghan when asked if he had turned over a new leaf.  “Well I did spit at him.  Not nice but he knows how it all started,” (The Times, February 2 1989).

Everyone knows how it finished, Honeyghan was comprehensively beaten by his bitter rival.  Starling hammered his man into a ninth round TKO defeat.  An inconsolable Honeyghan pointed to a lump on his right temple when asked how it had all gone so very wrong.

“It is here, man.  A nerve went every time Starling caught me, it was like putting a knife in.  I can't remember exactly when it started, the fourth I think, but from then on it was murder.  It reached the point where I just had to keep away from Starling.  Stick and move and wait for him to make a mistake.  I wobbled him in the third round, felt him go but I couldn't repeat that and then the nerve went.  From then on the pain was awful every time I got caught,” muttered Honeyghan (The Times, February 6 1989). 

Starling had managed to put aside his feelings of animosity, carrying out Eddie Futch's instructions to the letter, only deviating from the boxing blueprint once, a warmongering wobble that saw Futch threaten to walk away from his ward's corner.  Starling had added Honeyghan to his resume, utterly annihilating the prospect of a Honeyghan-Breland encounter.

Indeed, Duff suggested that it may be time for his man to walk away from the sport.  Starling was in pole position for a third meeting with Breland – Mark had picked up the vacant WBA title by defeating Seung-Soon Lee on the undercard of Marlon's win.  Honeyghan's woes were doubled when he failed the post-fight drugs test.  Lidocaine, a form of pain killer, was found in his system, leading to talk of a ban.

“Lloyd may have used a similar substance to Lidocaine, although I'm not exactly aware of what he took or whether it was in tablet form or an injection.  But we're not talking World War III here.  It's not a major substance like a steroid or cocaine.  All pain-killers are banned, but this particular one does not have any performance-enhancing qualities.  If anything it is more of a downer than an upper,” sighed Duff when hit with the latest bit of bad news (The Times, February 18 1989).

Starling may have won the battle, but Honeyghan was still in the Breland race.  Duff cleared up the mess caused by the failed drugs test, pointing out that Lloyd was facing the prospect of a ban and hefty fine yet Robert Hines and James Kinchen had only been fined $750 when found to have Lidocaine in their system.

Duff pulled another master stroke.  As a former WBC title-holder, Lloyd lacked the top twelve status necessary to challenge WBA holder Breland, there was also the small matter of Lloyd having dumped the WBA title into a bin when refusing to face South African challenger Harold Volbrecht.  A phone call and apology later, and the last remaining obstacle to a Breland-Honeyghan fight was removed.

“After Lloyd giving an apology three months ago, Gilberto Mendoza, the president of the WBA, decided to reinstate him.  He'll be in the January list, at No3 or No4,” smiled Duff, a Breland money spinner no doubt dancing across the forefront of his boxing brain (The Times, January 20 1990).

So it was finally on, Breland opted to travel to the UK to fight Honeyghan, wisely opting out of a chance for a return with his Starling, the man who held the key to beating the 6' 2'' New Yorker.  Mark brought his 111-1 (73) amateur record, a 26-1-1 pro slate, an Olympic gold medal, WBA world title and huge reputation over to the UK for a March 3rd 1990 showdown at London's Wembley Arena.

Both men were united in one key area, they struggled with hand injuries – Breland had broken his right hand three times in one year and Honeyghan was virtually crippled by arthritic pain.  Their fight had bubbled along for three years, it had survived defeat, political wrangling and injury.  Indeed, Breland arrived in the UK in a bullish mood, insisting that his Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York upbringing had prepared him for anything.

Years of rivalry were settled in a single moment.  Honeyghan walked onto a jab early and was dumped to the canvas, he visited the floor again after walking onto another straight left in round two.  “It was the first jab.  Breland caught Lloyd with a jab and Lloyd was just never the same after that,” sighed Duff after the fight was called off in round three.

It was a sad end to a thrilling world title career, Lloyd would go on to win the Commonwealth 154lb title but his world aspirations were ended by Breland.  Ironically, Mark had burned brightly for the final time, he lost his next one, a brutal nine round war with Aaron Davis in July of that year.  Both Breland Honeyghan were damaged goods by the time they met one another, with Honeyghan the more damaged of the two.

“I fought terrible, I was in really good shape I just don't know what went wrong,” he sighed, the win over Curry had slipped into his rear view mirror, as had his prime.  The once adoring crowd had delivered their verdict on his performance when chanting “What a load of rubbish” after Lloyd's knockdown strewn capitulation. 

Lloyd went 9-2 (8) during the rest of his career.  However, his top-level days ended in 1993, Las Vegas once again the resting place for his hopes and dreams as Vinny Pazienza pasted the former undisputed boss in the tenth round of a non-title fight.  A far cry from that magical night against Curry in Atlantic City.

Still, whenever a British fighter has a mission impossible, when the likes of Lennox Lewis, Naseem Hamed and Ricky Hatton travelled abroad to expand their resumes, the name 'Lloyd Honeyghan' invariably popped up.  His win over Donald Curry is one of the high water marks of British world title victories.


Honeyghan returned as a light-middleweight in 1991.  The former fighter faced accusations that he had blown his world title earnings.  Although he admitted that he had recently sold his Rolls-Royce and two houses, Lloyd was quick to point out the real reason for his return, “My pride.”

'The Ragamuffin Man' made constant references to his financial stability during his 154lb career, chiding reporters for constantly speculating about his earnings; he wasn't set to become the 'Rag and Bone' man of British boxing.

“I know people say I'm skint but how much I've got is nobody's business.  I can tell you I make sure my six kids are all well fed, well clothed and go to good schools.  When I was at the top it was all women, clothes and jewellery, but I don't regret one minute,” smiled Honeyghan when confirming that he had once blown £20,000 in a single month.

There were flashes of the old fighter, most notably in the Commonwealth title wins over Mickey Hughes and Kevin Adamson.  There was also time for a good old-fashioned grudge match or two.  One of the grudge matches came on April 14 1993 when former sparring partner Darren Dyer allegedly attacked Honeyghan with a hammer at the weigh in for the Andy Till-Wally Smith British light-middleweight title fight.

Lloyd later testified that Dyer had resembled something “from the film Alien” during the incident.  Dyer, a gold medallist at welterweight in the 1986 Commonwealth Games, had tried to get Honeyghan earlier that year, flying at Lloyd with a trophy during an awards ceremony in London in a bid to settle some perceived bad blood.

The former world welterweight champion moved on, Dyer was left in the past as Honeyghan sought to move his future career back towards world title level.  Up-and-coming prospect Adrian Dodson had his own world title aspirations: he also had a massive ego, a lot of confidence and was seen as the natural successor to Lloyd.

Dodson had amassed an 11-0 record going into 1995, Honeyghan was the southpaw's first stiff test.  Adrian was college educated, not afraid to blow his own horn and generally managed to rub the older fighter up the wrong way.  “This guy is history.  What's he doing in the ring with me?  This isn't the Eighties, this is (February) 1995,” snorted Dodson.  Now a wily old pro, Honeyghan remained relatively quiet, there was the carrot of a world title shot against Julio Cesar Vasquez if he could get past the young pretender.

As the press conference ended, Honeyghan paid tribute to Dodson's academic achievements before pointing out that he held a BA in the sport of boxing and would be dishing out a lesson come fight night.

Sadly, however, Dodson proved too young and quick for the ageing warhorse.  Honeyghan's final pro appearance saw him lose via a third round TKO on the undercard of Nigel Benn's bittersweet win over Gerald McClellan at London's Docklands Arena. 

Lloyd's last in-ring appearance was televised later that night by ITV; the station, and the boxing fraternity, was still in shock after witnessing Gerald's post-fight collapse.  The final moments of Lloyd's career played out against this bleak backdrop.  The man who had burst to prominence by ripping the welterweight title from an American pound-for-pound fighter had his last throw of the dice down the undercard of another big British win only for tragedy to reduce this loss to a footnote.

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I remember watching the fight against curry as a kid, what a night that was and most definitely one of the best achievements ever from a British fighter!

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2 hours ago, Mofo2 said:

I remember watching the fight against curry as a kid, what a night that was and most definitely one of the best achievements ever from a British fighter!

like his only achievement , honeyghan vastly  overrated 

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6 hours ago, blackrican23 said:

like his only achievement , honeyghan vastly  overrated 

I can agree with that, but fighters come and go with very few ever really making a mark on the sport as he did; historically it will remain one of the biggest shocks of all time!!

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Yes very true point , the shock was real 

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