Donald Curry: A Shooting Star Who Showed More Than A Few Glimpses Of Greatness
At one time Donald Curry looked set for superstar status, an almost perfect fighting machine that was blessed with everything he needed. The heir apparent to Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler in his sights, Curry appeared to have it all, speed, power and precision.
In 1985 Curry was the unbeaten WBA/IBF world welterweight champion and had undisputed on his mind, Milton McCrory, the WBC claimant, was the fighter who had the unenviable task of facing the surging Curry in 1985.
It was the type of performance that convinced many that Curry was a superstar in waiting, McCrory was destroyed in two rounds, Curry the now unified WBA/WBC & IBF champion, looked untouchable, unbeatable, greatness within reach. At 24, Curry could only get better, Hagler went to war with Thomas Hearns in the same year, eventually, the two would surely meet.
But it was as good as it got for Curry, that was his peak, the fall was spectacular and sudden.
Curry stayed at welterweight, the temptation and common sense to move up ignored, his tortured body could give no more. Curry blamed others but the fault lay elsewhere. The cut to 147 was always hard and no secret, eventually the body gave out and told him enough was enough. The body decided for him.
In 1986 the unfancied brash British fighter Lloyd Honeyghan smashed him all over the ring in Atlantic City, before Curry retired on his stool after 6 painful and largely one-sided rounds. Many say that night ruined Curry, true or not, he never looked the same fighter again. Curry said he had lost motivation, problems inside his inner circle added to his woes. The loss to Honeyghan was a seismic upset, but with hindsight, it had been coming.
Talk of a fight with Hagler more or less ended there and then, his invincibility gone with his titles and his unbeaten record.
The move up in weight was inevitable if belated, fleeting success masked what was once promised, the motivation issues were still prevalent. In his first challenge for a world title at 154, Mike McCallum knocked him out in 5 rounds, Curry already a perceived spent force. McCallum made his name in that fight in 1987, in many ways, Curry lost his and so much more. McCallum was a fighter seemingly lost in the crowd, Curry was supposed to reignite all the previous talk and hype, what Honeyghan started McCallum ended.
Curry carried on chasing something that was already out of sight. A brief reign as the world light-middleweight champion offered hope but ended before any real new momentum could be built. Curry went to Italy in 1988 and beat Gianfranco Rosi for the WBC title, he called out Sugar Ray Leonard, but Leonard didn’t answer.
Early the following year Curry was the victim of another huge upset. Rene Jacquot replicated what Honeyghan did, and the story was almost over. Defeats to Terry Norris and Michael Nunn ended any lingering hopes, the Norris loss in 1991 saw Curry leave the sport. Another return 6 years later ended predictably after two fights and after being 25-0 when he faced Honeyghan, his career ended with a 34-6 resume.
Born in 1961 in Texas, Curry had an exceptional amateur record of 400 wins and only 4 defeats. The American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics denied him his rightful place at those games when he was the favourite to win the Gold medal.
Curry had initial thoughts of college rather than a career in the paid ranks, eventually, he made the move, success and plenty of it looked guaranteed. Curry won the WBA welterweight title in 1983 when he beat Jun-Suk Hwang and the road to the expected greatness had begun. The McCrory demolition had convinced many that Curry would reach a level only reserved for the few, but just as he appeared set for another stratosphere, Curry came crashing back down to normality.
The way his career faded into disappointment does hide somewhat how bright he once shined. An undisputed welterweight champion, a brief reign in another weight division should be enough to satisfy anyone. But for Curry it is one of relative failure, it shouldn’t be, but his talents deserved more and are therefore judged accordingly.
A sublime artist of his craft, Curry at one time was considered the best boxer on the planet, and at a time where the talent was as deep as perhaps, it has ever been. The destruction of McCrory was his finest hour, but the way he went about systematically and clinically breaking down Colin Jones in Birmingham deserves a mention, as do his wins over his nearest rival at the time, Marlon Starling.
We tend to remember, judge even, a fighter on the decline, forgetting their prime. Curry had a long slide and his peak was way too short. A shooting star who showed more than a few glimpses of greatness, Curry should be remembered for that brief moment in time when he was at the height of his powers.
The ‘Lone Star Cobra’ was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2019.