Double Down in Monte Carlo: Murphy vs. Mutti (1985)
By Ted Sares: Lee Roy Murphy, known as “Solid Gold,” was one of the greatest amateur fighters to come out of Chicago with a record of 157-17 and the 1979 Light Heavyweight National Golden Gloves title. I saw him fight many times in the amateurs and can attest to his brilliance. Only President Jimmy Carter’s senseless boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics prevented him from reaching his true amateur acclaim and a likely Gold Medal..
Article posted on 23.04.2008
Turning pro in 1980, he ran off 24 straight wins before suffering his first defeat. In 1984, he won the IBF cruiserweight title with a dramatic 14th round KO of Marvin Camel in Montana. After icing Young Joe Louis in the twelfth stanza in another drama packed fight two months later, the undefeated champion was scheduled to meet Zambian Chisanda Mutti at the Stade Louis II in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Mutti was a tough customer who had fought at a high level from the very start of his career. In fact, he fought rugged Tony Sibson for the vacant British Empire middleweight title in only his fourth professional outing. Only two of his 35 career opponents had a losing record.
This October 19, 1985 shootout would end up being a closet classic, and because of the way it ended, a cult classic as well.
The first seven rounds involved incredible seesaw action with both fighters exchanging bombs that had dreamland printed all over them. Neither dominated for sustained periods of time and the fight was a classic ebb and flow war of attrition. The number of punishing head shots both received was frankly alarming. Moreover, both warriors were fast becoming exhausted. Mutti used vicious jab-hook-cross combos that quickly served notice he would not be an easy mark.
By the eighth stanza, the crowd was up and roaring in disbelief at the all-out action which featured both jackhammer power and wicked speed. Both guys teed off on each other as the momentum continually shifted. Both displayed a total disdain for defense as they concentrated on launching bombs that had uncommon accuracy. First, one landed a menacing three-punch combo and then the other countered with a lethal straight right. It was as if their respective faces were magnets for the rattling shots. It didn’t take an aficionado to know that the damage being inflicted would impact their future.
In the ninth, Mutti decked Murphy with a volley of vicious shots begun with a left that turned Murphy’s back to him. It appeared he would be taken out forthwith, but somehow, some way, he survived the round.
In a brilliant recent account, here is what fellow writer Lee Groves had to say:
“But Murphy was too strong for Mutti to hold off for long. A one-two and a double right snapped Mutti's head after which the champion moved in for the kill. But Mutti again turned the tables when a hook and a right to the temple made Murphy slump into the ropes. Both men stood on the precipice of victory and defeat simultaneously, each just a punch or two away from ending the fight, and as the bell rang, Mutti had trouble finding his corner while Murphy trudged toward his. With three rounds remaining, this already action-packed bout was building toward an unforgettable crescendo.” 1
In the eleventh, Murphy returned the favor with a series of savage rights that sent Mutti to the canvas. Now it was Mutti’s turn to make it to the bell. Going into the championship rounds, both had been down and both were now ready for the taking.
The fight turned into something else in the twelfth when both fighters exchanged several bombs in a neutral corner and then threw lightening fast rights simultaneously. Both landed simultaneously with full force and impact. Both men fell together in a heap hanging on to each other with Mutti landing atop Murphy before sliding to the floor. Glancing at Murphy who was struggling to get up in a corner (and keeping tabs on the progress of both), referee Larry Hazzard began the count over Mutti. Murphy, badly hurt, barely made it up by the seven count. Incredibly, Hazzard proceeded to count out Mutti at the 1:53 mark. Mutti stayed down a full three minutes. Behind on the scorecards at the time, Murphy had retained his title in what can only be described as a surreal fight.
Neither fighter would ever be the same after this grueling fight. “Solid Gold” would lose his title by TKO to tough Ricky Parkey a year later. Mutti would go 2-4-1 before retiring in 1989. But for 12 rounds on October 19, 1985, in Monte Carlo, Monaco, these two would provide fireworks the likes of which have seldom been witnessed in the square circle.
1. Lee Groves, “Closet Classic - Lee Roy Murphy vs. Chisanda Mutti.”
MAXBOXING.COM. March 25, 2008.
Visit Ted Sares at www.tedsares.com and watch for his new book due out in the fall (2008).
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