One of the sport’s genuine good guys, former two-time WBA welterweight champion Mark Breland today celebrates his 60th birthday. One of America’s greatest ever amateur boxers – Brooklyn’s Breland compiling a remarkable 110-1(73) amateur record, him winning Olympic gold in 1984, and gold at the 1982 World Championships – the sleek warrior was widely expected to be the next superstar.
Though he enjoyed a fine career, Breland ultimately fell short, his loss and his draw in fights with Marlon Starling perhaps Breland’s defining fights. After hanging up the gloves in 1997, with a good 35-3-1(25) ledger, Breland went on to become a trainer – a decent, honest and caring trainer. We saw this with the work Breland did with Deontay Wilder; Breland famously being fired for doing the right thing in saving Wilder from further punishment in his second fight with Tyson Fury.
Breland was indeed unceremoniously fired by Wilder for basically saving his career, if not his life. Ever the classy guy, Breland had next to nothing bad to say about Wilder. A while back, at a presser, this writer was fortunate enough to have grabbed the accommodating and incredibly soft-spoken Breland for a quick interview.
Here is what Breland had to say about some key moments from his ring career:
On his greatest night in the ring:
“The one that means the most to me, is when I won the 1980 Golden Gloves title. When I was seven years old, I went to see the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight and ever since then my dream was to fight at Madison Square Garden. When Ali and Frazier came out a beam of light followed them to the ring – and that’s what happened to me in the Golden Gloves. I cannot even remember the name of the guy I beat that night.”
On the two tough fights with Marlon Starling:
“Before the first fight with Starling, I’d injured my ribs in training and was going to pull out – Starling was a very good body puncher. But I was winning the first fight before I go so tired. The second fight, the rematch, he was very defensive yet still threw a lot of punches. I think I had the edge on him that time, but they called it a draw. It was a bad night for me because I think I won. I was like “Wow” when they read out the scores.”
On Sparring Thomas Hearns:
“Without a doubt, Tommy Hearns is the best fighter I ever sparred. I was 17 years old the first time and Tommy taught me a lot, with the jab and how to throw the right hand. Early on in our sparring, I was a little embarrassed by Tommy; it was more technical sparring later on. At that time, Tommy was much more experienced than me.”
On the hardest puncher he ever shared a ring win, sparring or real fight:
“Aaron Davis was great, he was rough, but I was more exhausted than anything (when being stopped in the ninth round of a war). But I guess I would say Davis was the hardest puncher I met in a fight. Marlon Starling hit hard, and he had that awkward style. But I’ve got to say the single hardest puncher I was ever in the ring with was Tommy Hearns. He was a lethal puncher.”
On any regrets he may have regarding his ring career:
“I have no regrets with how my career went. I wouldn’t do anything different because everything I set out to do, I’ve done. I’m content. I’m happy training fighters now. I retired from the ring at the right time and I’m happy. I’ve seen what can happen to fighters who continue to fight too long. I accomplished things no-one can take away.”