How Great Was Lloyd Honeyghan?

Lloyd Honeyghan will always be best remembered for one fight, for one great win – for one truly stunning upset. The 35th anniversary of “The Ragamuffin Man’s” stunning defeat of pound-for-pound best at the time Don Curry is approaching (September 27, 1986), and to this day, plenty of fight fans refer to the win Honeyghan pulled off as THE biggest upset ever scored by a British boxer when fighting away from home.

Honeyghan, a fine amateur, was a relentless fighting machine the night he smashed his way through Curry’s formidable blend of skill, power, and cunning.

In short, Honeyghan never allowed Curry, a quite meticulous fighter, to get set, to get into any kind of a rhythm. Honeyghan battered the fight clean out of Curry, eventually forcing “The Lone Star Cobra” to quit on his stool after six brutal rounds.

Honeyghan, though, was far from a flash in the pan; he was instead a welterweight champion to stay. In fact, the Jamaican-born warrior became a two-time welterweight champion.

Honeyghan, a perfect 27-0 when challenging the likewise unbeaten (at 25-0) Curry, had won the British, the Commonwealth, and the European titles. Having earned his stripes in some tough or potentially tough fights – against the likes of Harold Brazier, Gianfranco Rossi, and Sylvester Mittee – Honeyghan was a pretty seasoned fighter at the age of 26.

That said, not too many Curry supporters had heard too much about Honeyghan when he entered the ring to challenge “the next Sugar Ray Leonard.”

Honeyghan, who reportedly bet a ton of money on himself to stop Curry, set about proving his own greatness. Wins over Johnny Bumphus, Maurice Blocker, and Gene Hatcher followed the Curry shocker before Honeyghan himself fell victim to a big upset.

The largely unheralded yet tough (and dirty) Jorge Vaca won a TD victory over Honeyghan in October of 1987 (Vaca cut from a head-clash, ahead on points at the time, getting the win). Honeyghan destroyed Vaca in the rematch, becoming a two-time champ.

One retention followed, against Yung-Kil Chung, before Honeyghan met the classy and underrated Marlon Starling. The ruthless beating “The Magic Man” gave Honeyghan all but ended Lloyd’s time as anything like an elite fighter. Starling and Honeyghan had some seriously bad blood, and Starling punished his rival, Starling stopping a busted-up Honeyghan in the ninth round.

By the time he fought Mark Breland (for the WBA belt he himself had binned after the Curry win, this due to his political beliefs), 30-year-old Honeyghan was every bit a shot fighter. Blasted to defeat inside three rounds, Honeyghan appeared to have no punch resistance left at all.

Still, Honeyghan fought on. A few low-key wins came up at 154 pounds before Honeyghan beat Mickey Hughes to win the Commonwealth belt. Then came a big fight with Vinny Paz, which Honeyghan lost via 10th round TKO. Just three fights more, two wins and a loss, and Honeyghan was done.

Exiting with a good 43-5(30) record, Honeyghan is today scarcely seen in public, his profile very low. But how great was Honeyghan? For a while, from 1986 through 1988, Honeyghan was the best welterweight on the planet, and he was one of the best in the world, pound-for-pound.

The crushing losses to Starling and Breland may hurt Honeyghan’s legacy, yet that gargantuan win over Curry can never be taken away from him. Nor will Honeyghan’s epic upset ever be forgotten.