12.10.03 – By Jim Amato: What would you say about a fighter who met the likes of Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, Jimmy Ellis, Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonevena and Joe Bugner? All boxers who either held or fought for the world’s heavyweight championship. Yet this fighter never came close to a world title shot. You could call him “Hard Luck”. I would call him Larry Middleton.
Larry began his career in 1965 and didn’t exactly set the world on fire. He drew with Jimmy Haynes, in his pro debut and two fights later, was stopped by Jerry O’Neal. He won three fights in a row in 1966 but was inactive in 1967. He won two fights in 1968 to bring his total of bouts to eight over a four-year period. Larry began to pick up the pace in 1969 winning a decision over dangerous Roy “Tiger” Williams. He followed with three more victories. He then added four more wins in 1970. In 1971, Larry scored two quick knockouts and then traveled to England to meet highly regarded Joe Bugner. At this time Middleton owned a 16-1-1 record and had won fifteen in a row. Still no one really gave him a chance against Bugner. In a huge upset, Larry won a convincing decision and gained a world rating.
In 1972, Larry solidified his ranking with wins over Tony Doyle, Dan McAlinden and Bob Stallings. Back in England, Larry was matched with highly rated Jerry Quarry. Although Jerry won the ten round verdict, Larry gave him all he could handle. In Middleton’s next fight he was crushed in three rounds by an up and coming Ron Lyle. Ten months later on October 31, 1973, Larry met Lyle again. He went the distance but dropped a ten round verdict. Larry closed the year by halting Jack O’Halloran.
Middleton was still ranked in 1974 and on March 4th he drew with former champion Jimmy Ellis. Two months later Larry dropped a twelve round duke to long time contender Oscar Bonevena. 1975 started Larry on his way from contender to trial horse. A five round knockout loss to Howard “Kayo” Smith did severe damage to his career. In 1976 Larry dropped a decision to Duane Boloick and Scott Ledoux. In what would be his last chance in the limelight, Larry met Ken Norton on July 10th. In a game effort, Norton halted Larry in the tenth round thus ending his run as a formidable contender.