28.07.07 – By James Slater: On two occasions, the first in 1981, the second three years later in 1984, tough Syrian-born southpaw, Mustafa Hamsho challenged the great Marvin Hagler for the marvellous one’s undisputed middleweight championship of the world. And while he failed to win on both occasions, Hamsho, fighting out of Brooklyn, New York, threw himself at the shaven-skulled legend with all his might. Fear was not a word in Mustafa’s vocabulary.
Though somewhat crude in the skills department, the brave brawler came to fight and served to provide Marvin with a crowd pleasing foe. Both southpaw warriors banged away at one another to cheers of satisfaction. Because though he was far superior in almost every department, Marvin enjoyed fighting in the trenches with Hamsho, when instead he could well have boxed his ears off. Hagler enjoyed a tear-up as much as any former champion, and against a fighter like Hamsho, who was seemingly asking to be hit, Marvin obliged.
Their first bout was on October 3rd, 1981 and the fight marked the third title defence for the champion. Hagler had won the championship the year before, with a brutal demolition of the outgunned Alan Minter in a mere three rounds. Now, after taking care of Fulgencio Obelmejis and Vito Antuofermo (in a rematch of their controversial 1979 draw, fought when Vito was the world champ) in eight and five rounds respectively, Marvin was to face his toughest challenger yet.
Hamsho was a twenty-seven year old contender with a very good record. In fact, he had only lost the one fight – his pro debut. Since then he had remained unbeaten and had gained wins over some notable opposition. Men like Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts and Wilfred Scypion fell to him. While former champ Minter lost on points. It’s worth noting that all three of these boxers were, at one time or another, deemed worthy of fighting Hagler – Watts actually defeating Marvin, via close decision, in Marvellous’ pre title days. So any quibbles some may have had regarding Hamsho’s worth as a challenger were very much unfounded.
The fight took place in Illinois, USA, and the bout was a lively encounter. Hamsho, knowing only one way to fight, went after Hagler and tried to hurt his man. He was tough, no doubt, but he was in with one of the top three or four greatest middleweights in history. Appallingly easy to hit, the face-first and roughhousing challenger was to take heavy punishment. He hung in there, though. And despite the one-sidedness of the contest, his courage earned him much admiration from the crowd. The beating he took, however, made the huge gulf between the two awfully apparent. Truth be told, Hagler had a fairly easy night. Still, Hamsho took Marvin further than any previous opponent had done, bar two. And in reaching the eleventh round Mustafa had
extended him further than his previous two world title challengers had.
Bad cuts were the official reason for the bout being terminated in this session, but the hammering the brave contender had been subject to could have been put to an end sooner than it was, cuts or no. The time was two minutes and nine seconds of the eleventh, and Marvellous Marvin, despite the fact that he too had suffered a cut, had successfully retained his beloved title for the third time. Somehow, the two men would be brought back together for a return encounter three years later.
In the time between the going over that he’d given the overmatched Hamsho, Marvin had beaten all comers. Included in his six subsequent defences was a win over the all-time great from Panama, the one and only Roberto Duran. Hamsho too had had some good wins. Certainly, points victories over Bobby Czyz and Wilfred Benitez were impressive performances. Ranked as the number one threat, ratings wise, to Marvin’s title once again, Hamsho was intent on putting on a better display this time. It was not to be.
The rematch was held at the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York, almost exactly three years later to the day. When the bout got under way it was clear not much had changed. With Hamsho as aggressive but crude as before, the super confident 160 pound king had nothing he couldn’t handle. With Hagler still very much at his peak, the second affair was a much shorter one than back in 1981.
Three rounds was all it took Marvin this time around, as two crunching knockdowns signaled the end. Al Certo, the main man in Hamsho’s corner, took it upon himself to rescue his stricken fighter after his second trip to the canvas.
Mustafa Hamsho would never again box for a world title.