by James Slater — For the past twenty years or so, whenever a British fighter has gone over to America to challenge for a world title, the writers have wondered aloud if he will be able to pull off an upset just like welterweight challenger Lloyd Honeyghan did when he met huge betting favourite Don Curry back in 1986..
Since that superb away from home win for Honeyghan – arguably the best ever scored in the US by a British boxer – fans and experts have constantly referred to the plight of the current Brit and his outside chance of winning as being on a par with the odds “The Ragamuffin Man” faced when he met the superb “Lone Star Cobra.”
The latest British fighter to go across the Atlantic and face long odds is 31-year-old welterweight Michael Jennings. Jennings, who meets Miguel Cotto for the vacant WBO 147-pound belt, is an even bigger outsider than was Honeyghan. However, in an article for The Citizen, the now 48-year-old former welterweight great has said how Jennings can do it if he believes in himself, and that he himself was the first British boxer to prove that fighters from the UK can go across the pond and win.
“It’s going to be hostile [for Jenning’s], he’s fighting in The States!,” Honeyghan said with a laugh as he spoke to The Citizen. “They’ll be screaming at Michael Jennings, shouting hollering, you name it. I’ve been there. But no matter how much noise they make, once that bell goes, you can get in there and smack you opponent right in the gob. That will shut the crowd up.
“Names can’t hurt you, and the fans can’t jump in the ring and get at you. It’s just two boxers slugging it out.”
If Jennings, who some bookmakers are calling a 66-1 underdog, can get into the fight he will have a reasonable chance of winning a surprise points victory.
Honeyghan spoke about how, before he came along, it was virtually unheard of for a British challenger to go to America and take the US fighter’s title. Now Jennings, though he is facing a Puerto Rican in Cotto, will try and do what Lloyd did in 1986.
“It tended to be that good British fighters couldn’t beat good American boxers in the USA,” Honeyghan said. “But I set the blueprint that we could go over there and beat them, that we could be world champions. We’ve always had the ability, but sometime British boxers have lost the fight before they’ve even got in the ring. It’s a mental thing. Personally, I never gave a monkey’s.”
He never, either, and though no-one gave him a chance against the unbeaten and peaking Curry, the underdog smashed the champion to a retirement defeat after just six rounds.
Lloyd recalled his great night, and the days leading up to it.
“It was at the press conference that he [Curry] said he was going to fight [Marvin] Hagler after beating me,” Lloyd said. “Once he said that he was doomed. He didn’t know I was going to destroy him. For me it wasn’t a shock [when beating Curry]. But it shocked the world, the whole boxing fraternity. They all saw Don Curry as invincible, unbeatable. But they never saw me coming.”
Now, can Jennings “do a Honeyghan” on Saturday night?
“At this stage of his career it’s a good test for Jennings to see how far he has come,” Honeyghan said. “He may never get another chance so he must take it. I know it will be something he desperately wants. It’s his dream. Of course, Cotto has the pedigree, he’s a very good operator. But is he as good as everyone says? I’m not so sure after losing to [Antonio] Margarito. If he fights like that again, Jennings has a good chance.”
All British boxing fans will have their fingers crossed on Saturday, as they hope Cotto does indeed have another bad night.