“… Open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”– President Ronald Reagan
“Do you know that one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas.”—Margaret Thatcher
“When I’m out of politics I’m going to run a business, it’ll be called rent-a-spine”–Thatcher
Major U.S. banks increase their prime lending rate to a record high 20%. Are you kidding me? Inflation continues in the U.S. as prices rise 12.4%.. 125,262 Cubans leave their country, with most heading for the United States. This mass migration ends when Castro shuts down the port of Mariel. It’s more humiliation for Jimmy Carter.
Even more shame for President Carter as cornpone brother Billy becomes a registered foreign agent of the Libyan government after receiving a $220,000 “loan” from the Libyans.
After the election in which Republican Ronald Reagan wins the American presidency and the Republicans also take control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 1956, successful negotiations with Iran begin. On Jan. 20, 1981, the day of President Reagan’s inauguration, the U.S. releases almost $8 billion in Iranian assets and the hostages are freed after 444 days in Iranian detention. It seems to be interesting timing.
Nixon, the Vietnam War, Watergate, Carter, the energy crisis, and disco ducks are soon relegated to memory as President Ronald Wilson Reagan takes charge.
The 80’s are about Reagan and Madonna and everything in between. It is a decade of free enterprise, materialism and shameless self-promotion, of which Madonna is the queen. She is a material girl in a material world. Everyone admits to guilty pleasures.
HIV AIDS claims thousands of lives. Larry Kramer says hold off on sex until we can figure out what is going on. Those who listen live. Those who don’t play Russian roulette with five bullets. Many die a lonely and horrific death.
The first test tube baby is born. An AIDS virus is eventually discovered, and Prozac is introduced as an anti-depressant. Psychopharmacology helps millions. First implantable heart defibrillator appears. Biotechnology comes into its own.
Movies like Serpico and Ordinary People chill and actors like Robert De Niro rule. The Fonda’s, one of whom remains unforgiven but thrives with her Workout video, spend time On Golden Pond and Meryl Streep struts her talented stuff. Kingsley is Gandhi and Dustin Hoffman is the Rain Man, Cher is Moonstruck and Michael Douglas says greed is good. Romero does zombies before anyone else. Richard Gere is no Officer and Gentleman. Blow Out showcase Travolta. The Killing Fields and Platoon resonate and Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible in My Left Foot. Here come the Untouchables, the Last Emperor and a Fish Called Wanda. Morgan Freeman drives Miss Daisy. Sly draws First Blood and Blood Simple is simply marvelous Cher does her 99th final tour and Arnie flexes. Kathleen Turner sizzles in Body Heat and many are thrilled by Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Blood Simple is simply marvelous. Everybody wonders just how short Danny DiVito is? People watch Miami Vice and dig the music. Eddie Murphy Comes to America and the Blues Brothers make people laugh. The Terminator scares them. Full Metal Jacket is a rouser. And so are Blade Runner and its special kind of noir. John Carpenter’s The Thing remains faithful to the premise of the 1951 original. The Shining is all about Jack Nicholson and that’s enough to lease anyone. Do the Right Thing was another blockbuster. There were many, many more.
In the early 1980s, a commercial form of jazz fusion called pop fusion or “smooth jazz” became successful and garnered significant radio airplay. Modern jazz fans hate it. Chet Baker says that if he could play like Kenny G, he wouldn’t. Here comes jazz funk and electronic dance music. Chet dies in 1988. Miles rules.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess, The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving., Megatrends by John Naisbitt, Lincoln by Gore Vidal: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie, and Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow make darn good reads but, Paris Trout by Pete Dexter and Beloved by Toni Morrison are real sleepers.
In 1981, Israel bombs and destroys a French-built nuclear plant near Baghdad, asserting the plant is designed to make nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. It is the world’s first air strike against a nuclear plant. No more weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but 20 years later nobody seems to notice what Israel accomplished.
Yugoslavia’s President Tito dies. It splinters Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Herzegovina. It’s a precursor to horrific war and a return to “ethnic cleansing.” Cousins kill cousins. Snipers kill old women.
Serial killer Andrei Chikatilo does his own brand of killing in Russia but Russia says it can’t be so. Charles Manson and three of his followers were found guilty of the murders of Sharon Tate, the LaBiancas and four others on January 25, 1971. Many other serial killers are given nicknames like “The Sunset Strip Killers;” “The Milwaukee Cannibal;” “The Torso Killer;” “The Classified Ad Rapist;” “The BTK Killer;” “The Night Stalker;” “The Green River Killer;” “The Genesee River Killer;” “The Boxcar Killer;” “The Beauty Queen Killer;” “The Grim Sleeper,” and too many more. They provide the grist for books and movies that chill and thrill.
Shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland, quit working in protest of rising meat prices. The strike includes 350,000 workers who demand the right to form self-governing unions independent of the ruling Communist Party. They are led by 37-year-old electrician named Lech Walesa. Solidarity, the new independent federation of Polish trade unions, is soon given legal status by a Warsaw court. It’s the beginning of the end for the Communist Party.
A fire in the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas claims 84 souls. Helicopters lift more than one thousand guests to safety.
Iranian and Iraqi air and naval forces clash as a conflict over disputed territory escalates into a war that will last most of the decade.
David Chapman shoots and kills Beatle John Lennon. Anwar Sadat is murdered in October 1981while reviewing a military parade. Alan Berg is gunned down in 1980 by neo-Nazis. That same year, Ronald Reagan, while leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., and three others were shot and wounded by John Hinckley, Jr. Assassinations abound in the rest of the world, especially in Colombia and Africa. Heck, why should all assassinations be limited to the 60’s?
Major U.S. banks raise their prime lending rate to 21.5%, a new record, as the U.S. economy continues to suffer from rising inflation and high unemployment.
The 80’s are all about “The Great Communicator” and the Reagan years; all about Budget battles, Reaganomics and Star Wars and supply and demand. Qaddafi and Khomeini are despicable.
Reagan helps us get through the grief of the Space shuttle tragedy and pays tribute to the memory of Astronauts Ellison S. Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory B. Jarvis, Judith A. Resnik, Michael J. Smith, Francis R. Scobee and Ronald E. McNair. Grief counselors help school children.
Reagan reduces taxes and also reduces big government, but the price is to turn loose on the streets many who might be better off institutionalized, as the 80’s vibe homelessness. He says the Department of Energy “never produced one barrel of oil.”
The “Gipper” bonds with Thatcher and directs a massive effort to define a long-term research and development program to eliminate the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. He scares the hell out of Russia; he wins the Cold War.
A savage and brutal 36-hour riot takes place at the New Mexico State Penitentiary; 33 inmates die and 100 are seriously wounded, most at the hands of fellow inmates.
Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington erupts for the first time since 1857. Another eruption occurs on May 18, killing 34 persons.
The high-tech industry really takes off in the 80’s. Fortunes are made but not before a savage Stock Market implosion shakes thing up in 1987. Names like Apple, Data General, Digital, HP, IBM, Wang, Prime, Microsoft, Oracle and countless others offer opportunities of a life time. Many will later disappear. Silicon Valley and Boston duplicate themselves around the country. Get it while you can. Think exit strategy while you enter. Buy and hold, but who holds when a stock doubles?
Donald Trump—his minions call him “The Donald”– promotes deal making. Yuppie success becomes bile inducing, but non-yuppies yearn for and copy yuppie success.
On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board as well as 11 on the ground. Wars have been started for less. HIV/AIDS continues to make its ugly presence felt and thousands die. Is it payback time for the reckless sexual abandon of the 70’s? Whatever it is, it changes the way people live.
The Jamaican Bobsled Team amazes and inspires. And no one expected the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey team to win much of anything. But they won gold. It was a “Miracle on Ice.”
The Chicago Bears and “The Refrigerator” beat New England 46-10 in Superbowl XX, but the decade belongs to the San Francisco 49ers. The Heisman Trophy goes to Bo Jackson who can-do. Rice and “LT” stand out and so does a Rookie of the Year by the name of Mark McGwire. “Dr. J” makes his presence felt, along with studious Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
After robot-like Ivan Drago, a 6-foot-5, 261-pound Soviet athlete, kills Apollo Creed, Rocky gets sweet revenge in Rocky 1V. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter is wrongly imprisoned for murder. Robert DeNiro rages as The Raging Bull in arguably the greatest boxing movie ever. Young Danny Flynn is released from prison after 14 years after “taking the rap” for the IRA and tries to rebuild his life in the Boxer. When We Were Kings is a superb documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle.
Light heavyweight Bob Foster is the sheriff in town early on. It was during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that the sometimes forgotten light heavyweight division featured TV offerings that were a boxing aficionado’s dream. The period was roughly after Foster but before Evander Holyfield.
There was the all-action Matthew Saad Muhammad, the underrated “Jewish Bomber” Mike Rossman. James “Great” Scott, who fought out of every boxer’s favorite prison—Rahway in New Jersey, Qawi (another Rahway alum), Marvin Johnson, Eddie Davis, Murray Sutherland, Jerry “The Bull” Martin, crafty Mustafa Muhammad (aka Eddie Gregory), Yaqui Lopez, the legendary Victor Galindez, Vonzell Johnson, Richie Kates, the stylist John Conteh, Lottie Mwale, Mustafa Wasajja, Croatia’s Mate Parlov, Marvin Camel, KO artist Willie Edwards, Ghanaian Prince Mama Mohammed, and many more. Michael Spinks stood out from the pack and later moved up to take the heavyweight crown from Larry Holmes who was closing in on Rocky Marciano’s record.
Missing two prominent front teeth, Wilbert “The Vampire” Johnson was often carried to the ring in a coffin wearing a black cape, smiling his “Vampire Smile” at the fans who would roar with approval. This was high camp at its best without anyone knowing it was high camp.
There were other memories, some fond and some not so fond, but if you add them all up and divide by the total number, the result is the unforgettable one of seeing Matthew Saad Muhammad fight Indian Yaqui Lopez in a rematch on July 13, 1980 with the WBC light heavyweight title at stake. Saad snatches victory from defeat and spines tingle everywhere.
Bantamweight Ruben Olivares has a happy smile and devastating power. Napoles, Monzon, Chacon, Benvenuti, and Griffith thrill fans everywhere. Bennie Briscoe lurks and is BAD.
In 1987, Prince Charles Williams, down in the first and second, comes back to stop Bobby Czyz in the ninth and win the IBF light heavyweight title in Las Vegas.
Names like Fletcher, Roldan, Parker, Scypion, Hargrove, Ramos, “Hard Rock” Green, Shuler, Kinchen, DeWitt, and Mugabi provide great entertainment in the middleweight division. When “The Beast” Mugabi knocks out Frank “The Animal” Fletcher in 1984, the monikers are closer to reality than one might think. It’s The “Wild Kingdom.” Tony “El Torito” Ayala Jr’s next fight is not until 1999. Prison awaits. What could have been….
Leonard replaces Ali as the right man for the right time. His charisma sparkles. Hagler, Hearns, Duran and Leonard face off against one another in an unofficial round robin and Sugar comes out on top. Mega fights are now held and the participants get mega bucks. Big boppers like Cobb, Shavers and Norton do a round robin. It’s frightful stuff, but the heavyweight division belongs to Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson, as the World Boxing Association (WBA), the World Boxing Council (WBC), and the International Boxing Federation (IBF) compete. Tyson is to the 80’s what Liston was to the 60’s. He terrorizes and becomes a lightning rod in plain sight. Tony Tucker holds an IBF title for a short while, but surely that doesn’t mean he is a better fighter than Jerry Quarry of the 70’s who never did, or does it?
Some tragedies, some great fights,.
Cleveland Denny dies in 1980 as a result of injuries suffered in a bout against Gaeton Hart in Montreal. That same year, Lupe Pintor stops Johnny Owen in Los Angeles to retain WBC bantam title. Owen, disrespected by fans as he is carried from the ring, dies from head injuries 45 days later. Many years later, he is honored with a statue.
In what almost seems to be a fight to the death, Ray Mancini stops Deuk-Koo Kim in 14 rounds in 1982 to retain WBA lightweight title. Kim lapses into a coma, dying five days later. This one was savage. Maybe no more 15 round fights.
In 1983, Albert Davila stops Kiko Bejines in 12 rounds to win the vacant WBC bantam title. Bejines dies of head injuries three days later.
In 1988, Rico Velasquez dies of injuries sustained in a bout against David Gonzalez in California.
In 1981, April 12 – former heavyweight champion Joe Louis dies at 66 in Las Vegas. On April 12, 1989, -former five time middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson dies at 67 in Culver City, California. In 1983, former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey dies at age 87 in New York City.
On August 12, 1982 WBC featherweight champion Salvador Sanchez, 23, is killed in an auto accident in Mexico City. Mexico mourns.
In 1981, a visibly shop-worn Ali ends his remarkable career with a decision loss to Trevor Berbick in Nassau.
“The reason I started out punching was that Marvin started coming in and I had to show Marvin I deserved some respect,” he said. “A man doesn’t hold the title for [nearly five] years for nothing. He showed me he is a great champion.”– Thomas Hearns
“I’m coming out smoking.’” –Marvin Hagler
“I don’t like the way Tommy’s moving. His legs are rubbery.”—Sugar Ray Leonard
“Can I see? I’m not missing him, am I?’ — Hagler to the ring doctor
Great fights come in waves and in one of the greatest, Aaron Pryor absorbs Alexis Arguellos’ malefic long rights, and then come back to stop Arguello with a monster volley in 14 rounds.
Mike Weaver, far behind on points, shocks and sedates a tired John Tate in the 15th round in Knoxville to win WBA heavyweight title. Thomas Hearns destroys Pipino Cuevas in two rounds to win WBA welter title. Salvador Sanchez stops Danny Lopez to win WBC featherweight title. Larry Holmes stops Muhammad Ali but pleads with the referee to end it. William (Caveman) Lee gets off canvas to KO John LoCicero in five rounds in a hot and steaming Detroit. It’s the 1981 “Fight of the Year.” Sanchez KOs previously unbeaten WBC Jr. Featherweight champion Wilfredo Gomez to retain the WBC featherweight title. Ray Leonard, his left eye almost closed, rallies to stop Hearns in 14 rounds in Las Vegas to unify welter titles. It’s a blood and guts deal. Its great.
Holmes stops Irish Gerry Cooney in 13 rounds to retain his WBC heavyweight title. It’s black vs. white equaling green and its orchestrated by Don King. Duran stops Davey Moore in eight rounds of ultra- violence in New York City to win WBA Jr. Middleweight title. Louis Resto, with no padding in his gloves, blinds Irish Billy Collins in the undercard. It’s bad juju to the max.
A prime Hearns scores one of the most astounding KOs in ring history as he waxes Duran in two rounds in 1984 to retain his WBC Jr. Middleweight title.
In 1985, eight minutes of unmitigated fury and savagery occur as Hagler and Hearns explode at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The first round might be the greatest in recent history as the two unload non-stop heavy artillery. Hagler, bleeding badly from a cut high over the right eye, stuns Tommy in the third and then runs across the ring and stops him with a slashing and fully leveraged right to retain the middleweight title. Fans look at one another and say, “Did you see what I just saw?”THE RING magazine named Hagler-Hearns its 1985 Fight of the Year and the opening three minutes it’s Round of the Year. Years later, the publication declared the first round the best of the 20th century. Enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmWbOw6KJ6g
In 1986, killing machine Mike Tyson, 20, becomes the youngest heavyweight champion in ring history by stopping Trevor Berbick to win WBC heavyweight title. Berbick goes down gets up goes down gets up and then goes down. It’s over as a-result of one punch. Years later, a prime Tyson splatters a visibly frightened (but soon-to-be-rich) Michael Spinks in the first round to retain his heavyweight title.
In 1987, Prince Charles Williams, down in the first and second, comes back to stop Bobby Czyz in the ninth and win the IBF light heavyweight title in Las Vegas. In 1988, Iran Barkley takes a beating for two rounds, then somehow floors and stops Hearns in Las Vegas to win WBC middleweight title.
That same year, Ray Leonard in his first fight in nearly three years, takes a split decision victory from Hagler in 12 rounds to win WBC middleweight title. Hagler retires in degust.
In 1989, Roberto Duran defeats Iran Barkley in 12 rounds in Atlantic City to win WBC middleweight title, his fourth division title. The crowd roars, “Duuuran, Duuuran.”
George Foreman ends a 10 year retirement by stopping Steve Zouski.
Boxing experiences turmoil from 1980 through 1989. The end of universally recognized champions comes in the late 1970s, as the WBC and WBA begin to recognize different champions and top contenders. This becomes the era of multiple champions, unworthy mandatory challengers, and general corruption and confusion that come to be associated with sanctioning bodies in later years. Boxing morphs toward the casino industry, and public broadcasts begin to be replaced by closed-circuit. Can pay-per-view be far away? It’s materialism to the max.
Like the seventies, this decade was a fan-friendly one. Some say it might have been the last of its kind. Each decade is unique. The eighties are no exception.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
From NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY by Robert Frost
This completes the six-piece series I call: “1950-2010: Boxing and Changing Times.” The following links connect to the other articles in chronological order.