by Fox Doucette
It’s a welterweight showcase here at the Historical Fight Night Arena tonight, as a couple of stars of the Eighties who fought each other, Mark Breland and Lloyd Honeyghan, step into the ring tonight, but not for a rematch; each has his own opponent to deal with tonight. For Breland, it’s Sugar Shane Mosley, while Honeyghan takes on Wilfred Benitez in the co-feature.
Mark Breland was, in his day, the poor man’s Tommy Hearns; like Hearns, he was freakishly long and rangy for a guy his size, sporting a 78-inch reach on a 6’2” frame, same as the Hit Man, Breland used that length to fight a frightfully effective range war against Honeyghan in the fight from which the 1984 Olympian stepped into the time machine.
Mosley, meanwhile, is spared the indignity that this would give him if this were an old-vs-new fight; the 44-year-old fighter who was shamefully given a title shot by the WBA on May 28 gets swept into the dustbin of history, and through the magic of the Temporal Commission, he is replaced by the 29-year-old version of himself who knocked out Antonio Diaz in the first defense of the WBC welterweight crown he held for a year and a half between his first fight with Oscar De La Hoya and his pair of losses to Vernon Forrest.
In your co-feature, Benitez steps into the time machine from his split decision win over Carlos Palomino, one of those fights that raises more questions than it answers in some ways. Despite his vaunted reputation as a defensive fighter, Benitez was shockingly easy to hit; before Palomino’s stamina betrayed him in the middle rounds of a 15-round fight in the tropical heat of Puerto Rico, Carlos had cracked Benitez a couple of times with big right hands.
Which brings us to Honeyghan’s time machine fight. He steps in from his win over Donald Curry, in which a six-round beatdown from pillar to post of the undisputed welterweight champ at the time launched Honeyghan onto the world stage; he would hold that title for most of the next two years (briefly losing it to Jorge Vaca on a technical decision after he lost a point for an accidental head butt, a loss he would avenge by knockout in his very next contest.) It would take the likes of Marlon Starling to dispossess Honeyghan of his crown, and Breland to send him into obscurity.
Who wins in this welterweight explosion? We shall see.
From the Historical Fight Night Arena Presented By You, If You Donate On Patreon, in San Dimas, California, these fights are scheduled for 12 rounds using the Unified Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Scoring is on the 10-point must system, there is no three knockdown rule, no standing eight count, only the referee can stop the fight, and a fighter cannot be saved by the bell in any round including the twelfth and final round.
Now, for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching from around the world…
Let’s Make History.
Wilfred Benitez (1/14/1979, 37-0-1, 25 KOs) vs. Lloyd Honeyghan (9/27/1986, 28-0, 18 KOs)
This fight was going to come down to Honeyghan’s right hand against Benitez’s left hook, and unlike the Palomino fight, in which Benitez had the conflicting advice of his father Gregorio Benitez and the great Emile Griffith in his corner trying to co-train him, this time Griffith is the lone voice as chief second, Gregorio having been sent back to the past at his son’s request in the first week of his eight-week 2016 training camp. Honeyghan, meanwhile, put $550 into an index fund in his own name in 1986 so that he could cash it out for $5,000 when he got to 2016 and bet it on himself the way he had in the Curry fight to create a historical parallel of his own.
With Griffith as the sole voice, Benitez set about boxing rather than trying to trade shots with Honeyghan. Benitez looked to work off the counter, aware that the British fighter often tried to lead with the right hand, and his strategy was to try and catch Lloyd with a quick left hook, much the way Breland had in 1990 to start the downfall of the former champion.
Honeyghan, meanwhile, worked much more off the jab than he had against Curry, knowing what was in front of him. Leading with the right may be a fine way to put explosive power onto the target, but if you get smacked on the way in, it’s a Pyrrhic victory at best and an easy night for your opponent at worst.
The first round was light on action, as neither man seemed interested in engaging on the other’s terms, so a stalemate ensued.
Honeyghan opened up a little for the first time, testing the waters with that lead right, but Benitez had not been lulled to sleep by the slow pace of the first round; he met the lead right with a quick jab right over it that landed flush on the face of the Brit and made him gun-shy about trying such a tactic again.
Benitez continued to engage only sporadically, more than content to keep the big puncher at range, and with neither man enjoying a substantial reach advantage (Benitez had a 70-inch reach; Honeyghan was an inch shorter in the arms at 69 inches), this was not the simple matter it would have been for Thomas Hearns, but a snappy jab and at least as much range as your opponent do wonders in tandem for ring generalship.
Honeyghan landed a beauty of a left hook after feinting with the right to try to force Benitez to commit. The counter may not have been forthcoming, but the threat of an incoming power shot froze Benitez in place for a moment, giving the left an opening and staggering Benitez for the first time in the fight. Honeyghan then landed the first big right hand of the fight as he did not give Benitez a chance to recover from the left, which sent the Puerto Rican reeling into the corner.
Fortunately for the man with the defensive reputation, some excellent head movement spared him the bulk of the force of the punches coming at him, and when Honeyghan was done trying to throw shots, Benitez got a sweet little tight left hook into the close-quarters space, which put a stop to the assault.
The rest of the round was more of the same, and it fell to the judges to figure out whether the aggression should be rewarded for Honeyghan or whether the fact that just about none of the punches landed should be rewarded for Benitez.
The fight, having settled down, turned into a bit of a slog. Neither man wanted to risk the wrath of the other, each of them having tasted his opponent’s power and found it not to their liking.
The catch, as became evident over the next four rounds, was that this was exactly the fight plan Benitez had tried to execute from the opening bell. By surviving Honeyghan’s barrage in Round 3, the fighter from Puerto Rico had set the rules of engagement in his own favor.
And by the eighth round, Honeyghan’s people knew it. Any hope of winning the fight on the scorecards had begun to evaporate as Benitez clearly got the better of the exchanges in rounds 4 through 7, and as the fight entered the late rounds, something drastic would have to happen in order for this contest to become a contest once more.
So Honeyghan opened up once again, preferring to risk his hide on a big shot rather than the death-by-a-thousand-cuts he’d had inflicted upon him in the previous four rounds.
Unfortunately for Honeyghan, by the eighth round, Benitez had him dialed in, and the problem with leading with the right is if you do so and get beaten to the punch, you get hit like a bat connecting with a fastball.
Honeyghan went down for a seven count, and when he rose, all hope of that decisive blow for a victory had gone the way of the dodo.
The last four rounds were academic, and when it went to the cards, all three judges saw it the same way, 118-109, for your winner, by unanimous decision…
RESULT: BENITEZ W-UD12 HONEYGHAN.
Shane Mosley (11/4/2000, 36-0, 33 KOs) vs. Mark Breland (3/3/1990, 27-1-1, 20 KOs)
The crazy thing about Mosley’s career is that he started it 38-0, racking up 35 knockouts along the way, but since 2002, Mosley is 11-10-1, including a 3-8 record when fighting for a world title. Some younger fight fans might even have forgotten just how good Shane was in his prime.
The other curious thing about Mosley is that even though he’s got ten pro losses in 2016, only one of those came by knockout (due to a back injury rather than being counted out), and among the decision losses, only Forrest had Sugar Shane in any real danger, dropping him twice in the second round. So he’s not going to be a pushover for Breland, whose own power is focused in that sneaky fast left hook with which he pummeled Honeyghan in the time machine contest.
Mosley was at one hell of a disadvantage from the word go in this fight. His two best punches, the left hook and the right uppercut, relied heavily on him closing range and getting inside to throw those two shots. With a seven-inch disadvantage in reach, 78 inches to 71, that meant Mosley was going to have to walk through hell to get to his opponent, something that left him vulnerable not only to Breland’s hook thrown at what often seemed paradoxically like full extension (watch Breland’s time machine fight and what you find is that at full speed, the video evidence looks more like he’d dropped Lloyd Honeyghan with a jab rather than the well-turned-over hook that the slow-motion replay shows), but also to just generally being jabbed silly or pasted with the right hand over the top.
And indeed, Breland brought all that plus the kitchen sink in the first round, pounding Shane like a cheap steak en route to a one-sided opening frame.
Mosley tried coming in behind the jab, but he continued to lose the range war. Breland had the perfect opponent for his style standing in front of him, and he, like Benitez had in the previous fight, was more than happy to fight his own fight and force his opponent into making mistakes to try and get into a position where he could land a big shot.
As good as Mosley was against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas, he was in more of a Vernon Forrest/Winky Wright sort of position against Breland. This was turning into a very one-sided fight.
And onward it went; Breland landed one of those big left hooks and dropped Mosley for what looked like a flash knockdown, as Sugar Shane quickly rose before the referee even got to the count of three. Mosley took the rest of the eight count, stepped forward…and got deposited on his ass by a big right hand that caught him coming in.
Breland was in total control, and the fight went over the next five rounds from looking like the Forrest fight for Mosley to looking more like his later fight against Floyd Mayweather.
Like Money Mayweather, Breland controlled range; unlike Floyd in that fight, Breland had no interest in making a statement other than “I can outbox this guy and win a boring but effective decision.”
Mosley gambled one last time, trying to apply pressure, but he had no more success against Breland than Honeyghan had against Benitez, serving only to walk into a counter and hit the deck. Breland caught Shane with a sweet left hook that threw off Mosley’s equilibrium, leaving him once again on the canvas when the right hand came in behind the hook.
Mosley beat the count, but the fight was all but over. The next three rounds went as had the first nine, and when the judges tallied the points, the final count was a devastating 120-105 on all three cards, for your winner, again by unanimous decision…
RESULT: BRELAND W-UD12 MOSLEY
If we hadn’t already brought you a Muhammad Ali fight just last week (the one against Larry Holmes), then next week would be time to pay tribute. As it stands, it was fortuitously-timed testament to the life and times of a man who the world tragically lost this week at the age of 74.
So what to do with the obvious angle taken away? Well, business as usual, of course!
Your co-feature brings the return of “Terrible” Terry Norris, whose lone appearance on this show was a loss to Thomas Hearns back on September 18, 2015. Norris takes on Winky Wright in the opening bout of the evening.
The main event? We’ve got Oscar De La Hoya, at lightweight, getting his second shot at one of the Four Kings after a split decision loss to Sugar Ray Leonard; this time, it’s the 1978 version of Roberto Duran. Oscar will be the underdog here; will he pull the upset over quite possibly the greatest lightweight of all time?
That’s next Saturday, June 11, right here on Historical Fight Night!