Donald Curry, briefly acclaimed as boxing's best fighter pound for pound, did little to reclaim the distinction Saturday even though he recorded his second straight victory in his so-called "Second Coming."
We'll leave it to the public to decide, but marquee boxers do not ordinarily win all their fights on fifth-round disqualifications.
Curry, who held the undisputed welterweight championship and was being groomed for superstar status until he was upset by Lloyd Honeyghan last fall, has now won two fights in a row, but both as a result of head butts, both stopped in the fifth round. Saturday at Caesars Palace, Curry felt the stinging brow of Carlos Santos. Four times.
The fourth was a lunging head butt to Curry's right eye late in the fifth. Curry jumped back in exaggerated surprise, and referee Carlos Padilla, who had warned Santos once and deducted points twice earlier, immediately stopped the fight. This was even before the gash above Curry's eye began to bleed.
Santos, the former International Boxing Federation champion, denied it was intentional and, noting that Curry won his last fight here also on a head butt, said: "He's a protected fighter." But then Santos (30-3) would be angry. His $25,000 purse had been automatically withheld, pending review by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Curry, who retained his United States Boxing Assn. junior middleweight title with the disqualification, said he didn't just think the butts were intentional, "I knew they were intentional." Nevertheless, he accepted some blame for them. "It's my fault, I was going inside, making my head available like that."
In truth, Curry does push his head forward, almost ahead of his hands. And when he fights inside, a head butt is not at all an unlikely event. In fact, he was butted when he lost to Honeyghan, and was butted again by Tony Montgomery in his first comeback fight (also stopped in the fifth round here in Las Vegas) in February.
Except for the fourth, lunging head butt, Santos' crimes did not seem particularly heinous, or even intentional. This fact led at least one interested observer to agree that Curry was being taken care of. Said Montgomery's manager, Bob Mittleman: "Montgomery's (disqualification) was right, this was wrong. He is a protected fighter."
That aside, he remains a very good one, even though Curry admitted: "I probably missed with my punches more than I ever had in my career." Curry (27-1), who got $100,000 for his troubles, was nevertheless as slick as he ever was, even when he was being mentioned as the logical successor to Marvelous Marvin Hagler's middleweight title. The Honeyghan upset interrupted that succession and the resulting two victories by disqualification are not likely to create a demand for any big-event showdowns soon.
Though Curry said Saturday he'd like to meet the winner of Monday night's Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard bout, promoter Bob Arum said it's more likely he'll get a top contender such as James Kinchen or Juan Roldan first.
Or possibly he'll be led to a junior middleweight title fight, either with World Boxing Council champion Duane Thomas or IBF champion Buster Drayton, the man who beat Santos. But Curry, who like Santos weighed in at 153 pounds, said he didn't make the weight that easily. Weight problems had something to do with his loss to Honeyghan, and he suggested that even at 154 he is not entirely comfortable. "It was tough, making 154," he said. "I had a few problems."
But until he is again announced as boxing's best, pound for pound, he will need the opportunity to win in a more conclusive fashion than he has. Only in horse racing is it possible to achieve greatness, someone suggested, always winning by a head.