This was to be a historic weekend for women’s boxing, with the undisputed middleweight championship between Claressa Shields and amateur conqueror Savannah Marshall on tap for the O2 Arena in London, as well as a junior lightweight unification showdown between Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner. As we all know now, both fights were postponed – a day before fight night – following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The rescheduled date is Oct. 15.
It conjured up memories of recent boxing history when fights were canceled at the 11th hour—all for very different reasons.
Sugar Ray Leonard-Roger Stafford (1982)
Leonard, the undisputed welterweight champion, was scheduled to defend against contender Roger Stafford on May 14, 1982, in Buffalo. The fight was set to be televised live in prime time by ABC. But, two weeks before the fight, Leonard began complaining of blurs and spots in his left eye’s field of vision. Four days before the opening bell, Leonard underwent eye surgery to correct a detached retina, officially postponing the fight. The surgery was a success, but Leonard retired that Fall, and the Leonard-Stafford fight never happened. Leonard, of course, returned briefly in 1984 before coming back to shock middleweight champ Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987. His career ended for good in 1997. Stafford, who earned the shot at Leonard by upsetting Pipino Cuevas, finally received a shot at the welterweight title, losing to Donald Curry via first-round knockout in 1983.
Michael Spinks-Eddie Mustafa Muhammad II (1983)
Spinks defeated Mustafa Muhammad on July 18, 1981, to win the WBA light heavyweight title. Both fighters went on significant win streaks, including a Spinks win over WBC titlist Dwight Muhammad Qawi that unified the crowns. So the anticipated Spinks-Mustafa rematch for all the light heavyweight marbles was set for July 15, 1983, in Washington D.C., on HBO. However, Mustafa Muhammad weighed in 2 ½ pounds over the 175-pound limit on the morning of the fight – then refused to lose the extra poundage. Chaos ensued as promoters scrambled to save a dying show. The fight was briefly changed to a non-title 10-rounder before being scrapped altogether – hours before the opening bell. Spinks went on to reign for another two years before becoming the first light heavyweight champ to win the heavyweight title in 1985.
Terry Norris-Simon Brown (1992)
Norris was set to defend his WBC junior middleweight title against former welterweight champ Brown at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas – live on HBO. It was expected to be one of the toughest defenses for Norris, who had reigned supreme since 1990 with knockouts of John “The Beast” Mugabi, Donald Curry and a dominant win over Sugar Ray Leonard. But hours before the fight, Brown began experiencing inexplicable dizzy spells. He was eventually taken to the hospital and the fight was called – literally as Norris was starting to warm up. The dizziness was found to be caused by an inner ear infection. The pair finally met in 1993, with Brown – a 4-1 underdog – pulling off a shocking 4th-round knockout in Puebla, Mexico. Norris won the 1994 rematch by easy decision.
Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad (2001)
After a pulverizing knockout of William Joppy in May 2001, two-division world champion Trinidad set his sights on the biggest challenge of all, middleweight king Hopkins, who’d been champ for six years. Hopkins had infuriated “Tito’s” faithful by throwing down the Puerto Rican flag at a press conference where he was literally chased out of the arena, and the stage was set. Hopkins vs. Trinidad, one of the biggest fights in boxing, was scheduled for Sept. 15, 2001, at Madison Square Garden. However, the attack on America just four days prior, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, postponed the fight and all sports events indefinitely. Amazingly, the fight was rescheduled quickly, and Hopkins and Trinidad fought on Sept. 29, 2001, amid a country and a crowd that needed something to cheer about. B-Hop wore the American flag on his trunks, while Tito wore an NYC policeman’s hat (his father, an NYC firefighter’s hat) into the ring. It was a memorable night in the Garden, as Hopkins scored a 12th-round TKO to solidify his legacy.