Mike McCallum @ 154 lbs.


ISan Francisco, CA– Having been around the block since the early Cassius Clay days, I’ve seen my share of fighters. There were the pretenders, the contenders, the overrated, the out right frauds, and then there are the fighters who come, do their thing and attain greatness and get little fanfare. Quite possibly the greatest fighter that fits that last criteria is a fighter born in Jamaica named Mike McCallum. Perhaps the game’s best body puncher in history, his moniker was “The Body Snatcher.”


I remember hearing the name Mike McCallum back in the 70s when he was still an amateur. Great chin, big heart, the jab, right cross, a potent left hook, Mike had all that and superb timing as well. The late great Johnny Tocco, who ran the Ringside Gym on Charleston and Main in Las Vegas from 1952 until the mid to late 1990s, Tocco told me that Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, yes even Marvin Hagler, none of them wanted any part of Mike McCallum.


Fearless as they come, Mike was also a realist. He once told me as we were watching Mike Tyson spar with the late James Broad, “If I were a heavyweight I could beat Tyson.” Not the boastful type, McCallum broke down Tyson’s style and explained how he would exploit Tyson’s “squaring up” to opponents and go up the middle with both body and head shots. And when Tyson did the “peek a boo” style his trainer Cus D’Amato first developed for the not so-iron chinned former two-time heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson, Mike had an answer for that too. “When Tyson goes into that style, you need to fire up the middle, pivot and punch at him from different angles.” Easier said than done, but Mike McCallum was a man who quietly talked the talk before walking the walk and lowering the boom on foes!


While his first title winning effort in 1984 against Sean Mannion went the then 15 round distance, Mike went into that WBA 154 lb. title fight was 21-0 with 19 short endings. He never lost again until 1988 when he faced Italian resident Sumbu Kalambay in Italy and that was only a one-point difference in favor of Sumbu, whom Mike would best in a rematch (more later).


In 1987, July to be exact, Mike was a 2 1/2 to 1 underdog to ascending welterweight champ Donald Curry. One year earlier, Curry who was trained by the late Dave Gorman in Texas, was a “pound for pound” guy before Lloyd Honeyghan stopped a weight drained welterweight (147 lbs) Curry in eight frames. As a side-note, Gorman trained Curry, Gene Hatcher, Stevie Cruz and Robin Blake. I am of the opinion that Gorman “burned out” these world class fighters by pushing them too hard, too long in the Texas heat. Seeing the McCallum-Curry fight was the last time my entire family was together in Las Vegas, this occasion was made even more special when I dropped $250 on McCallum, again a 2 1//2 to 1 underdog. The left hook that put Curry out was one of beauty.


Even though he had lost to Honeyghan, some pundits still called Donald Curry the “next Ray Leonard.” They were not saying this after Mike McCallum clocked him with a perfectly timed left hook. Some critics that was too wide of a punch, many, they like their hooks tighter. That’s the kind of crap Mike put up with his entire career that went from 1981 to 1997. Curry would fight 11 more times, go 7-4, three being KO losses before retiring (24-6, 27 KOs) in 1997, this after a 1991-1996 hiatus from boxing.


After striking gold in a Sumbu Kalambay rematch, “MM” was World WBA middleweight (160) champion. From the times I watched Mccallum, I thought he was at his best at 154 lbs. where he had six defenses, and having never lost a fight. Once at middle, did I mention his defeating the 41-1 Herol Graham, beat then once defeated Michael Watson (22-1) via KO. But throughout this Hall of Fame run, McCallum got little press. Diehards who had witnessed a Boxing PHD as McCallum taught a lesson to every opponent in his prime and at his best weight. When you talk about the history of the 154 lb. class, you have to rate McCallum near or at the top.


Based on history, the James Toney decisions hurt Mike the most. The first he told me he thought was a draw in 1991. Winning the second fight, Toney would end up making a lot and spending more money than he had. McCallum claims fight #1 was indeed a draw, but that he got “jobbed” in the 1992 rematch. While McCallum never made zillions, from what I’m told he has a few bucks on ice if need be as McCallum saved a good portion of his earnings. His overall record was 49-5-1, 36 KOs and had never been dropped. Mike McCallum is enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and today we would like to honor McCallum by adding him to the RingTalk.comWall of Fame.” A true Boxing PHD.

Pedro Fernandez


  • Pedro, had the Honor,of being the “Third Man”, for McCallum vs Roy Jones Jr. WBC, LT. HWYT. title, Nov. 22, 1996. Mike was probably 39, and Roy in his prime, at the time. RJ came out strong/close early.. but in RD. 4. ‘The Body Snatcher’ landed a Left Hook, to Roy’s ribs… which made RJ stay away for the remainder, earning a UD 0ver 12. But I saw Roys right leg lift up, when Mike’s ‘Hammering Hook found it’s mark.. Heard the noise as well. I would have to concur with your assessment of McCallum’s POWER to the BODY/HEAD..Roy did drop Mike with a Sharp Right on the point of his chin, in 10.. but McCallum bounced straight up.. and was in no trouble.Both fella’s were Gentleman/Sportsman/Competitive throughout. In McCallum’s Prime, it may have been a different result?
    Hope you enjoyed a Blessed Christmas, and we wish you a Happy, Healthy, and Hilarious New 2013.

  • post the link if you have it. Thanks, I will put it on here for the viewers/ readers

  • The Bomber & Brendan – 40 Minutes Documentary – part 1 youtube

    Good boxing doc on that era

  • McCallum was indeed dropped on two occasions in the autumn of his fine career. In the Tiozzo fight and a couple of bouts later in his next-to-last fight by Roy Jones JR.

    Great article Pedro. McCallum was indeed a great fighter and a 3-division world champion.

  • Geoffrey Sadao Prenter

    I agree that McCallum is highly underrated. A beautiful boxer-puncher, great counterpuncher (impeccable timing), and of course, he could beat guys down to the body.

    He (McCallum) reminds me of Ezzard Charles stylewise, and also in the manner that he was underrated. Fortunately, McCallum didn’t have the huge career downslide that Charles had from ’56-’59 when he was sick with Lateral Sclerosis. What do you think, Pedro? Please don’t ignore this comment!!!! Just kidding.

  • good article pedro.maccallum was a beast.his 2 rd destruction of julian jackson sticks out.his ko win with watson was class.h.b.g gave maccallum lots of trouble but yet jackson kos the bomber in 4 rds.this is why we shouldnt use the triangle theory.he was hard done by in the second toney fight,agreed.pedro i know roy jones dropped him,and did fabrice tiozzo not score a flash knock down against him?? i know they was both later on in his career but they still count..o and your chavez snr article?? the best yet :)

  • Good article. I’d like to concur with the comments above as well: I loved watching MM, he was pure class – the complete fighter…and should’ve been a bigger star.

    Would like to add something: I remember reading an interview with Manny Steward (’bout 7 or 8 years ago) during which he was asked, “of all the great fighters you’ve been involved with, who would you single out as being the very best”?

    Steward replied along the lines of, “I’ve been asked that before and people are slightly surprised when I say Mike McCallum, but he did everything SO well…was so slick, so smooth, so good…he made everything look so easy”.

    James Toney has also praised MM for being the finest and toughest boxer/fighter/technician he ever faced, and that he learned so much from the Body Snatcher.

    What an era that was (’86 – ’94) Nunn, Toney, Curry, MM, Julian Jackson, Gerald Mac, Herol Graham, Nigel Benn, Iran Barkley, Steve Collins, Michael Watson, Roy Jns Jnr, Tim Littles, Frankie Liles, etc, etc…

  • Great story!! I loved the body snatcher,watched him as a kid and was always excited to see him fight. His jab and body attack were ruthless. If you want to watch how a fighter breaks down another all you have to do is watch films of Mccallum, the way he jabbed, cut off the ring and hit to the body was amazing.

  • The bodysnatcher…one of my all time favorite nicknames…That was a sick hook he hit curry with!

  • Mc Callum had it all. Could throw any punch in the book, worked for 3 minutes of every round. Great jab, bodypuncher, good power and iron jaw. Probably the best all-around fighter of the last 30 years. There was nothing the guy couldn’t do. If you train a fighter, he’s the style you’d want them to have. His fight against Jeff Harding, when he was clearly past his best was masterful to watch, a true ring general. That way he threw that uppercut, wow. What a a master technician!

  • You bring up great memories about Mike. I was ringside in Boston when Mike McCallum fought Steve Collins. Mick Ward’s many sisters were seated in a row not far from me. I was probably the only black person and McCallum supporter in the house. As Mike walked up to the ring I burst out in rapturous cheering, and and he winked at me. I sat next to an Irishman, and after every round we would look at each other. He would doubtfully say: “That was Steve’s round!” and I would confidently say: “That was Mike’s round!” The fight was on network TV and I set my VCR to record it. Whenever I watch the recording, I fancy that I can hear myself cheering Mike on. Brilliant!


  • I met “The Body Snatcher” in 1991 (I believe) at the Mercer vs. Morrison fight in Atlantic City. He was a true gentleman and very friendly. One of the most underrated fighters of all time. If he was fighting today he would be the king at 154 and 160. Great technician with a great chin. Good article Pedro.

  • The Bodysnatcher may have well, handled Leonard Hearns and Hagler. None of these fighters wanted any part of Mcallum when they could have ? He is easily the most underated champion because he never got to prove himself against the best at the time. Would have beaten the best from 154 to 168 if givin the chance !!

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