It ended with a sharp crack—as WBA/IBF welterweight champion Donald Curry's left fist, a red blur, slammed against the right side of Milton McCrory's head. McCrory, Curry's WBC counterpart, collapsed to the canvas. Gamely, if not wisely, he got to his feet. Curry marched forward. Crack! This time it was Curry's right fist that caught McCrory's head, snapping it violently sideways and dropping the fighter into the world of losers for the first time in his 29-bout pro career.
In less than five minutes of one-sided combat on Friday night at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, Curry unified the 147-pound title for the first time since 1982, the year in which Sugar Ray Leonard abdicated. What's more, the quiet, shy 24-year-old from Fort Worth established himself as a rising superstar.
For the unbeaten Curry it was his 24th win (his 19th KO), and it came against a man who had never even been off his feet as a pro. "I thought I had a steel chin," McCrory said after the fight, Curry's sixth defense of the WBA title he won in February 1983 against Jun Sok Hwang.
The publicists had called this one the Tossup, which it was only if you count the coins the two fighters flipped during the days beforehand; Curry was, in fact, the heavy favorite (4-1). They tossed to see if they would fight 12 rounds (WBC protocol) or 15 (WBA); to see who would speak first at the prefight press conference; to see who would weigh in first (both came in at 146�); to see who would enter the ring first.
Curry won the second and last tosses, and McCrory went into the ring first. Along with manager Emanuel Steward and a contingent from the Kronk Gym in Detroit, McCrory came down the aisle laughing and dancing. Curry, watching a TV monitor in his dressing room, was shocked.
"Where does he think he is?" Curry asked his manager, Dave Gorman. "He must think this is an easy fight. He's not even loosening up. He's cold. I'm going to jump right into his face."
A fire had been building inside Curry for several days. On Wednesday heated words had been exchanged between the two camps. There had been a suggestion that Curry lacked heart. "You bring your heart into the ring," Curry snarled at McCrory, who had been a friend since both were amateurs. "I'm going to take it from you, and then I'm going to knock you out." The fighters' dressing rooms were side by side. Before McCrory went out, additional taunts were shouted through the walls.
As he climbed into the ring, Curry's face was frozen. Only his narrowed, gun-fighter eyes betrayed the rage.
McCrory got in the first punch, a hard jab, the traditional opening gambit of Kronk fighters. "They all fight like Tommy Hearns," Curry scoffed. "All Kronk fighters hold their left hands too low."
Curry responded to McCrory's jab with three flashing rights. Hardly had the battle been joined when Curry became convinced he couldn't lose. "I knew I was stronger, but I didn't know I was that much stronger," Curry said. "I don't think he knew, either. After the first 20 seconds I could see the confusion in his eyes. I knew he was mine."