Mike McCallum, a fine tactician in the boxing ring
The sport of boxing has been kind to Jamaicans over the years, and one of the leading boxers to come out of this blessed island is Mike McCallum.
The man born in humble circumstances in Kingston on December 7, 1956, held world championship belts in three weight classes – the WBA super welterweight title from 1984 to 1988, the WBA middleweight title from 1989 to 1991 and the WBC light heavyweight title from 1994 to 1995. He competed professionally from 1981 to 1997.
Nicknamed “The bodysnatcher” for his penchant for delivering lethal blows to his opponents’ bodies, McCallum ended his career with a record 55 fights, 49 wins, 36 by knockout, five losses and one draw.
He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003. Eight years later, Ring magazine ranked him eighth on its list of the top ten middleweight titleholders of the past 50 years.
As an amateur, he won gold as a welterweight at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada in 1978. A year later he won a silver medal at the Pan American Games in San Juan, Porto Rico.
And at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1974 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he won a silver medal before winning gold in 1978 at the same games in Medellin, Colombia.
Three years into his professional career, McCallum became world champion by beating Sean Mannion to claim the vacant WBA super-welterweight crown, a title he defended six times by knockout.
In his third title defense, McCallum came up against a future star in Julian Jackson, which started out like a house on fire, only for the Jamaican to stop the undefeated Jackson in the second round.
But it took McCallum knocking out former WBC welterweight titleholder Milton McCrory and former undisputed 1987 world welterweight champion Donald Curry to be recognized as the real deal in the ring.
The following year, he moved up to the middleweight division when he suffered his first loss in a unanimous decision in an unsuccessful bid to win the WBA middleweight championship from Sambu Kalabay.
A year later, he defeated Herol Graham by a split decision to claim the vacant WBA middleweight title, stripped of Kalambay for signing to face IBF champion Michael Nunn.
McCallum defended the title three times, the victims being Steve Collins, Michael Watson and Kalambay in a rematch.
McCallum advanced two weight divisions and won the WBC light heavyweight title from Randall Yonker before winning the full WBC title by beating Jeff Harding in 1994. He did not hold the title long as Fabrice Tiozzo beat him .