LAS VEGAS, JULY 19 -- A stunning knockout win over Donald Curry meant far more to Mike McCallum than simply retaining his World Boxing Association junior middleweight title.
"This is the day Mike McCallum gets his recognition," McCallum said Saturday night after scoring a one-punch, fifth-round knockout of Curry, the former undisputed welterweight champion.
The devastating left hook that suddenly ended the fight could well vault McCallum from relative obscurity into a shot at large-purse fights against the likes of Thomas Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
"Mike is on top of the world right now," said promoter Bob Arum, who suggested a possible middleweight fight between McCallum and the winner of the October title fight between Hearns and Argentina's Juan Roldan.
Despite being boxing's longest reigning current champion -- he has held the WBA version of the 154-pound title since October 1984 -- McCallum has received scant attention while fighting for small purses.
But after scoring his sixth consecutive knockout title defense and 29th knockout in winning all 32 of his professional fights, the recognition may come, along with the money.
"This fight meant so much to me," said the 30-year-old Jamaican native. "It is a day I'll never forget."
For Curry, though, the loss severely damaged a career that once seemed to have unlimited potential. "I've just got to go back and evaluate where to go from here," said Curry, who fell to 27-2 in suffering his second knockout loss in his last four fights.
Curry's co-manager, Dave Gorman, said he doesn't think his fighter will retire, but said he will have to work himself back into contention again. "He just got careless and McCallum threw the big left hand," said Gorman. "End of story."
The abrupt end to the scheduled 15-round fight came a little more than a minute into the fifth round when McCallum's left hook caught Curry off balance and defenseless. Curry hit the canvas flat on his back and managed only to get up on one elbow before referee Richard Steele waved the fight to a conclusion.
"I was pulling back and relaxed and I got caught," Curry said.
Up to the point, Curry was winning on the scorecards of all three ringside judges and had stunned McCallum on three occasions. He almost ended the fight in the second round when he hit McCallum flush on the chin with a right hand that buckled the champion's legs.
McCallum said after the fight that it was the closest he had ever come to being knocked down.