For a time back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the British super featherweight title appeared to be cursed. Champion after champion lost the title in their first defence. Boxers that on paper had no chance of winning scored amazing upsets. I remember watching these bouts on ITV and each time I was convinced that the champion was going to make a successful defence of their title.
Obviously some of these fights happened 20+ years ago but from memory and a little research here’s what I remember.
The title had been dormant for a number of years but was brought back and the vacant title was contested between two Doherty’s On 16th January 1986
John Doherty (20-3-3) beat Pat Doherty (14-6-2) on points 118 – 117 this was on the old half point system.
His first defence came against veteran Pat Cowdell who earlier in his career had lost a split decision to the legendary Salvador Sanchez for the WBC featherweight title. After the Sanchez bout Cowdell went on to win both the European featherweight and super featherweight titles during which time he put together a 11 fight winning streak which included a win over future world champ Kelvin Seabrook’s. Cowdell then challenged Azumah Nelson on 12th October 1985 for the WBC featherweight title. A weight weakened Cowdell lost via a brutal first round KO and believe me it was nasty. This looked to be the end of Cowdell as a championship boxer, but after a comeback win he got a shot at Doherty on 17th April 1986 a fight which Cowdell won by 6th round KO.
First defence for Pat came against journeyman boxer Najib Daho on 24th may 1986 who had a 29-18-1 record coming into the bout. This fight was one-way traffic as Daho battered Cowdell from pillar to post knocking him down I think 4 times and stopping him in the first round.
Daho boxed for IBF title in next fight losing over 12 rounds (though boxrec list it as 15 rounds) he lost his next fight on a injury before scoring two more TKO wins before a rematch with Cowdell, which took place on 26th October 1987 and yes you guessed it Cowdell won back the title with a commanding performance via a 9th round TKO.
Cowdell then defended his newly won title against unbeaten Floyd Harvard 18-0 and yes as before the defending champ lost Havard winning by 8th round TKO in a bout that would be the last of Cowdells career.
Next up for Havard was an easy first defence on 6th September 1989 against former champ John Doherty who had suffered a fourth round KO in his previous bout. Havard had won two bouts since winning the title and now boasted a perfect 21-0 record. Doherty looked to be an easy first defence for him. But once again the champ lost as Havard suffered an 11th round TKO.
First defence for Doherty came against Manchester’s Joey Jacobs who boasted a 9 –3 record and had lost 2 of his previous 3 bouts. This bout took place on 6th February 1990 and once again the champion lost in his first defence Jacobs taking a 118 – 117 points decision (on the old half point system)
Jacobs made his first defence against unbeaten Hugh Forde on 18th September 1990 and once again the defending champ suffered a loss. Jacobs losing by 11th round TKO.
Forde looked like being the champ who could finally break the curse of the title and his first defence against Kevin Pritchard on 24th October 1990 looked an easy fight as Pritchard boasted an uninspiring 22-19-3 record, but just like before the challenger won. Pritchard knocking Forde out in the 4th round.
Pritchard made his first defence on 5th march 1991 against Wales Robert Dickie who boasted a 21-2-2 and once again the title changed hand Dickie winning via 8th round TKO.
Amazingly this would prove to be the last win of Dickie's career as you guessed it he lost to Liverpool’s Sugar Gibiliru 12-27-7 by 9th round TKO in his first defence on 30th April 1991. (Gibiliru is now unfortunately dead though this is not listed on boxrec I met him a few times and he was a great bloke)
Gibiliru kept up the amazing record of this title by losing in his first defence to John Doherty on 19th September 1991 by a 12 round points decision, this win meant that Doherty was now an outright holder of a Lonsdale belt. (At this time any boxer winning three British title bouts in the same weight division got to keep the Lonsdale belt, you now have to win four bouts and I'm not being biased but the Lonsdale belt is simply the most beautiful boxing belt in the world)
So here was Doherty nearly six years after first becoming champion ready once again for his first defence. This was against Manchester’s Michael Armstrong and took place on 25th march 1992 a fight in which Armstrong won by 7th round TKO.
I know what your thinking the jinx has got to end sometime after all over a period of six years and 13 title fights every defending champ had lost the title in the first defence. But it was not to be Armstrong lost in his first defence on 13th October 1992 via a 6th round TKO to Neil Haddock who boasted a 10-9-1 record coming into the bout.
And amazingly on 25th July 1993 some 7 and a half years after the first championship bout Haddock made a successful defence of his title winning by 7th round TKO against Steve Walker who boasted an amazing 11-4-8 record (yes your reading this correctly 8 DRAWS) so the jinx was finally over.