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Saoul Mamby


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Saoul Mamby's case is a curious one-he has 34 losses on his record, yet only one by stoppage, he has been a world champion for 2 years and has defeated fighters like Esteban DeJesus, Sang Hyun Kim, Gary Hinton, Angel Robinson Garcia and Monroe Brooks. After losing his world title, he experienced a slow but steady decline and lost all of his other important bouts. Fighting until the too-advanced age of 53, Mamby in the end became a journeyman, after being a world class fighter for the first circa 15 years of his career. And that is one of the most drastic falls known in a boxer's career. 

Saoul Paul Mamby was born 4 June 1947 in Bronx, NY, to a father of Jamaican and a mother of Spanish descent. His father had converted to Judaism at the age of 4, so Mamby was born as a Jew and went to Hebrew School at Bronx's Mount Horeb Synagogue. He became interested in boxing while on a vacation in Jamaica with his parents. He took up boxing at the age of 16, in 1963. He took part at the 1965 and 1966 Golden Gloves tournaments but each time never got past the semi-final. He left the amateurs with a record of 25-5. He was drafted into the army and served in Vietnam in 1968. Upon returning, he began boxing as a pro in 1969. He stood 5'8 with a reach of 70 inches and fought from the orthodox stance. After going unbeaten in his first 10 fights (with 2 draws), he lost for the first time to Jose Peterson on points in March 1971. Mamby fought most of his pro career as a light welterweight. 

On 17 July 1973, he scored his first big victory when he outpointed Angel Robinson Garcia over 10 rounds in Miami Beach, winning by unanimous decision. After suffering several losses on points, he stopped the former world title challenger Percy Hayles of Jamaica by TKO8 in Kingston, Jamaica. On 4 May 1976, he fought Roberto Duran in a non-title fight. Duran was still the world lightweight champion back then, but chose to take a fight above 135 and he had to go the whole 10 rounds in Miami Beach. Despite his 18-9-5 record, Mamby proved he was a much better fighter and a tougher opponent than expected and Duran was unable to land his trademark quick left jab on him a lot. He also fought Antonio Cervantes on 13 November that year in Maracay, Venezuela, and dropped another 10-round decision to the Colombian legend and two-time world champion. After beating Mike Everett of Philadelphia by UD10, Mamby suddenly got a chance to win the WBC title against Saengsak Muansurin of Thailand, who was making his fifth defence in his second title reign. The fight happened 23 October 1977 at Open-Air stadium in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. You can read more about it in my thread about Muangsurin. The result was a split decision loss for Mamby and back he was to the drawing board.

He then hit a 6-fight winning streak before getting the chance against the new WBC champion, Sang Hyun Kim of South Korea, who had stopped Muangsurin late to win the title. Nobody expected him to win this time either, but the underdog from the Bronx produced the upset on 23 February 1980 at the Jangchung Gymnasium in Seoul, when he stopped the champion by TKO14. Saoul had become the world champion in Seoul. He made his first defence against former WBA lightweight champion and the first guy who had taken Duran's zero-Esteban DeJesus. DeJesus was 57-4 and from Puerto Rico, an excellent fighter who was probably past his prime. The fight was fought in Bloomington, Minnesota, 7 July, and Mamby produced his finest performance when he outjabbed and outworked DeJesus before stopping him by TKO13. It would be DeJesus's last fight as he retired after that. For his second defence, he defeated the little-known Texan Maurice Watkins by a wide UD, 2 October. He was then supposed to fight the WBA champion Aaron Pryor in a title unification bout in February '81, but the fight was cancelled when the promoter Harold Smith disappeared amid allegations of a 21 million dollar fraud. He instead faced Jo Kimpuani, a Congolese fighter based in France, for his third defence. Kimpuani had also fought Muangsurin and lasted 14 rounds. The fight happened on 12 June '81 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and once again, Mamby won by a wide unanimous decision.

He then went to Jakarta, Indonesian capital, for his fourth defence against Thomas Americo of Timor-Leste (Indonesia), who only had 2 fights as a pro! It was the first world title fight held in Indonesia, 29 August, and Mamby this time had to settle for a majority decision, even though that one judge who had it even was not completely unbiased. For his fifth and final successful defence, Mamby went to Lagos in Nigeria, to fight Obisia Nwankpa, who was 20-1, 19 December that 1981. This time the fight was much closer than his other defences and he won by a close split decision. Perhaps a sign that he had had too many fights in a too short space of time or that he was starting to slip. He finally lost his title to the shorter (5'4) Leroy Haley, who beat him on 26 June '82 at Highland Heights, Kentucky, by split decision. On 20 October that year, Mamby beat Monroe Brooks (another former Muangsurin-challenger) by UD10 before fighting Haley again for the title 12 February '83 in Cleveland. It was a very close fight but all three judges scored it for the defending champion, all by very close scores.

After losing a decision to Ronnie Shields in a fight for the NABF title, he challenged the new champion Billy Costello, trying to regain his old title. Mamby looked like he had aged suddenly as he appeared slow on that night of 3 November 1984 and Costello easily beat him but never had him in trouble. Mamby lost by 118-110 and 119-109 twice. In 1985 he only had one easier fight before coming back in 1986 and fighting Buddy McGirt and dropping a clear 10-round UD to him. His last achievement was stopping the former IBF champion Gary Hinton by TKO9  on 24 August 1989, after which Hinton retired. In 1990 he also won the minor USA New York State welter title on points by upsetting the 17-0 Larry Barnes by SD10. He then lost 8 fights in a row and in the last one got stopped for the first and only time by Derrell Coley, a 5'11 and quality welter, by TKO1. That was in August 1993, same year when he was supposed to fight Micky Ward but failed his medical test. He then scored 3 more wins, his last, before losing two more fights on points, last one on 19 May 2000.

He was now 53 when he was forcibly retired after the California state athletic commission banned him from fighting in the States. He still managed to come back to the ring one more time in March 2008, fighting in George Town, Cayman Islands, against the 6-27-1 Anthony Osbourne. He actually put on a good performance, considering his age of almost 61, but was unable to land enough punches to get the decision and thus lost on points after going 10 rounds. He had previously attempted to get a fight on an American Indian reservation, but was denied. That remained his last fight, fortunately. His record is 45 wins with 18 ko's, 34 losses and 6 draws. He died on 17 December 2019, aged 72. Along with Zab Judah and Ronnie "Mazel" Harris, he was one of only three Black Jewish boxers who were world boxing champions. He was a good technical fighter who progressed and developed slowly but once he blossomed, he really showed himself as a top fighter. He was also the oldest person to fight in a professional fight in his comeback in 2008. For all these reasons, you can truly say his career and he himself were an anomaly. 

John Lewis Show - Saoul Mamby, Boxing Champ - YouTube


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On 4/27/2023 at 2:27 PM, robprosser said:

Nice article. One of his big late career wins was a split decision of Glenwood Brown in the late 80s. Brown was a huge prospect at the time. To be fair Mamby was really just an over achieving journeyman but with the skills to hang in with anyone.

That is right! I forgot to include Glenwood Brown win.

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