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Mark Breland

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A part of the elite generation of welterweights of the 80's, Mark Breland was famous for his extraordinary height of 6'2 and because of that, he had a thin body and legs. He was still blessed with punching power and above all boxing skills that were honed from his extensive amateur pedigree. Despite not having the pro career like many expected, he still was the world champion twice and defeated guys like Lloyd Honeyghan, Rafael Pineda, Steve Little and Harold Volbrecht. Being as tall as he was made him a rather easy target (because he wasn't quick enough) for guys like Marlon Starling and Aaron Davis-normal sized welterweights who were elite level, especially Starling. His career didn't initially last very long either, although he would make a short comeback between 1996 and 1997. This is the story of Mark Breland.


Mark Anthony Breland was born in Brooklyn, New York, May 11 1963. He also grew up there. He started fighting on the street at the age of 9 and first entered a boxing gym at 13. He eventually won 5 Golden Glove tournaments, breaking Sugar Ray Robinson's record. In 1982 he also won the World amateur championships and also he won the gold at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. His sole loss came in 1981, at the USA national amateur championships quarter finals, on points to Darryl Anthony. He would later avenge this loss in the pros. He finished his amateur career with a record of 110-1, also being rated as the no.1 amateur welterweight in the world by the International Boxing Association in 1984 and named the amateur fighter of the year in 1982. While still amateur, Breland appeared in a major role in the 1983 movie "The Lords of Discipline", playing a military college student subjected to racism. His first pro fight happened on November 15 '84 at Madison Square Garden and he won by UD6 against Dwight Williams. In his third fight, he beat Steve Little with the same result-Little would much later become a world super middle champion by defeating Michael Nunn in a big upset. He went 16-0 with 12 ko's before he was matched against South African Harold Volbrecht for the vacant WBA title. WBA had taken a lot of criticism for allowing a white South African compete for the world title during Apartheid. The fight was staged at Trump Plaza Hotel in Atlantic City, February 6 1987 and Breland dominated Volbrecht before stopping him by TKO 7 to lift his first world belt. He had one fight at 154 before making his first defense against the defensive wizard and a strong little man, Marlon Starling, August 22 in Columbia, Ohio. Starling stood only 5'8 but was very strong physically as mentioned and a great technical and defensive fighter. Breland on the other hand looked very skinny and weak by comparison. He however did managed to bloody Starling's nose in the 6th and was ahead on the scorecards going into round 11, but had suffered eight knockdowns from clinches, before finally succumbing to a Starling combination of three rights and a big left and getting counted out. His reign had ended after only 6 months. Afterwards, Breland said that Starling's body punches had re-injured his rib cartilage, an injury he first got in training. He simply looked weak and tired and was in no shape to defend a world title against a guy like Starling, despite doing well in the first half of the fight. Starling on his side suffered a broken nose.


He came back with a points victory in December and then got a rematch with Starling on April 16 next year, at Hilton Hotel in Vegas. It would be a much better and competitive fight this time around, with Starling opening aggressively and scoring with several good punches early on, before Breland bounced back and started landing his punches. Starling was aggressor more however and seemed to have more success with his attacks, but in the later rounds he seemed to take time off and that enabled Breland to come back. In the end, one judge had Starling ahead by 116-113, the other had Breland ahead by 115-114 and the third had it 114-114, which meant Starling had retained his title with a draw. The crowd booed the decision and thought Starling had deserved it-a sentiment shared by the champion himself, of course. Breland on his part said:"Do I think I won? I'm not a judge. I thought I came on in the late rounds." Whatever the truth-Breland had to go home without the belt. After winning his next two fights by KO 1, he was then given a chance to recapture the WBA belt, after Starling had lost it to Tomas Molinares and Molinares then vacated it following some controversy over his ko victory. It was February 4 '89 at Caesars Palace when Breland finally became a world champ again, easily stopping the overmatched Seung Soon Lee in only 54 seconds! His first defense was controversial however, as he took on the young and talented Colombian Rafael Pineda, April 22 at Trump Castle in AC. Breland was well ahead on the scorecards and controlling the pace going into round 5, when Pinead started complaiming he was thumbed to the ref, but he wouldn't listen. This made Pineda quit in the middle of the 5th.


For his second defense, Breland went to Switzerland and easily beat their favorite Mauro Martelli by a TKO2. He again travelled far away, this time to Japan, where he took on Fujio Ozaki and stopped him on cuts in 4 rounds. Indeed, none of his first four defenses would last longer than 5 rounds, and in his last successful defense, he went to Wembley to fight Lloyd Honeyghan, on March 3 '90. Honeyghan had lost his WBC title a year before to Marlon Starling himself, so one thing they had in common. He was obviously not the same man anymore and was easily blown out in 3 rounds, being knocked down six times before the towel came. Breland finally made another defense in the States, against the red hot contender Aaron Davis, 29-0. It was on July 8 in Reno and the two engaged in a true barnburner of a fight. Breland was down in the 3rd, but came back to seriously swell Davis' right eye and cut him over the same eye as well. Going into round 9, two judges had the challenger ahead and one the champion. It was then that Davis produced a "Hail Mary" ko when he caught Breland flush on the chin with a big right. That was it and Breland had lost his title for the second and last time, this time holding it for 17 months and making 4 successful defenses.


He came back next year, fighting as a super welter, and won 3 fights, before fighting Jorge Vaca, who was briefly a world champion after taking Honeyghan's title in controversial manner. Vaca was a deceptively strong and tough fighter and had also defeated Quincy Taylor twice. It was on September 13 in Sacramento when Breland (who was trained by Emanuel Steward now) had a good opening and cut Vaca over the right eye in round 1 and also bloodied his nose in round 3. However, he suffered a cut inside his mouth and in round 6 he was suddenly hurt by a big left hook which sent him into the ropes. Unable to recover in time or clinch and hold, he was hit with over 20 punches and stopped by TKO. Breland retired after this devastating defeat to the Mexican underdog. He came back in 1996 and had 5 fights, one of them at 160, winning them all before finally retiring in 1997. His record is 35 wins with 25 knockouts, 3 losses and 1 draw. In retirement, he became a trainer and has until rather recently trained Deontay Wilder and before him also Vernon Forrest for a period.


Mark Breland was a very talented and capable fighter, but was simply too tall for the division, which created problems with making the weight and retaining his stamina during longer fights. To that points the fact that 2 of his 3 losses came after 8 rounds. Starling and Davis were simply wrong opponents for him, because both were also physically stronger and could catch him coming in. The Vaca loss was simply a matter of him being over the hill, past his best. Thank you.



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