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Happy 56th birthday Greg Haugen –  Today, August 31st, marks Greg Haugen’s 56th birthday.  Haugen is known for loving a good fight and that’s just what he brought to the table every time out.  He tends to get overlooked in fantasy matchups and his name seems to fly under the radar but make no mistake he was a top level guy.  His endurance and conditioning alone made him a tough matchup for anyone out there and his career was fun to follow.

Haugen’s professional career moved right along from the start.  After winning “tough man” competitions in Alaska, he turned pro and won a world title in only his 19th professional fight, outpointing Jimmy Paul in December of 1986 to win the IBF lightweight title.

The title reign did not last long. He lost it in his very next fight to Vinny Pazienza in what would be the first installment of a trilogy that consumed 40 rounds. After losing his title to the “Pazmanian Devil” in June of 1987 he would win it right back in their second encounter in February of 1988.

Haugen defended the title twice before losing it to Pernell Whitaker who was far too slick and had too much movement and speed for him.  It was after this loss, and then losing the rubber match to Pazienza, that many boxing fans thought Haugen was past his best years.

Heading into the Hector Camacho bout Haugen was a serious underdog.  He was 30 years old and had not beat a top ranked fighter in several years.  He had outgrown the lightweight division and was moving up in weight to 140 pounds. Camacho, undefeated in 38 fights,  figured to be too quick and slick (like Whitaker) for the older, heavier Haugen.

Fighting methodically, Haugen pressured and outworked Camacho to win a 12-round split decision and become a champion in two weight classes.  The deciding factor, by a single point, was a highly debatable point deduction by referee Carlos Padilla for Camacho taking a cheap shot at Haugen after he refused to touch gloves at the start of the final round.  This would lead to a rematch less than three months later and again Haugen’s title reign was very short as he lost a split decision in a fight that was very similar to the first.

Haugen’s last big win was a stoppage victory over the well past-it version of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who was on the comeback trail again.  After that it was on the to the infamous Chavez fight.

The Chavez fight was Haugen’s last trip to the big stage.  And the big stage is exactly what it was as over 130k fans showed up to the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.  All the hoopla was over a comment made by Haugen at a pre-fight press confab where he said that Chavez’s wins “came against Tijuana taxi drivers that my mom could whip.”  This comment infuriated Mexicans and they came in droves to see their legend right the injustice.

Haugen seemed to further infuriate them as the boos reigned down when he entered the ring to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”  Chavez made Haugen eat his words as he beat him to a pulp for five rounds until the bout was mercilessly stopped.  It was the first time Haugen was stopped and embarrassed so badly.  Haugen subsequently claimed that he trained on cocaine and alcohol for the bout while going through a tough divorce.  Judging by his performance and history with substance abuse this writer tends to believe him, but that is not to suggest that he could have beaten Chavez if he had been at his best.  Haugen took his loss in stride, saying afterwards that “the taxi drivers in Tijuana must be pretty tough.”

Cheers to Greg Haugen on his 56th birthday.  He was a man that loved a good fight and was one tough SOB.

Happy 56th birthday Greg Haugen

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