Wild Kingdom: 1984

By Ted Sares on July 23, 2012
Wild Kingdom: 1984
John "The Beast" Mugabi was arguably one of the best one-punch KO artists of all time.

Though stoic before and during his fights, John Mugabi would celebrate wildly in the ring after his wins. It was great theater…

“I knock him out.”—John Mugabi

“It’s great to see that Tampa is still having boxing. I, John, am still sorry for letting my fans down that night. But all champions one day will get beaten. But one day I would love to come and watch some fights in the ring at Tampa. I might bring one of the fighters I train in Australia now.”—Mugabi

During the 1980s, Ugandan John “The Beast” Mugabi thrilled fans with his string of brutal stoppages many of which left his opponent unconscious. Arguably, he was one of the best one-punch KO artists of all time. In fact, going into his title fight with world middleweight champion Marvin Hagler on March 3, 1986, his record was 25-0 with all wins coming by way of knockout. Mugabi simply ran roughshod over the division. He himself was KO’d by Marvin Hagler (61-2-2) in a grueling affair. He was then stopped by Duane Thomas (28-1) and suffered a broken eye socket as a result of being thumbed.

After recovering, The Beast quickly ran up 11 straight stoppage victories until being slaughtered by Terry Norris in 1990. After stopping two opponents, The Beast was again taken out by another great power hitter, Gerald McClellan, in 1991 in another one-round slaughter after which he took a five-year layoff.  Finally, on December 16, 1996, John beat Peter Kinsella in a fight that went 10 rounds to a decision. Incredibly, up to that point, Mugabe had gone 38-4 with each fight ending before the final bell. With The Beast, it was all about excitement.

It was during his second streak between 1988 and 1990 that Mugabe was able to capture the World Boxing Council (WBC) light middleweight title with a one-round blow out of Rene Jacquot in France in 1989. By then, he clearly had become a chill-or-be-chilled type and one never knew what t expect.

The Era

However, during his first streak between 1980 and 1985, Mugabi became a staple on American television. This was an era that many fans consider one of the most exciting times ever in the junior middleweight and middleweight divisions—an era in which names like Hagler, Leonard, Hearns, Duran and Benitez resonated.  Tony and David Braxton, Mustafa Hamsho, Alex Ramos, Dwight Davison, Lindell Holmes, John Collins, Wilford Scypion, Ernie Singletary, Clint Jackson, Doug DeWitt, Donald Curry, Robbie Sims, Vinnie Curto, Mickey Goodwin, and Mark Medal also made their mark. This was an era when you could throw a dart blindfolded and come up with a great televised bout.

John fit right in and many of his fights were televised out of Tampa, Florida, his home base by way of London and Kampala (though he clearly was a global road warrior). His walk-ins were accompanied by the memorable chants of “Beast Beast, Beast, Beast.” Knocking out the likes of Curtis Ramsey, Doug Demmings, Roosevelt Green, Eddie Gazo, Curtis Parker, James Green, Nino Gonzalez, and Earl Hargrove (in 93 seconds) enhanced his fearsome reputation.

On August 5, 1984, The Beast and Philadelphian Frank “The Animal” Fletcher met in Tampa in an affair appropriately billed as “Wild Kingdom.” Both fighters were among television’s most charismatic performers and both were known for their Saturday afternoon bloodbaths that fight fans enjoyed on NBC TV. If the Beast had his cult-like following, The Animal, known for his life-and- death fights, had his as well. Hell, who could forget his flamboyant mother Lucille waving flags from the stage while the Sands Hotel casino in Atlantic City played its “Animal, Animal” music?

This one had the fans all pumped up because they knew it could not possibly go the distance. For his part, The Animal, a nonstop punching brawler, had some noteworthy notches on his belt including wins over Ernie Singletary, Clint Jackson, Norberto Sabater, James “Hard Rock” Green, William “Caveman” Lee, and Curtis Ramsey. However, Frank had been brutally dismantled and softened up by Juan Domingo Roldan prior to his matchup with Mugabe.

The Fight

Displaying a documented distaste for defense, both men exchanged heavy shots during the first three stanzas with Mugabi landing the more frequent and malefic ones, but The Animal got in his licks in as well. In the middle of an all-action Round 2, The Beast began a serious assault but Frank answered with some decent left hooks. Fletcher’s left eye then ballooned grotesquely in Round 3 and seemed on the verge of exploding as Mugabi smelled blood and was ready to feast on the Animal; he went in for the kill just as the bell ended. This was better than the Discovery Channel.

Finally, in the middle of Round 4, John caught The Animal with his patented straight right and then finished the job with a left and two quick rights the latter of which sent Fletcher through the ropes. A young and thin (but still bald) Joe Cortez immediately stopped the mugging. As the crowd chanted the familiar “Beast, Beast, Beast,” a celebrating Mugabi did jumping jacks in response. Though stoic before and during his fights, John would celebrate wildly in the ring after his wins. It was great theater.

John Mugabi finished his career in Australia with an admirable record of 42-7-1(39 KOs) and a KO percentage of 78. The affable and popular Mugabi now lives in Australia where he trains fighters.

Thanks for the memories.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Tex Hassler 08:00am, 07/31/2012

    The Beast was not short on courge or pure punching power. His fight with Marvin Hagler was a classic.

  2. the thresher 12:01pm, 07/27/2012

    Former Heavyweight Champion, Micheal “Dynamite” Dokes has been put on hospise and is in the final stages of his battle with liver cancer. Please pray for him to be comfortable and pain free and also for strength for his family.

  3. the thresher 04:47pm, 07/26/2012

    Kayode, what’s your plan tonight?

    “I fuck he up.”

  4. FrankinDallas 08:03pm, 07/25/2012

    Frank (The Animal), what is your fight plan tonite?
    “I’m a go in the ring, I’m a knock him out.

  5. raxman 05:59pm, 07/24/2012

    night ted - green back at light heavy where he belongs.

  6. the thresher 05:57pm, 07/24/2012

    Today’s business model sucks and is not fan-friendly. BTW, Here is wishing my matey, Danny Green, best of luck in his upcoming fight. Danny is agreat bloke.

    Later, matey. I’m off to zzzzz and thanks for the exchange.

  7. raxman 05:48pm, 07/24/2012

    ted - but its no surprise that those chill or be chilled types no longer exist is it, really? you lose a fight and thats it. the modern promoter would protect a banger with a less than stellar chin by not putting him in with other bangers
    you can bet golden boy wont be remembering june/july 2012 as good month and will be regretting their matchmaking for a long time. its no accident canelo went from looking for a step up in 154 class to fighting a pumped up junior welter

  8. the thresher 05:37pm, 07/24/2012

    Julian Letterlough was a one punch kind of guy in his day. A chill-or-be-chilled type.

  9. the thresher 05:35pm, 07/24/2012

    EDWIN VALERO was a true bomber and would have been of the the greatest had he not imploded. Vic was a bomber at the lower weights and Donaire was as well.

    Alejandro Barrio was another but he is pretty much done now.

  10. raxman 05:32pm, 07/24/2012

    ted - Darchinyan? at fly anyway. and what’s his name - god you think your memory is letting you down. killed his wife and then himself. complete mental blank on his name despite being able to see his rotten mullett hairstyle and southpaw bombs. EDWIN VALERO!!! damn! first 18 fights all first round ko’s his 19th lasted to the second. if he’d lived i think he may have been the greatest puncher of all time. even the toughest mexicans didnt want to spar him -they say every punch he ever landed hurt like hell. the only thing that would’ve stopped him would have been finding opponents game enough to fight him

  11. The Thresher 05:21pm, 07/24/2012

    Rax, I see DA beating Randall by UD, but Bailey will be dangerous until the last second of the last round. It should be interesting. DA looked great against Maidana and one more big win will put him right back at the top.

    Bailey is such a nice and humble guy, he is hard not to root for.

    Aside from Hearns, Julian Jackson, and a very few others, the one-punch crunchers are hard to find at the lower weights. Sadler was one.

  12. raxman 05:13pm, 07/24/2012

    Ted - i forgot about Bailey. and i don’t know how given what he did to mike jones - who i actually had pegged as a future star.
    i guess that fight got lost in the fall out of pac v bradley
    there hasn’t been much talk of his up coming with devon alexander either
    the more i think of it the more i think thats a good call re the beast and the knock out king - although bailey isn’t as ferocious as mugabi their money punch - the right hand that is like a blend of overhand right and straight right- is almost identical
    how do you see him going against alexander? its actually a great test for alexander - bailey is the ultimate gate keeper (last year i wrote that piece on gatekeepers for eastside and i dont think anyone raised bailey).
    if DA can beat RB it will certainly restore his standing in the sport back to pre bradely - if not then we know he’s not the real deal let alone the Great

  13. the thresher 04:53pm, 07/24/2012

    Rax, good question. I’d go with Randall Bailey

  14. raxman 04:31pm, 07/24/2012

    I liked the beast but against A+ fighters he came undone - although loses to hagler, mclellan and norris are nothing to be ashamed of.
    i wonder, who is the modern day equivalent of this guy? is there one? i imagine if he was getting around today his promoter would protect him from guys like those above and only put him in with light punchers, and he’d end up being as big as canelo or bute (was).

  15. the thresher 11:36am, 07/24/2012

    Pug, my memory is my trump card. I depend on it but lately it has been letting me down just a tad.

    Take me drunk, I’m home.

    I’ll be 75 next week and I don’t know where that puts me insofar as old-time writers are concerend but I probably am one of the older ones. Probably, maybe…duh

  16. the thresher 11:33am, 07/24/2012

    Caveman Lee got himself off to Jack State (aka Jackson State Prison) in Michigan. a BAAAAAAD place to be.

    His fight with LoCicero still is an all-timer.

  17. pugknows 09:28am, 07/24/2012

    I’m surprised you didn’t put this under your Memory Bank series. You sure do have a memory—I’ll say that. One of the best in Boxing I’d wager.

  18. Don from Prov 08:45am, 07/24/2012

    Night of the wild things: It was all Mugabi that night.

    Do you recall, Ted—and I’m betting that you do—where Caveman Lee got himself off to?  Speaking of wild kingdoms and wild nights, I also bet you’ve written about Lee/LoCicero.  Good lord, warfare breaks out!!!!!!!

  19. dollarbond 05:04am, 07/24/2012

    Very enjoyable read.  I could almost feel the action.

  20. Joe 03:36am, 07/24/2012

    The Beast gave us some memorable performances that’s for sure.  Very very good fighter - those were the days.

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