Boxing will make its return to the Principality later this month when Hugo Micallef competes on home soil for the first time. The bout will mark the latest chapter in Monaco’s long and illustrious boxing history.
Like Monaco, boxing is associated with glamour and wealth. However, the Principality is more well-known for the Monaco Grand Prix, the Monte-Carlo Masters or its football club, AS Monaco, than it is for hosting a thriving boxing scene.
A European Middleweight title contested in La Condamine
That isn’t to say that one doesn’t exist. Monaco’s history with boxing dates back to the 19th century when Prince Albert 1 oversaw the rise of the sport and the installation of structures and facilities to allow for boxing to grow in popularity.
Then, in 1912, a year in which the European middleweight title was contested within the borders of the Principality, the sport really exploded onto the Monegasque scene.
Georges Carpentier and England’s Jim Sullivan came to town to fight it out for the title, the former beating the latter in a bout organised by the International Sporting Club, an internal structure of the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), and contested on the Radziwill field in La Condamine. The venue had just celebrated its 18th birthday at the time.
A regular visitor
Whilst an iconic venue given its place in Monaco’s boxing history, it would not be one more commonly associated with boxing. That title perhaps goes to the Stade Louis II, which saw frequent fights in the 1970s, as well as a certain frequent visitor.
In the space of just over six years, Argentine boxer Carlos Mónzon came and conquered in the Principality. The undisputed middleweight world champion took part in four fights in the Stade Louis II between 1971 and 1976.
He won the first, against Nino Benvenuti by technical knockout in 1971, before proceeding to beat Emile Griffith and Rodrigo Valdez by unanimous decision. After a second fight against Valdez in Monaco in 1977, just one year after his last victory against the Colombian, Monzón called a time on his career, ending on a high after another unanimous decision.
An iconic knockout at the Stade Louis II
Fighters such as Gerrie Coetzee, Leon Spinks, Donald Curry, Richie Sandoval, Davey Moore, Bob Arum, Milton McCrory, Sumbu Kalambay and Doug DeWitt have all fought in Fontvieille over the years, but arguably the most iconic fight to have taken place within the borders of the Principality pitted Lee Roy Murphy against Chisanda Mutti.
In an IBF cruiserweight bout, the pair landed simultaneous right-handers with both boxers hitting the canvas in the 12th round. Both boxers had already suffered heavy knockdowns, but on this occasion, Murphy managed to lift himself. The same could not be said for Mutti, who was counted out and subsequently lost the fight.
A boxer in his prime
Julio Caesar Chavez, who is regarded by many as one of the greatest in the history of the sport, competed in Monaco in his prime. The Mexican boxer, who held the WBC super featherweight title from 1984 to 1987, beat Rocky Lockridge in Fontvieille in 1986 to retain his title by majority decision.
Monaco has become no stranger to hosting big fights, with the WBC middleweight title contested by Mike McCallum and Sumbu Kalambay in 1991. The former came out on top in that bout.
In recent years, the iconic Casino de Monte-Carlo has hosted fights as boxing experiences a resurgence in the Principality. Eddie Hearn and Matchroom organised an eight-fighter-strong Sky Sports event billed as the “Monte-Carlo Showdown” in the location back in 2016, whilst the Monte-Carlo Bonanza has also taken place in the same event. The last edition occured in 2019.
Micallef writing a new chapter
Boxing is now set to return to the Principality once more thanks to the young Hugo Micallef. The Monegasque boxer, known as the “Fresh Prince of Monaco”, is unbeaten in his short professional career, and he will be looking to extend his run in another new venue, the Châpiteau de Fontvieille. There he will face Czech boxer Michal Bulik on 23rd September.
Micallef is helping to reignite mainstream interest in the sport thanks to his exploits, and his return to the Principality will be a blockbuster event. Many world-renowned stars have boxed in Monaco over the years, but the latest chapter of the sport’s history in the Principality is a local story and one that is already capturing the imagination of the Monegasques.
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Photo source: Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer