By: Jim Amato
Toughness…Every fighter has a degree of mental and physical toughness. Some more then others. Even the toughest of the lot won’t make it all the way in boxing without a certain degree of skills. The skills can be obtained by hours of hard work with a trainer. Skills can be taught. A trainer can not teach a fighter toughness. Either you have enough toughness or you don’t.
There was a little bulldog of a fighter from the state of Washington who throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s was a fixture in the world ratings at 135 and 140 pounds. He developed some pretty good skills along the way. Believe me he never,ever lacked toughness. His name was Greg Haugen and he was good enough to be crowned a world champion no less then three times.
Haugen turned pro in 1982 and by 1985 he was making his move in the ratings. That year he scored wins over Jeff Bumpus,Freddie Roach and Chris Calvin. It was the Calvin fight that I first remember seeing Greg fight. It was on ESPN and it seemed to me that Calvin was the favorite going in. Haugen fought a beautiful fight and stopped the game Calvin in six. In 1986 Greg halted former world title challenger Charlie “White Lightning” Brown in one round. Later he defeated rugged Edwin Curet to claim the NABF lightweight title.
The stage was now set for Haugen to meet clever Jimmy Paul for the IBF lightweight crown. Paul had beat previously undefeated Harry Arroyo of Youngstown,Ohio in 1985 to win the title. He had since made fthree defenses. He was out of the Kronk stable and he was an astute boxer who earned the nickname,”The Ringmaster”. Haugen never let Jimmy get started in the fight. His aggression and tenacity won over the crowd and two of the judges. Haugen walked off with a majority decision and the title.
In 1987 Haugen made his first defense against a red hot lightweight from Rhode Island named Vinny Pazienza. These two would develop quite a history together. In their first encounter Vinny would take the crown from Greg by a unanimous verdict. All three judges had it 144-141 for Pazienza. Haugen wanted his title back and in their 1988 rematch Greg did just that. He won a convincing decision over Vinny to regain the championship. Their paths would cross again.
Haugen made two successful defenses and then he met 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Pernell Whitaker. Try as he might Haugen was totally outboxed by the ultra slick southpaw Whitaker. After fifteen rounds Greg left the ring without his belt. Nevertheless Haugen’s career was far from over.In 1990 Haugen met Pazienza in their rubber match. This time Paz boxed and moved all night to win a ten round non title fight.
As 1991 rolled in Haugen signed to meet unbeaten Hector “Macho” Camacho. Hector was 38-0 and had won titles at 130 and 135 pounds. This bout would be for the fledging WBO’s junior welterweight title. In a controversial fight.Camacho was deducted a point at the beginning of the twelfth and final round for refusing to touch gloves. Haugen had dogged Hector all through the fight. The point deduction cost Camacho the fight on the judges cards. Without the deduction it would have been a draw. Instead Camacho took his first career loss. They would meet again three months later and this time Camacho won a close split decision.
In 1992 the popular Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini decided to return to the ring. Ray had first retired in 1985 after losing his WBA lightweight title and then failing to regain it against Livingstone Bramble. Four years later he came out of retirement to lose a very debatable decision to Camacho. Now three years later he was returning again. This time to fight Haugen. The pre fight billing for the bout was “Tough Guys Don’t Dance”. It looked to be a great match up on paper but the bout itself was a mismatch. Haugen almost had Ray out in the very first round. The game Mancini fought on but Haugen dominated him. Finally Greg ended matters in the seventh round and with the victory he captured the vacant NABF 140 pound title.
The win over Mancini proved to be a springboard to a tile bout for Greg against one of the best fighters of the era. The one and only Julio Cesar Chavez. The bout was for Julio’s WBC light welterweight title. It took place in Mexico City in front of over 132,000 fans. Chavez had a sterling 84-0 record going into the bout. To me the outstanding Chavez had two signature fights in his long career. His eleventh round beat down of the talented Edwin Rosario and his dominating victory over Haugen. It was not that Chavez beat Greg but how he defeated him. In this fight JC just took apart a world class fighter. Chavez may have been at his peak for this fight.
In 1994 Haugen was halted in ten rounds by former two division world champion Tony “The Tiger” Lopez. That turned out to be Greg’s swan song.Over the next five years Haugen would go 6-4-1 with one no contest. He finally hung up the gloves in 1999. His career ledger stands at 40-10-1. He scored 19 knockouts and was only halted three times.He met seven world champions. He was truly a “Champ” in his own right.