Monte Carlo is known for gambling and on Saturday night, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom are taking a bold punt with their first fight night there.
Elite fighters from all over the globe will descend on the principality for a stellar show, live on Sportsclubsociety, that features Jamie McDonnell defending his world title, Stephen Smith’s second shot at world glory, Martin Murray’s return to familiar territory and the next big thing at heavyweight, Luis Ortiz, topping the bill.
It’ll no doubt be a memorable night but it’s certainly not the first time that boxing’s marquee names have flown in to the French Riviera for a major event.
When most people think of the area in a sporting context, the first thing that comes to mind is the F1 Grand Prix. There’s also the tennis with the annual Monte Carlo Masters or even the AS Monaco football club, where Sportsclubsociety’ Thierry Henry began his career.
Boxing might be overlooked when it comes to Monte Carlo, but a look through the archives reminds us of the microstate’s rich history in the noble art.
Over a century ago in 1912, at the Stand de la Condamine, a month after his 18th birthday, ‘The Orchid Man’ Georges Carpentier beat England’s Jim Sullivan for the European middleweight title. France’s Carpentier was a boxer, an actor and soon to be World War I pilot and would go on to challenge Jack Dempsey for the world heavyweight crown.
The 1970s saw middleweight great Carlos Monzon regularly defend his belts in Monte Carlo. The Argentine stopped Nino Benvenuti in 1971. He returned two years later to defeat Emile Griffith and then again in 1976 to beat Rodrigo Valdez.
Leon Spinks had just lost his world heavyweight title to the man he’d upset to win it, the one and only Muhammad Ali, when he faced South African hope Gerrie Coetzee in 1979. Three knockdowns later Coetzee had shocked the world with a stunning first-round victory over ‘Neon’ Leon in Fontevielle, Monaco.
The 1980s saw the likes of Donald Curry, Richie Sandoval and Davey Moore showcase their talent. Bob Arum’s American Top Rank organisation also promoted there, pitting Milton McCrory and then Sumbu Kalambay against Doug DeWitt in world title matches.
One of the most astonishing endings to a fight ever captured on film took place there in 1985. In a classic IBF cruiserweight pairing, Lee Roy Murphy and Chisanda Mutti both landed right hands simultaneously and hit the canvas side by side in the 12th round. They had already shared heavy knockdowns earlier in the fight but this time Murphy dragged himself off the floor and Mutti was counted out. If you have a spare moment, definitely look it up!
Many experts rate Julio Caesar Chavez as one of the greatest ever and the Mexican legend was in his prime when he beat Rocky Lockridge in Fontevielle. On the undercard Leeds lightweight Michael Marsden, now one of our top trainers, made an appearance!
Mike ‘The Body Snatcher’ McCallum and Sumbu Kalambay provided 12 highly-skilled rounds for the assembled crowd in 1991. The WBC middleweight title was on the line for that one, continuing the tradition of 160lbs champions appearing in Monaco.
Unfortunately James Toney failed to make that poundage when scheduled to defend against Francesco Dell’Aquila later that year. ‘Lights Out’ went ahead with the bout and duly won in four rounds.
The theme continued more recently with this generation’s standout middleweight king. Gennady Golovkin has recorded three impressive stoppages in the principality. A brutal knockout of Nobhiro Ishida, a stoppage of Osumanu Adama and then a late-round success against the brave Martin Murray completed his treble.
Murray had won in Monaco twice before and now returns as part of the Matchroom show, alongside world title-chasing Smith and McDonnell, who puts his own belt on the line.
So many Brits have fought there over the years: Kevin Finnegan, Terry Marsh, Carl Thompson, Prince Arron, Lee Haskin, Stuart Hall and more, with mixed luck.
Now it’s up to Smith and McDonnell to entertain the glamorous crowd, then hopefully fly back home with the belts and some great memories of a special weekend in the playground of the rich and the famous.
Watch Luis Ortiz v Malik Scott on a Monte Carlo card including Jamie McDonnell, Stephen Smith and Martin Murray on Saturday, live on Sportsclubsociety 2 HD