The Year of Living Dangerously: Alan Minter in 1980 (Part I)

1980 would be a memorable year for Alan Minter, as the British southpaw battled through a tumultuous three-fight series of middleweight title contests, beginning with a trip across the Atlantic to meet iron-jawed champion Vito Antuofermo at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Minter settled for bronze at the 1972 Olympics after a highly controversial semi-final loss, and his early career followed a rocky path.  After losing six times, all on cuts, there was a feeling that Minter would never reach the pinnacle. However, a £50 visit to a plastic surgeon to discover the root of his fragile skin delivered a career-changing answer–stop getting hit so much. A change of styles followed, with a more controlled Minter running off an 8-fight winning streak to secure a meeting with the brawling Brooklyn fighter.

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Alan Minter

The Arrangements:

“Britain’s European champion was yesterday nominated by the World Boxing Council to meet the winner of the championship fight in Las Vegas on October 6 between the holder Vito Antuofermo and Marvin Hagler. This ends months of frustrating anguish for Minter, who was named No 1 contender last December–and then inexplicably dropped in the rankings by the WBC.” – Daily Express, July 26, 1979

“Alan Minter’s two-year wait is over—he fights for the world middleweight title in Las Vegas next March. The 28-year-old southpaw form Sussex will earn £50,000 when he challenges Vito Anutofermo, who retained the crown with a 15-round draw against Marvin Hagler last weekend.” – Daily Mirror, December 7, 1979

Image courtesy of TheCyberBoxingZone.com

“Hagler deserves a rematch with Antuofermo right away. But it doesn’t work that way in boxing, and especially not for Hagler. He didn’t lose in Las Vegas, but the WBC found a way to turn his draw into a paper defeat, which is why Antuofermo will be fighting Alan Minter of England next. Right after the fight, the WBC, which had made Hagler the No. 1 contender last April, now has him No. 2 behind Minter, who was supposed to fight the “winner” of the Hagler- Antuofermo fight. Since Antuofermo is still the WBC middleweight champion, there was no argument in that pairing, except from Hagler’s camp.” - Larry Whiteside, Boston Globe, January 6, 1980

Pre-Fight Chatter:

“The challenger likes his spot of tea, and he is such a bleeder that yesterday he was cut while shadow boxing. Which is all very, very British. But Alan Minter can also fight. The 27-year-old English middleweight, who married his boss’s daughter, has been so impressive in training for next Sunday’s title bout against Vito Antuofermo that the odds on Antuofermo, the only undisputed champion in the world, have dropped from 2-1 to 8-5.” – Michael Katz, March 13, 1980, New York Times

“I am annoyed. After winning the title on a 15-rounds decision from Hugo Corro in Monte Carlo last June, I’ve been given a No. 1 contender twice in a row. I drew with Marvin Hagler here at Caesar’s Palace last November. Now I’ve got to fight Minter. With some guys they give them a chance to defend their title against anybody in the top 10, not the No. 1 all the time.” – Vito Antuofermo, March 13, 1980, Daily Express

“He’s what they call a southpaw who knows how to fight. You get a lot of southpaws who are awkward. But Minter knows what he is doing. Hagler’s a much better puncher, I think, but Minter’s as smart.” – Antuofermo’s cutman Freddie Brown, March 13, 1980, New York Times

Vito Antuofermo – RING – April 1980

“I know just what to do and how to do it. I won’t go out like a lunatic to try to knock Antuofermo out. When I was less experienced, anyone who hurt me would make me angry. I wanted to get right back at the guy. Nowadays I still want to get back at him, but I’m prepared to wait a bit.” – Alan Minter, March 15, 1980, Daily Mirror

“Unless Minter does something silly or gets badly cut around the eyes, he must win…To beat him (Antuofermo) you have to concentrate on outpointing him and Minter has the size and the style to do it. He is taller, a better boxer, a crisper puncher.” – Eddie Futch, March 15, 1980, Daily Mirror
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Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, March 16, 1980:

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“Half a minute to go then in round 3 and the Briton is going well, but he’s got to keep this fellow off for the marathon course.” – Reg Gutteridge, ITV

“I have Alan one round in front…I think he’s a bit over cautious. He’s reaching a bit with his punches. I’d rather see Alan step in with his punches and put more power in the jab. I reckon he’s got to do as much damage as he possibly can in the early stages of this fight… because we know Antuofermo is going to come on strong later.” – Jim Watt, ITV (after Round 4)

“When Vito fought Hagler, the tide of battle started to change in the eighth round. Hagler had completely dominated until then. Well in the fifth round here, it was my impression that Minter had begun to fall into the trap of fighting Antuofermo’s type of fight. He must now seek to stick with the right hand and re-establish control. Trying to do that, moving on his toes, but there goes Antuofermo, mauling and brawling, sooner or later, that takes a toll.” – Howard Cosell, ABC

World Middleweight Tile – March 16, 1980.

“It almost seems like Carlos Padilla is a combatant in this fight. This is as tough a fight to ref as you want to see, but Padilla is holding it together.” – Cosell (Round 7)

“I have him marginally in front, but not very much…he’s allowed Antuofermo to come and trouble him all the time, his jab’s not holding Antuofermo out.” – Watt (after Round 7)

“Round 10, and the champion, Vito Antuofermo, now closing that early rounds lead that Minter had. Really, this is going to be the crucial stage of the championship.” – Gutteridge

“Round 12, middleweight title fight, what a brawl, scoring is mixed all around ringside.” – Cosell

“Round 13, and I was just looking across there to the judge, Roland Dakin, and kind of got the impression he thought Minter might be ahead.” – Gutteridge

“They could have fought this one in one of those alleys in Brooklyn where Antuofermo grew up.” – Cosell

“There’s going to be some rude remarks exchanged between camps, whichever way it goes.” – Gutteridge (late in Round 15)

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Alan Minter Celebrates

The Decision:

“The three judges, presumably observing the same fight, came to conclusions so sharply divergent that they might as well have judged it sitting under the ring, listening to footsteps….Judge Charles Minker of Las Vegas scored the fight 144-141 for Minter, giving him nine rounds with one a draw. Ladaslad Sanchez of Venezuela scored it for Antuofermo, 145-143, with four rounds even, while Judge Roland Dakin of England had it 149-137, giving all but one round, the 14th, to his countryman, with one round even. It was Dakin’s scoring that caused the most furor.” - William Nack, Sports Illustrated

Image courtesy of Boxrec.com.com

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The Reaction:

“I thought for sure I won the fight and they gave it to him.” - Vito Antuofermo

“When they said ‘split decision’ and then ‘Minter,’ it was unbelievable. If they would have said ‘Antuofermo,’ I might have had a heart attack.” - Alan Minter

“I thought Alan won almost as easy as Roland Dakin scored it.” - Doug Bidwell, Minter’s manager and father-in-law

“But below the obligatory fury, there had to be in the fight game, where chicanery is honored, a grudging admiration for Roland Dakin. He wasn’t the usual burglar, stealing in the comfort of the home precinct. He had gone into another man’s country to perform the overwhelming act of larceny, and never tiptoed. Roland Dakin laid it right on the line: 149-137. Take it or leave it. He was taking it wholeheartedly and leaving town as a kingmaker.” - Bud Collins, Boston Globe

“The whole system has got to be changed after what this man did. Dakin scored the fight like a Minter fan and it must not be allowed to happen again.” - Bob Arum

“He was a prejudiced judge and you can quote me on that.” - Roy Tennison, Nevada State Athletic Commission

“I scored it the way I saw it. Punches correctly delivered are the only ones which count as far as I am concerned and Antuofermo was slapping and cuffing most of the time.” - Roland Dakin

“The Associated Press scored it 145-143 for Antuofermo, and an informal poll of writers covering the fight had ten scoring it for Antuofermo, five for Minter and two calling it a draw.” – Associated Press

“Of course if the rules still dictate that the winner is the guy who beat up the other guy, Antuofermo should have won.” – Bob Waters, Newsday

“What a hosing he (Antuofermo) got. There hasn’t been such a swindle in Las Vegas since they stopped wiring the roulette wheels.” – Dick Young, New York Daily News

“It was not an easy contest to score. Minter’s punches were crisp and clean. Brawler Antuofermo threw many more, but it was difficult to note just how many actually scored.” - Sidney Hulls, Daily Express

“Even the British press characterized Dakin’s scorecard as “disgraceful” and “embarrassing.” But the British press did not doubt Minter’s victory, and neither do I. Antuofermo did not defeat Minter. He effectively utilized the Antuofermo trademarks – pointed elbows, sturdy chin, and wandering forehead, and he gained strength in the late rounds to drive his foe repeatedly into the ropes, but he did not outpunch the British southpaw.” - Steve Farhood, World Boxing
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In Closing:

“I’m so fucking happy. I can’t fucking believe it. I’m going to go out and get fucked tonight. I hope this whole fucking country goes out and gets fucked.” – Alan Minter

“Sometimes I just can’t believe this world. But I can’t get discouraged. I’ll be back.” – Vito Antuofermo

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