Hackney’s boxing World Champion Maurice Hope returns to borough
Hackney’s first ever world champion back to where it all began
HACKNEY’S first ever World boxing champion Maurice Hope was back at his old stomping ground in the Globe pub as part of a 59th birthday bash.
The former WBC light-middleweight title holder now trains fighters in Antigua, but was back near his former Dalston home over the past month.
Hope won the World title in 1980, beating Rocky Mattioli and defended it three times before losing to Wilfred Benitez at Caesars palace, Las Vegas a year later.
It was a glamorous successful career for Hope, who was delighted to be back in east London, where his remarkable story began.
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“I first arrived in Hackney when I was just nine-years-old with my father Norris, mother Sarah and five brothers and sisters,” Hope said.
Keen to try his hand at the sport, Hope joined the famous Repton gym in Bethnal Green and under the tutorage of trainer George Whiter won the Schoolboys National Senior Championships in 1968, before beating Trevor Francis to earn a place in 1972 Olympic squad in Munich.
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Tragedy struck the games when nine Israeli athletes lost their lives after being captured by terrorists.
“I was only talking to Alan Minter (bronze medallist in Munich) and neither of us knew what was going on until it was all over,” Hope said.
“We were in a different part of the village, but not too far away.”
Hope turned pro a year later with Terry Lawless and was trained by Frank Black at the Royal Oak in Canning Town, beating Larry Paul in 1974 to become British champion.
Two years later Hope won the Lonsdale Belt outright after beating Tony Poole, a bout which was also for the Commonwealth crown.
The Hackney fighter was given his first crack in March 1977 at World honours against German Eckhard Dagge in Berlin.
A thrilling fight saw the British judge vote Hope, the winner with his German counterpart backing Dagge, while the Italian scored it a draw, meaning Dagge retained his crown.
Hope had to wait two years for another shot and this time made no mistake as he dominated Mattioli in San Remo, Italy.
It took just 10 seconds for Hope to send his opponent crashing to the canvas. The Italian failed to recover and was withdrawn after eight rounds.
“I sank to my knees when Mattioli retired in a brief prayer of thanks,” Hope smiled.
Hope stopped American Baker at Wembley six months later in the seventh round, before beating Matiolli for a second time with an 11th round stoppage in 1980.
After retaining his title with a unanimous decision victory over Carlos Maria del Valle Herrera, Hope faced the toughest fight of his career against Luigi Minchillo.
Hope was stopped in the 12th round and 28 years later is still full of praise for Minchillo.
“He was without doubt the best fighter I met in my 35 professional contest,” Hope said.
The hackney man is still in love with the sport and hopes to come back in 2012, leading the Antiguan Boxing Team he is in charge of.
“It’s very hard to get our boxers to qualify,” he said.
“We have to get through the Caribbean stage then South America, but we are hopeful to have boxers here in 2012.”