World light-middleweight champ Hope became a true boxing hero of Hackney
- Credit: Archant
Hackney’s world light-middleweight champion Maurice ‘Mo’ Hope enjoyed such a successful career a cycle route was named after him.
Hope, who was born on December 6, 1951 in St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, came to Dalston with his family, aged just nine.
Boxing was a very popular sport in the east end of London in those days and Hope, a southpaw, began to train and show promise, eventually joining the world famous Repton club in Bethnal Green where he continued to learn his trade.
In 1968, and representing Hackney, he won a National Schoolboys Senior title, but it is fair to say he achieved much more in the professional ranks than he did as an amateur.
He did not win a National Senior ABA crown, but Hope did become an England international and was chosen at welterweight to represent GB at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
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In his opening contest in the then West Germany he outscored Garry Davis (Bahamas) with a 5-0 scoreline.
He then received a walkover against Spain’s Alfonso Fernandez which confirmed a place for him in the quarter-finals where he had to box the very experienced Janos Kajdi and was outpointed 5-0, with the Hungarian ace eventually going on to claim a silver medal at the Games.
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Hope decided to punch for pay and became part of the hugely successful boxing stable based at the Royal Oak in Canning Town, under the guidance of top manager Terry Lawless and training supremo Frank Black.
Most of Hope’s paid contests were under the umbrella of the then leading London promotion team of Harry Levene, Mike Barrett and Mickey Duff.
He made his professional debut in Nottingham in June 1973 against Scots-based John Smith, whom he defeated by decision in eight rounds.
Hope lost for the first time as a professional in his fifth contest when outpointed by Liverpudlian Mickey Flynn in November 1973.
A year later, in only his 11th paid contest, he became British light-middleweight champion by knocking out Wolverhampton’s Larry Paul in the eighth round of a scheduled 15-round contest.
Hope’s next championship foray was to prove unsuccessful.
Moving up a weight to middleweight, he was stopped in June 1975 for the first time, losing in the eighth round to Jamaican born Bunny Sterling for the vacant British crown.
Moving back down to his more accustomed British championship weight as a light-middleweight he again defeated Larry Paul, this time in four rounds, and retained his British belt and took the vacant Commonwealth crown with a 12th-round knockout of Kettering’s Tony Poole in April 1976.
Next, he had set his sights on the EBU light-middleweight title and he travelled to Rome in October 1976 to stop Italy’s Vito Antuofermo with just 12 seconds remaining of the 15th and last round.
Having reigned supreme domestically and in Europe at light-middleweight, Hope turned his attention to the world stage.
In March 1977 he faced the WBC world champion, Germany’s Eckhard Dagge in the city of his birth in Berlin over 15 rounds.
The fight was declared a draw with scores of 145-142 for Hope, 145-144 for Dagge and one tied at 145-145, with the German thus retaining his WBC world crown.
Hope re-grouped and won his next six contests, including making two successful European light-middleweight title defences against Frank Wissenbach and Joel Bonnetaz, and was knocking on the door of another shot at the WBC world crown, then held by Italian-born, but Aussie-based Rocky Mattioli.
The fight took place in San Remo in Italy, in March 1979, with Hope becoming the world champion via a knockout in the ninth round.
He went on to defend his WBC belt on three occasions, all bouts taking place in London, as he dismissedt American Mike Baker in seven rounds, overcame Mattioli in a rematch in 11 rounds, and then outpointed over 15 rounds the very tough Argentinian contender Carlos Herrera.
For his next title defence Hope went to Las Vegas in May 1981 to face the fabulous Puerto Rican, 22-year-old Wilfredo Benitez, who first won a world title at light-welterweight when he was 17 years of age. He remains the youngest world champion in the sport’s history.
The fight was seemingly close for about nine rounds, although when the end came all three scorecards were well documented in Benitez’s favour.
The 11th round was a tough one for Hope, but he came through it, only to be floored for the full count in the 12th round from a heavy right hand to the jaw.
There was to be one final “ring hurrah” for Hope, when in March 1982 he lost a disputed split points decision at Wembley Arena to Italy’s Luigi Minchillo.
Hope retired permanently from boxing, leaving the paid ring with a record of 30 wins (24 inside), four losses and one draw from 35 contests.
The London Borough of Hackney recognised him subsequently for his many achievements, naming a major cycle route after him.