Once again, Donald Curry is on the road back. He has traveled this road before. But now, it's a little longer, a little more treacherous.
It starts in Reseda, where Curry will begin Comeback II on Tuesday night at The Country Club in a 10-round main event against Rigo Lopez (19-5, eight knockouts) of San Diego.
For a long time, Curry's path along the road to success was clear. He cruised through his amateur career, winning seven national titles en route to a phenomenal 400-4 record.
Then he shifted gears and became a pro without slowing down. By age 21, he was a welterweight champion. By 24, he was undisputed champion, having unified the title with a second-round knockout of Milton McCrory.
Curry was being described with that old cliche long reserved for Sugar Ray Robinson: The best fighter, pound for pound, in the world.
Curry was considering a side road into the middleweight division. A fight with Marvelous Marvin Hagler? Why not? Sugar Ray Leonard? Bring him on.
Instead came the detours.
First there was Lloyd Honeyghan. A little more than a year ago, Curry cruised into Atlantic City, N.J., in some books a to 10-to-1 favorite to successfully defend his title against Honeyghan. Instead, Curry limped back home to Fort Worth, Tex., a loser for the first time in 26 pro fights. The bout was stopped after the sixth round because of a deep cut over Curry's left eye.
Curry blamed the loss on his weight.
"I weighed 158 pounds 10 days ago," he said immediately after the fight, "and, for a while before that, I was 168. I'd had trouble getting down to 147 before, but I'd never felt weak in a fight before tonight."
Curry gave up trying to be a 147-pounder and launched Comeback I by going after Mike McCallum's World Boxing Assn. junior middleweight (154 pounds) title.
In preparation, he took two tuneup fights, but despite winning both via disqualification, it was Curry who looked like he needed new spark plugs. The old confidence and sharpness weren't there.
Nevertheless, he entered a Las Vegas ring last summer, 10 months after being shocked by Honeyghan, to face McCallum.
This time, the results were again shocking. Not so much by the end, but by the means. Curry was winning the fight when McCallum floored him with an incredible fifth-round left hook, a devastating punch that ended the fight--and perhaps more.
Commenting on Curry after the fight, promoter Bob Arum told The Times, "He's a longshot now to get back into a big-bucks situation."
But five months later, he is back for Comeback II, a road to the top laid out for him, with a couple of large hurdles dead ahead.
First there is Lopez, who, like Curry, had a successful amateur career and a smooth transition to the pros, winning his first 14 fights.
Then it got bumpy. Lopez has been a .500 fighter since.
Should Curry pass this test, which he certainly should, he can concentrate on a Jan. 3 fight in Genoa, Italy, where he will meet Lupe Aquino on the same card as the Gianfranco Rossi-Duane Thomas WBC junior middleweight title fight. The winner of the Curry-Aquino fight is scheduled to meet the Rossi-Thomas winner in April.
Curry is traveling the comeback trail in silence these days, refusing to speak to the media. But his business manager, Akbar Muhammad, is more than happy to talk about his fighter.
Naturally, the view of the McCallum fight was a little different from Curry's corner.
"The punch that McCallum knocked Donald out with," Muhammad insists, "was a desperation shot. Donald was winning the fight. He had moved in to throw a right hand and a left hook. He was off-balance and his feet were parallel. His hands were down. When Donald went down, his head hit the canvas and he was out like a light. He made a crucial mistake and it cost him the fight."
It did not physically take Curry long to get back up from the blow.
Mentally, it was a different matter. It took him several months to get back into the gym.
"He wanted to sit back," Muhammad said, "relax and think about this different reality he was now experiencing. Donald has been the Golden Boy for so long and now he is going to have to climb the mountain again. But he's only 26. He's still young."
But has the gold tarnished? Can he come back? Muhammad, of course, has no doubts.
"With Donald's big right hand," his manager said, "he should have been all over McCallum. He should have taken over the fight, but he didn't do that. So now, it's no more Mr. Nice Guy. He's always been a classy guy. Now he's got to turn into a killer. He's got to realize you can't turn it off until your hands go up as the winner.
"Even before the McCallum fight, we realized his progression had stagnated. When he was a welterweight, he was stronger than the people he was fighting. He could just stand there and blow them out. He got away from basic boxing skills. He became complacent as a counterpuncher. He thought he could just go out and blow people out with two punches."
Muhammad, like a good manager should, is boasting of a new Donald Curry beginning Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday's card will be a five-round welterweight match between Daryl Colquitt (5-5-2) of Los Angeles and David Guerra (8-15, four knockouts) of San Diego and four four-rounders, including a featherweight bout between Dino Garza (5-1, four knockouts) of North Hollywood and Javier Macias (4-3, three knockouts) of Pacoima.
First bell is scheduled for 8 p.m.