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World Boxing Federation Champions Of The Past: Greg Haugen

Posted on February 10 2014
By: Clive Baum  
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Since the World Boxing Federation was originally founded by American Larry Carrier in 1988, many of the sport’s biggest names have won a WBF title, and proudly defended the blue, red and gold belt all over the world.

In the first segment of the series we profiled former two-weight WBF World Champion Johnny Nelson, one of the best Cruiserweights of all time. This time, we honor former WBF World Welterweight Champion and Hall-Of-Famer Greg Haugen, and the fantastic career he had in the ring.


Gregory Lee Haugen was born on August 31 1960 in the city of Auburn in Washington State. Of Norwegian ancestry, he learned how to box when his father, a former marine, took him to a local gym at age five, hoping it would help his son defend himself against bullies in school.

His parents divorced when he was ten, and the former marine moved to San Diego and vanished from Greg’s life. Haugen didn’t see his dad for another ten years, but he saw plenty of action in the boxing ring as he proved to be a talented and tough fighter.

However, at fifteen he felt burned out and decided to quit boxing, along with high school, and took a job pouring concrete to help his mother Sandy out financially. Greg having five siblings there was plenty to spend money on in the Haugen household, and even with three jobs Sandy struggled to make ends meet.

In 1980, now twenty years old and with a strong body developed from five years of hard work, Haugen again found the desire to box. He quickly became a force, and won a bronze medal at the Olympic trials that same year in Spokane. But his boxing career stalled again when he moved to Alaska with girlfriend Karen to take a job in the sheet metal business.

But fighting was in young Haugen’s blood, and in Anchorage he found a way to do just that, without having to do it at the level he was used to in amateur boxing, when he started competing in Tough Man contests staged at local bars and other obscure venues.

This was probably too easy for him after around 350 real boxing matches, of which he only lost around 25, because after twenty-four straight victories over out-of-shape truck drivers and unskilled construction workers, he decided to turn to professional boxing in 1982.

Haugen made his professional debut on November 4 1982 at the Tudor Club in Anchorage, Alaska. He was matched unusually tough against experienced Filipino Noel Arriesgado, who according to brought a 13-3-1 record, most of those bouts over ten rounds, but probably had more fights that went unrecorded in his native country.

Greg beat Arriesgado on points, and then stopped him in seven rounds of a rematch exactly one month later in the same venue. After only two paid bouts, Haugen was already a ten round fighter, and when he and Karen moved back to Washington State in early 1983 he continued on the fast track he started in Alaska by winning a unanimous decision over journeyman Joe Perez over that very distance.

By the summer of 1985 Haugen had compiled a record of 10-0 (5), with one no-contest, and was ready for a big test against fellow prospect Jeff Bumpus (18-1), whom he defeated by decision at the Resorts International in Atlantic City.

Little over a month later, full of confidence from the Bumpus victory, he decisively announced his arrival on the scene when he took a fight on three days’ notice against contender Freddy Roach (39-8) in Las Vegas. He put on a magnificent performance to stop Roach in seven rounds of a real barnburner Live on ESPN television.

Impressive stoppage victories over Chris Calvin (17-3-2) and former world title-challenger Charlie Brown (26-2) followed, and the boxing world definitely took notice of Greg Haugen. Journeymen Juan Carlos Alvarado and Ken Willis were beaten easily, before Haugen captured his first belt, the NABF, in May 1986 with a unanimous decision over Puerto Rican Edwin Curet (20-4-2).

Another victory, over Ernie Landeros (13-2-2) in August 1986 put Haugen in line for his first crack at a world championship against 26-1 IBF Lightweight title-holder Jimmy Paul from Detroit.

Fighting at the legendary Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and on Showtime TV, the undefeated challenger didn’t let the opportunity go to waste, as he fought his heart out to win a close majority decision after fifteen rounds (143-142, 144-141 and 143-143).

Now a world champion, one would think that Haugen would be cautious in who he agreed to make his first defense against, but like the true warrior he was he agreed to go to Providence, Rhode Island to face local fan favorite Vinny Pazienza (22-1).

Haugen lost a close decision to “The Pazmanian Devil”, a result he disputes to this day, but when they rematched in early 1888 in Atlantic City, the score was evened as Greg won a clear unanimous verdict. Only two months later he defended the title (W TD11) in a homecoming fight against Miguel Santana (21-3-1) at the Tacoma Dome, only a few miles from his home town of Auburn.  

Six months later he travelled to Denmark, close to his family origins in Norway, and made the second successful defense of his second reign as world champion when he dominated and stopped another local fan favorite in undefeated European Champion Gert Bo Jacobsen (26-0).

Jacobsen, who was undoubtedly world class, would later become a world champion at Welterweight, making Haugen’s destructive victory even more impressive. But in his third defense, in February 1989, he came unstuck against legendary Southpaw Pernell Whitaker, losing every round and suffering his careers first knockdown.

“I was pretty disappointed at that time with my management”, Haugen told in a 2009 interview. “They didn’t know boxing and I didn’t know much about the fight business. They were throwing me to the wolves every fight. I was mad, pissed off because I was the champ and I am fighting on the road again. It was kind of my protest fight, a boycott against management. I just didn’t throw many punches and lost.”

Losing to Whitaker was no shame, and Haugen rebounded well with two victories to set up a non-title rubber match with Pazienza in August 1990. Now boxing at Light Welterweight, it was again a close fight but like in their first encounter Pazienza was awarded the decision.

At this point, there was no shortage of boxing insiders writing Haugen off. He had a good run, and after two low-key rebuilding victories he was merely a name to pad the already impressive record of 38-0 WBO Light Welterweight World Champion Hector “Macho” Camacho in February 1991.

But the former Lightweight champ had not read the same script, and despite being staggered in the first round and dropped by a right hook in round three, he battled on to win a split decision and his third world title.

Unfortunately he tested positive for Marihuana after the fight, an indication that he didn’t always live the life a champion is best served living, but since it was not a performance enhancing drug Haugen was not stripped of his championship. He was instead fined 25.000 Dollars by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who also ordered him to undergo drug counseling.

Three months later Haugen fought Camacho again, and again it was decided by a split decision. Many felt that Haugen had done enough to retain his crown, but two of the three judges felt Camacho deserved to win and so Haugen was again an Ex Champ.

“I got jobbed a few times in my career,” Haugen told Rick Folstad a few years ago. “They robbed me in Providence(against Pazienza) and they robbed me against Camacho (in the rematch). I was the first guy to beat him but then in the second fight they gave it to him. But he knew he lost.”

In October 1991 he laboured to stop no-hoper Alfonso Perez in eight rounds at the Country Club in Reseda, California, a performance that didn’t bode well for his future at world level. At this point, promoters and TV executives were not exactly tripping over each other to acquire the services of Mr. Haugen.

But then came a great opportunity when promoter Al Goosen decided to match Haugen with another former world Lightweight champion and crowd-pleaser in Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. The fight was dubbed “Tough Guys Don’t Dance”.

The pair fought in April 1992 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Centre in Reno, Nevada, and, while both of them certainly didn’t dance, Haugen had too much for the faded Mancini and proved he still belonged inside the squared circle by recording a technical knockout in round seven after flooring Mancini once.   

Haugen won a few stay-busy bouts to round out 1992, but in February 1993 he was again center stage when he travelled to Mexico City to challenge WBC World Champion Julio Cesar Chavez in front of a record-breaking crowd of 132.247 spectators at the massive Estadio Azteca.

Before the fight, Haugen was quoted: “All he’s fought are Tijuana Taxi Drivers”, when describing the opponents on the hugely impressive 84-0 (72) record of Chavez. No matter the quality of his adversaries, Chavez was too strong and good on the night for the American, and won by fifth round TKO.

When confronted with the Taxi drivers-comment after the defeat, a battered Haugen proved he didn’t take himself too serious in defeat when he remarked: “They must have been very tough Taxi drivers.”

Haugen felt he still had something to offer after the conclusive loss to Chavez, but from 1994-1997 he only managed to win five of eight bouts, going 5-2-1. His losses were to good opponents, but his victories were over boxers below world class.

In September 1997 he defeated former contender Mark Fernandez (32-15-1), which set up a shot at the vacant WBF World Welterweight title against Paul Nave in San Rafael, California in March 1998. Haugen lost the decision in Nave´s home town, but acquitted himself well enough to get a rematch eight months later.

In the second go-around, the now 38-year-old Haugen was a testament to the theory that great fighters always have one great night left in them, as he won the fight by split decision, again in San Rafael, and made himself relevant again by lifting his fourth world championship in three weight classes.

A third meeting was arranged for December 1999, and was ruled a draw. But Haugen failed another drug test, and the bout was ruled a No-Decision. This was the last fight of the remarkable career of Greg Haugen, and unfortunately not the best way to go out. But it wasn’t hard for him to walk away, and in retirement he doesn’t appear to be one to dwell much on the past:

"It wasn't hard at all," he once told Seatle PI of retiring. "I miss the competition, but I don't miss getting hit. I tried the best I could. I fought the best there was, and most in their hometowns. I didn't back down from anybody."

Former World Boxing Federation (WBF) World Welterweight Champion Greg Haugen retired from active professional boxing with a 40-10-1 (19) record, but he has not turned his back on the sport. For a while he was employed by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, working with their boxing program, and he has trained several promising professional boxers.

Haugen has four children, two daughters and two sons, and several grandchildren, one of which is autistic. In 2007 he set up the Greg Haugen Foundation, which works to raise money to help families affected by autism, doing boxing events and black-tie dinners with other former boxing greats.

He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008, and is almost certain to be inducted in the more famous International Boxing Hall of Fame in the not too distant future.

  Part 1: Johnny Nelson
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