Print this article


World Boxing Federation Champions Of The Past: Tommy Small

Posted on June 9, 2016                                              Bookmark and Share
By: Clive Baum



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 Champions Of The Past Series we take a closer look at some of the boxers who held WBF titles in years gone by, from lesser known champions to world renowned fighters, legends of the sport and current or future Hall of Famers.


Born in 1963, it was not really in the cards that Tommy Small would become a professional boxer, much less a world champion. But he did, and after turning pro in 1986 he went on to capture the WBF World Super Welterweight title in 1991.

Growing up in Sophia in West Virginia, USA, with a population of less than 1400 people, boxing was not the main conversation-topic around many dinner tables in the small towns 588 households. But Tommy Jr. would often join his father, Tom Sr., when Toughman Contests were arranged in the area.

Tommy Jr. was fascinated by what he saw, watching more or less untrained men wailing away at each other, and for years wanted to give it a go himself, believing he could beat most of the competitors he saw in the ring. Tom Sr. eventually encouraged his son to give it a try, and in 1985 Junior became a “Toughman Champion”.

While there is limited skills involved in Toughman contests, Tommy Small proved to have talent for boxing and used the experience to launch a professional boxing career, just like notables such as fellow former world champions Tommy Morrison (WBO) and Greg Haugen (WBF, IBF, WBO) before and after him.

In April 1986, aged 22 and trained by his father, Small made his paid boxing debut in Beckley, only a short drive from Sophia, knocking out another West Virginian called Johnny Robinson (0-2) in three rounds. For some reason a rematch was found appropriate, and arranged three weeks later, this time with Tommy winning on points.

In his next two fights Small defeated Robert Curry (6-8), first on points and then by fourth round stoppage. This was more of an accomplishment than beating the aforementioned Robinson, who would never win a professional fight and finally decided on another career after going win-less in nine starts.

After decisioning Kim Berlt (0-3) in September 1986, Small suffered his first set-back the following December when he traveled to Philadelphia and was out-pointed by local man Brian McGinley (9-5). Things went from bad to worse three months later, also in Philadelphia, when he was stopped on a cut against Todd Englehart (8-2).

Coming off two losses but still with a respectable 5-2 ledger, Small was booked to fight undefeated prospect Hamilton Diaz (1-0) on July 31 1987, at the Lee County Civic Center in Diaz Florida hometown of Fort Myers. Perhaps thinking Small had hit his ceiling as a boxer, he was brought in as “the opponent”.

But, fighting on a show that also featured former World Heavyweight Champion Trevor Berbick in his first fight back after losing his WBC crown to Mike Tyson, and Joe Frazier-relatives Joe Jr. and Tyrone (Smoking Joe´s nephew), Tommy Small proved that he was not ready to be a stepping-stone for anyone.

While it was a close and competitive bout, Small was the hungrier fighter and went on to win a split decision after four hectic rounds. The victory was the start of a good run for him, as he also won his next nine outings, conquering the West Virginia State Welterweight title along the way.

So it was something of an upset when Small, looking to take the next step from prospect to contender, lost an expected routine tune-up fight against journeyman Sam Gervins (13-34) in January 1990. But, choosing to consider it nothing more than a bad day at the office, he was not overly deterred and soon got back to winning ways.

After adding eight more wins to his resume, including a rematch victory over Gervins, Small had a 23-3 (14) record and was chosen to fight perhaps the most adored boxer Mexico has ever produced, Julio Cesar Chavez, the reigning WBC and IBF Light Welterweight World Champion.

Chavez, who amazed a frightening 74-0 record with 66 wins coming inside the distance, and had won nineteen world championship fights while collecting world titles in three weight classes, needed a respectable adversary for a non-title-fight, and Small was given the assignment.

On April 26, 1991 at the Estadio General Angel Flores in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, in front of thousands upon thousands of enthusiastic, loud and loyal Chavez-supporters, Tommy Small was in for a rude awakening far away from West Virginia.

It was admirable that he accepted the fight against the future Hall-Of-Famer, but Chavez was virtually unbeatable at the time. Small started the fight fairly well, and tried to keep the great champion at bay with his flicking jab, but by the third round the pressure of Chavez was taking its toll and Small took a knee from a hard body-shot.

Small beat the count without too many problems, and gamely made it to the end of the round despite the bulldozing Mexican trying his best to finish him off. Early in round four a huge overhand right hurt Small, but he stayed on his feet as Chavez went for the kill.

Moments later Chavez landed some good body-shots, and while Small looked under severe pressure it appeared a bit premature when the referee suddenly stepped in and waved the fight off with the American still standing and Chavez not landing anything significant immediately prior to the stoppage.

There was no shame in the performance of Small that night in Mexico. In fact, many of the contenders who had challenged Chavez for his world titles had done much worse, and “The Lion Of Culiacan” would go 89-0-1 before losing for the first time in 1994, and goes down in history as one of the best ever!

Only two months after the Chavez encounter, Small was rewarded for his gutsy effort when he headlined a show in Morgantown, West Virginia. But once again he was matched tough, taking on former IBF world champion Harry Arroyo (38-8) for the vacant WBF World Super Welterweight title.

And Small showed on the night that he was not ruined by Chavez, as he went to war with Arroyo and became WBF world champion with a majority decision victory. It was a big night for the Small family, and especially Tommy Sr. and Jr., who in the beginning only really wanted to give Toughman fighting a try.

Unfortunately Tommy Jr. lost the world title in his first defense, but once again he proved to be a true warrior and willing to fight anywhere, as he traveled all the way to Australia where he lost a decision to hard-punching contender Craig Trotter (21-8).

He took more than a year off after losing to Trotter, and then went straight back to fighting at a high level when he accepted a fight with world-ranked Puerto Rican Santos Cardona (26-3) in April 1993. But lady luck had left the building, and Small was forced to retire after six rounds with a hand-injury.

A decision-loss two months later to future IBF World Super Welterweight ruler Raul Marquez, a 9-0 prospect at the time, was the beginning of a five-year stretch for Small as a name opponent before finally retiring in 1998.

He did win once in a while during those last years in the ring, and while he sometimes came up short against opponents he probably would have beaten a few years earlier, he mostly lost to top contenders, and former and future world champions.

Between May 1995 and July 1997, Small lost to former WBF World Middleweight Champion Darrin Morris (23-2-1), Keith Holmes (26-1) who went on to win the WBC World Middleweight title, Ralph Jones (28-1), former multiple world champion Meldrick Taylor (33-4-1), and former WBA World Welterweight Champion Aaron Davis (43-6).

In January 1998 he challenged Freeman Barr (15-1) for the IBO World Super Middleweight crown in Nassau, Bahamas, but by that time he had very little left and was stopped in seven rounds. His final fight was against another legendary name, as Hector Camacho (63-4-1) halted him in six in June 1998.

Tommy Small did very well with what he had to work with. He became a WBF world champion, some would say against all odds, and his final professional boxing record stands at 35-17 (22) after fighting no less than nine opponents who were former, current or future world champions, some even Hall-Of-Famers.

  Part 29: Matthew Charleston
  Part 28: Jane Couch
  Part 27: Fahlan Sakkreerin
  Part 26: Kenny Keene
  Part 25: Yvan Mendy
  Part 24: Ronnie Magramo
  Part 23: Randall Yonker
  Part 22: Holly Holm
  Part 21: Vinnie Curto
  Part 20: Robin Reid
  Part 19: Lionel Butler
  Part 18: Mads Larsen
  Part 17: Ken Sigurani
  Part 16: Orlando Fernandez
  Part 15: Roger Turner
  Part 14: Roy Jones Jr.
  Part 13: Fitz Vanderpool
  Part 12: Steve Roberts
  Part 11: Thulani "Sugarboy" Malinga
  Part 10: Junior Witter
  Part 9: Jimmy Thunder
  Part 8: Juan Lazcano
  Part 7: Jeff Malcolm
  Part 6: Ricky Parkey
  Part 5: Carl Daniels
  Part 4: Angel Manfredy
  Part 3: Samson Dutch Boy Gym
  Part 2: Greg Haugen
  Part 1: Johnny Nelson
| HOME |













Copyright © wbf -  all rights reserved     |     world boxing federation     |     |     webdesign by f.j.e.e.k. 2009     |