Forgotten Legends: Keith Mullings

By: Steve Gallegos

For many fighters, the road to the top is not easily traveled. Some fighters aren’t given the same opportunities as others and they have to scrape and claw their way in order to reach the mountain top. That was the case with former super welterweight champion “Brooklyn” Keith Mullings. Mullings was a blue collar fighter with tremendous heart and tenacity to go along with an aggressive style and big punch. Mullings was also a bit of a spoiler as he wrecked plans laid out for other fighters on the come up.

Mullings began boxing while in the U.S. Army and serving in Desert Storm. He used boxing as a way to get out of doing KP duty and while in Desert Storm, he would fill up his duffle bag with sand and use it as a heavy bag to train. He turned pro in 1993 and won his first 13 fights, nine by KO. He sparred many rounds in the gym with Roy Jones Jr and was highly respected by Jones. It was in late 1996 when Mullings began a streak of bad breaks. He would go 1-3-1 over a nine month span. He lost a couple very close split decisions and some fights were taken on short notice; however he was highly regarded and would get a crack at a world title against unbeaten Jr Middleweight champion Raul Marquez.

Marquez was originally supposed to face Yory Boy Campas; however a late injury forced Campas out of the fight and enter Keith Mullings. They met on 09/13/97 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV and it was the co-feature on a big Pay Per View card headlined by Oscar De La Hoya vs Hector Camacho. Marquez was a highly regarded young champion who like many, was hoping to land a big payday against De La Hoya. Mullings came in determined to make a name for himself on the biggest stage of his career. Mullings was in Marquez’s face all night long and busted him up badly, opening two very bad cuts over both Marquez’s eyes. When the final bell sounded, it appeared Mullings might get his world title; however the end result was a very close, controversial split decision win for Marquez.

WBC super welterweight champion “Terrible” Terry Norris sat at ringside and told TVKO analyst Nick Charles on air that he felt Mullings won the fight. Although Mullings lost the fight, he gained a lot of respect and earned another title shot in his next fight. 12/06/97 was a huge night for boxing and a great way to end the year. The Pay Per View event was called “Title Wave” as it featured three world title bouts. The main event was Oscar De La Hoya taking on Wilfredo Rivera and the two co-features were Raul Marquez vs Yory Boy Campas and “Terrible” Terry Norris taking on Keith Mullings. Marquez had gained a great deal of respect for Mullings and when asked what he thought about Norris vs Mullings, Marquez said that Keith would give Norris a very tough fight or he may even win the fight.

The goal of the “Title Wave” event was to announce a super fight between Oscar De La Hoya vs Terry Norris after both men were victorious; however Keith Mullings had other plans in mind. Mullings’ presence was known in the first round as he pressed forward and was able to land his straight right hand. He also was un-phased by Norris’ shots as it didn’t back him up. Over the next few rounds, the pace picked up. The tempo of the fight was being fought at Norris’ rate; however Mullings stayed composed and was able to land good shots during close quarters and wasn’t phased by Norris’ punches.

In the middle rounds, the tide began to turn as Norris’ attack began to slow just a bit and Keith was able to get Norris more by pressing forward and landing his right hand. Norris probably thought he would break Mullings as the fight went on, but Mullings remained there, confident as ever. Mullings’ shots were having an effect on Norris as his left eye began to swell and there was blood trickling from his nose. In the eighth round, Mullings finally found an opening and landed a hard right hand that put Norris down. Norris was able to get up and despite having 00:30 left in the round, Mullings didn’t go in for the kill; however he did rock Norris as the bell sounded.

Mullings went into the ninth round a confident man and went out and capitalized on the knockdown by punishing Norris with rights and lefts and had him reeling across the ring forcing referee Tony Perez to stop the fight. Keith Mullings shocked the world and was now a world champion. He spoiled a huge mega fight between De La Hoya and Norris and Larry Merchant said “And the best laid plans for Oscar De La Hoya and company have gone awry”.

Mullings had effected the night in more ways than one. Earlier in the night, Raul Marquez was stopped by Yory Boy Campas. The cause of the stoppage was due to bad cuts and swelling of Marquez’s eyes, which was a product of the leftover damage caused by Keith Mullings which had not properly healed. Mullings defended his title just three months later, making his HBO debut by stopping Italian David Ciarlante in five rounds. Mullings was at the top of his game and was willing to fight anyone who was willing to fight him. He called out Oscar De La Hoya, Ike Quartey, and Yory Boy Campas. After not being able to get any of those fights, he instead opted to go to Spain and defend his title against Spanish challenger Javier Castillejo.

They met on 01/29/99 in Madrid, Spain and it was a close tight fight and in the end, Mullings would come up short, losing a majority decision. Mullings would challenge WBA jr middleweight champion David Reid later that summer and would lose a unanimous decision in a very rough, ugly fight. He would fight twice more over the next two years and would lose both fights before calling it a career. His career as a professional stands at 16-8-1 with 11 KO’s.

There were talks of a 2006 comeback; however it didn’t materialize. He is now a boxing trainer for youth fighters. He was a throwback. A very underrated, blue collar fighter who had the “working” man and the underdogs in his corner. As are many of the fighters in the “Forgotten Legends” series, he’s another very good fighter who didn’t get the shine or respect that he truly deserved.

David Reid vs Keith Mullings

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