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Hadley vs Valovich: Boxer KOs Karate champ in one of MMA's earliest bouts (Video)

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Although Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) wasn't founded until 1993, a few state sanctioned mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts had already taken place place.

One of the earliest legal MMA fights dates back to 1976 and one of the combatants has an interesting storyline. In fact, he's intertwined with legendary trainer Cus D'Amato, Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks but you've probably never heard of him.

Joe Hadley.

A former amateur and pro boxer, Hadley was a protege of Cus D'Amato and, along with Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, Kevin Rooney and Jose Torres, was one of the few fighters D'Amato personally trained. D'Amato, of course, was a proponent of and expert in the 'Peek-a-Boo' style of boxing, initially popularized by Patterson in the 1950s and then Tyson in the 80s and 90s.

Hadley was a 1971 National AAU Middleweight champion who won several amateur contests and produced an amazing record of 122-18, 93 KO in the pre-professional ranks which includes a knockout win over future world champ Leon Spinks.

One of the lesser known boxers D'Amato trained, Hadley would fight only four times as a pro, recording knockouts in each affair.

Prior to his MMA bout, which isn't included among his four pro sanctioned boxing matches, Hadley, a middleweight, also fought on the undercard of the Rumble in the Jungle, headlined by Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman, in Zaire in 1974. And on the same card was Boddy Stewart, another protege of D'Amato who would eventually introduce a troubled juvenile named Mike Tyson to boxing.

Hadley vs Valovich
A pro boxer with  an extensive amateur pedigree but only two pro fights in 1976, Hadley was approached by then Karate world middleweight champion Bill Wallace who'd asked the boxer for help on improving his punching prowess.

"Him and I started working together, which turned into several times per week. [The] sparring matches which were absolute wars," recalled Hadley in the attached video.

"I learned real quick that I could not say in the typical boxing stance with him [and] facing him directly because he's kick me in the stomach a few times and I realized I was gonna have to turn sideways."

Several months later, Arkansas Black Belt Champion David Valovich issued a challenge to Hadley who agreed to face him in a Boxing vs Karate affair.

"We got a lot of publicity about it because was boxer vs karate guy. Karate guy vs boxer. Who will win?," exclaimed Hadley.

"I was in really good shape at the time. Bill and I had been working out and knew I wasn't gonna run out of gas."

"I decided on the front end that I was going to be very aggressive [and] go to him and put pressure on him like he'd never seen before.

"Cus used to say pressure is not necessarily being hit, it's the threat of being hit. And pressure makes a person tired."

The well-documented quasi MMA fight between Hadley and Arkansas Karate Champion David Valovich happened on June 22, 1976 at Memphis Blues Baseball Park. Valovich was allowed to use his fists, feet and knees, while the Hadley could only use his fists.

The boxer stopped the Karate champ in less than a round.

 

 

 

 

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