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Lights Out in Little Rock

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

The boxing experts gave Waipahu’s Andy Ganigan only a puncher’s chance to beat world lightweight champion Sean O’Grady. As it turned out, that’s all he really needed.

Halloween night 1981 turned into a horror show for O’Grady, the 22-year-old ring technician who had just been recognized as the champion of the newly created World Athletic Association (WWA). Ganigan, 29, sparred with the champion in the first round before dropping him to the canvas three times in the second. The Little Rock, Arkansas crowd sat stunned as O’Grady, a Texas native who fought out of Oklahoma City, lay on the mat, his handlers rushing to his aid. It was a hard left to the body that knocked the champion down the final time, and referee Larry Hazzard called the fight due to the three-knockdown rule being in effect.

“I was prepared to go 15 [rounds], but I saw an opportunity to end it,” a jubilant Ganigan told the Honolulu Advertiser after the fight. “Sean was coming straight in – he wanted to mix it up – and I just connected. He is a great fighter, a champion. But he did the wrong thing today. He came straight in but met my left hand.”

What made Ganigan’s upset victory even more impressive was that he took the fight on two week’s notice. O’Grady was originally slated to defend his title against 1976 Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis.

While the WAA Title was far from prestigious – the short-lived organization was created by O’Grady’s father and trainer, Pat, after the younger O’Grady was stripped of his WBA crown – Ganigan used the win to land a world title bout against the great Alexis Arguello. On May 22, 1982 in Las Vegas, Ganigan knocked down Arguello in the first round but succumbed to the Hall of Fame fighter in the fifth.

O’Grady would go on to become a popular boxing analyst on the USA Network. Ganigan, one of Hawaii’s most beloved fighters, retired in 1983 and was inducted to the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. He died of liver cancer in 2012.

Here is a video of the Ganigan-O’Grady fight:

The front page of the Nov. 1, 1981 edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin & Advertiser’s sports section.

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