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Maurice "Mo Bettah" Harris


BoztheMadman
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A heavyweight contender who didn't have a too successful career, but still managed to upset some good fighters and was involved in some exciting fights, Maurice "Mo Bettah" Harris was a rather skilled fighter who didn't score too many knockouts but could also hit pretty good-to that attests his upset-ko of Siarhei Liakhovich, who was an undefeated contender at the time. At 6'4 he was tall enough and with an 80-inch reach rangy enough to compete with the modern-era heavyweights. Harris definitely had the talent to become successful, but something kept him from reaching his potential. He was simply not always equally good.

Wilbur Maurice Harris was born 21 February 1976 in East Orange, New Jersey, and also grew up there. He was trained by the former middleweight contender William Bo James and promoted by dr. Mario Yagobi of 360 Boxing promotions. Harris turned pro aged only 16, in 1992, first fighting as a light heavy. His early career was not very successful and he lost 7 of his first 15 fights and drew 2. On 21 June 1994, he fought in his second heavyweight match against future contender Zuri Lawrence, who was making his pro debut, and the fight ended a draw after 4 rounds. Later that year, he was knocked out in 3 by the much smaller Vaughn Bean. Next year, he fought the cruiserweight Dale Brown and lost by another KO3. His first upset came on 15 March 1996, when he took on the 18-0 Nigerian contender, David Izon, at the Convention Center in Atlantic City. Despite suffering a knockdown, Harris went on to outbox Izon and win by UD8. Later that year however, in July, he was again knocked out in 3, this time by Gerald Nobles.

On 20 May 1997, he produced another upset by knocking out the hard-hitting Samoan Jimmy Thunder with a single left hook in round 7. The fight was aired on "Tuesday Fight Nights". On 29 July, he faced the aging legend Larry Holmes at Madison Square Garden and lost to him by a disputed SD10. He managed to go without losing for a while after that and he also upset Jeremy Williams, the 34-2 knockout sensation, on 19 June 1999. Despite taking the fight on short notice, Harris won convincingly on all scorecards in 10 rounds at Madison SG. After also beating Israel Cole by UD10, he signed to fight the big and the big-punching Derrick Jefferson, who stood 6'6 and was undefeated at 21-0. In a very wild and exciting and brutal fight, Harris was down twice in the second round but also decked Jefferson in that same round. The fight went back and forth until the sixth, when Jefferson connected with a MASSIVE left hook that left Harris unconscious on the canvas. This made The Ring KO OF THE YEAR. 

2001 was a bad year for Mo Bettah, as he was first decisioned by the slicker and smaller Chris Byrd in a fight for the IBF USBA title and then knocked out in 1 round by the 6'7 Brit Henry Akinwande. He would come back to score his last great upset against the Belarusian Siarhei "White Wolf" Liakhovich, on 1 June 2002 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Liakhovich was 16-0 and equally tall as Harris, but not known for his power. He was doing well with his boxing skills until round 9, when Harris first hurt him with several overhand rights and then knocked him out with a left hook. This would be a foreshadowing of things to come for Liakhovich, as he also later lost his WBO title by a last-round ko against Shannon Briggs, after dominating. To top off the year, on 30 November, Harris won the "Thunderbox Tournament" put together by promoter Cedric Kushner. He avenged his earlier loss to Gerald Nobles by beating him on points in the first round and in the final beat Tony Thompson, showing his talent.  Harris then faced the solid Puerto Rican contender Fres Oquendo, 1 March 2003 in Las Vegas. He was down in round 4 from an overhand right-left hook combo, but got up and proceeded to win many rounds. He was ahead on all cards by 86-84 when he was hit in round 10 with another left hook-overhand right combo and got knocked out.

On 14 2006, he was stopped by the gigantic 6'8 Tye Fields, a puncher. He retired in his corner after 4 rounds of punishment. He took a couple years off from boxing, before he returned by beating the even-bigger 7'1 Julius Long on points and also decisioned Nagy Aguilera for the IBF USBA title, both in 2010. Next year however, he faced Tony Thompson in a real 12-round fight and was stopped by him in 3 rounds in a fight where Harris looked lethargic and was down twice before being stopped on his feet. His last significant victory was against the fringe contender Derric Rossy, whom he stopped by TKO12 in a defence of the IBF USBA title, 16 July 2011 (less than two months after the Thompson fight). That was his final achievement and the rest of his career would be very forgettable and he finished his career with three first-round ko losses, to Alexander Ustinov and Kubrat Pulev in 2015 and finally to Ivan Dychko in 2018. 

Maurice Harris had been active for 26 in all, with only 3 shorter breaks in between. He was 42 when he finally retired and left behind a record of 26 wins with 11 ko's, 22 losses and 3 draws. A record that stands in contrast with his abilities. It is safe to say that he is one of the bigger wasted or unfulfilled talents in heavyweight history, but he still scored some good victories and pulled some big upsets, so he can't be too disappointed with his career. Mighty Mo, we salute you.

Maurice_Harris.jpg

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Cracking read, Boz. Really wish the 90's had all the channels and streaming sites we have now. I took an interest in Harris career and your article highlights what a rollercoaster it was. Would've been great to follow his career live.

Certainly had talent but unpredictable in a division with huge depth.

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