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Hacine Cherifi


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One of those guys that seemingly came out of nowhere and made a big upset, Cherifi is mostly known for his upset victory over Keith Holmes, where he won the WBC middle title. Cherifi was a strong and capable swarmer, who liked to fight on the inside, roughen his opponents up and constantly bombard them with punches. He is one of very few French middleweight champions in history. Unfortunately, in the rematch with Holmes, he lost his title by way of a stoppage that many thought was premature. 

Born 12 December 1967 in the big city of Lyon, east France, Cherifi is of Moroccan heritage. He officially stands at 5'11, though at the first Holmes fight he was listed as 5'9. There are no records of him fighting as amateur and he had his first pro fight 16 December 1989, 3 days after turning 22. He lost it on points to Zacharie Mulamba. He then won 8 fights before losing again 20 January 1994 by TKO 8 to Gino Lelong, who was far more experienced, in a fight for the French Federation title. He however won this same title on 1 April next year, by stopping Thierry Trevillot by TKO 6. He defended it against the future Euro champion Erland Betare by TKO 2. On 19 October 1996, he fought against Alexander Zaytsev for the European title in Berck, France, and won after 12 rounds on points. He defended it next year against Branko Sobot by UD and Neville Brown by TKO 6, before landing a fight for the WBC super middle title against Robin Reid. The fight was in Cheshire, England, on 11 September, and ended as a split decision loss for Cherifi-Reid would go on to lose the title in his next defense.

He then went back down to his natural weight of 160 to challenge the reigning WBC champion Keith Holmes, who was 6'2 and a very good boxer-puncher. The fight happened on 2 May 1998 at Villeurbanne, France and would be Cherifi's crowning achievement, as his swarmer style offset Holmes who was more an outside fighter, being so long and rangy. Cherifi beat up Holmes in many rounds and even though he got knocked down by a right hook in round 9, he proceeded to dominate the fight and in the end deservedly got the victory from all 3 judges. Holmes later excused his poor performance on having the flu shortly before the fight, but it was obvious Cherifi's style did not suit him at all. The newly crowned champion had one non-title fight in October that year, beating Anthony Ivory on points. He was supposed to have a rematch against Homes in February '99, but he suffered an injury and it instead was pushed to 24 April-this time however, he had to come to Holmes' home turf of Washington DC. Cherifi was in distress before the fight because his wife was to give birth soon, but he again put on a good performance and the fight went on pretty much like the first one-until round 7, when Holmes first hurt him with a left hook and a few follow up punches. Cherifi was driven to the ropes, where Holmes started unloading on him. After connecting with a big left and a right, the referee Frank Cappuccino stepped in and waved it off-to immediate protests from Cherifi. The commentators agreed the stoppage seemed a tad premature, since Cherifi had not sustained any significant damage prior to that round and not all punches had landed cleanly. Still, despite that, the result remained a TKO 7-loss and Cherifi was no longer the champion. He had also suffered a cut above his brow as a result of accidental head clash in round 3. 

He had lost but performed admirably once again and was likely a victim of preferential refereeing. Holmes was Don King's man-enough said. He went back on track and won 4 fights before getting to fight the WBA champion, William Joppy. Joppy, a man more of his height at 5'9, was in his peak and dominated most of the fight. The fight took place 16 September 2000 at the MGM Grand and Cherifi was down in rounds 8 and 9 but as usual, being the tough man he was, lasted the distance. He of course lost by clear margins, 119-106 and 118-107 twice. He was obviously past his prime, but kept on fighting and in 2001 he fought Harry Simon for the WBO interim title in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The younger Simon proved to be too much for the 33-year old Cherifi but once again, Cherifi lasted the distance and lost on points, with a somewhat less wide margin this time. On 11 May next year, he was chosen as the opponent of Felix Trinidad, in what was supposed to be his farewell fight after his first loss the previous year. Here Cherifi would be stopped for only the second time in his career, as he went down in round 3 and twice in round 4 before the fight was stopped. He reclaimed the French Federation title by beating the rather solid Christophe Tendl by UD. On 25 July 2003 he fought Howard Eastman for the European title but suffered too much punishment and retired in his corner after round 8. 

He was also stopped later that year by Brian Magee, in a fight for the IBO super middle title, by TKO 8. After losing the French Federation title on points to Anthony Mezaache, he fought Felix Sturm on 4 December 2004 and after getting hit with a hard body shot in round 3, he could make the count and thus lost by KO for the first and only time in his career. In 2005, he scored his last victory over the weak Michel Noto, by PTS8, before fighting Danish Rudy "Hardhitter" Markussen on 17 June in Aarhus and getting stopped by TKO1 after being down twice. He finally retired after one bad loss too many, at the age of 37. His final record is 36 wins, 20 by ko, 12 losses and 1 draw. 

He was known under the alias "Billy" as a boxer. Hacine Cherifi was a tough and strong and hardworking fighter who managed to upset what was back then probably the best middleweight in the world, Keith Holmes, or at least the second best one after Bernard Hopkins. He never received a third fight offer from Holmes, which I think would be fair given the circumstances of how he lost and that he already beat him. But Holmes obviously wasn't keen on fighting him again. Cherifi had good punching accuracy and hit pretty hard, plus he could take a good punch too. He might have not had the best defense and was likely vulnerable to counter punches, because that is the one that Holmes dropped him with in the first fight and also the one he first hurt him with in that second fight, before the stoppage. He still had a good career and was one of three French world champions for a while, which was a rare thing. Thank you.

Photographes en Rhône-Alpes::[Hacine Cherifi, champion de France de boxe  poids moyens]

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