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Michael Moorer-Southpaw Glory


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The first southpaw to become a world heavyweight champion and only the third light heavyweight champion to also win the world heavyweight title, Michael Moorer is a name and a figure who, despite the aforementioned achievements, often is neglected today when people talk of the best names of the 90's, or is mentioned only as a sidenote to his more famous adversaries such as Evander Holyfield and George Foreman. Moorer was a capable and hard-hitting fighter who was physically very strong, despite not being a big heavyweight, and hit hard enough to be successful as a heavyweight, after starting his pro career as as light heavyweight. This is the story of "Double M" and his rise and fall from glory.


He was born in Monessen, a small town outside Pittsburgh, November 12 1967, full name Michael Lee Moorer. He played football in high school and then took up boxing, which became his great love. He moved to Detroit at some point to train in the Kronk Gym, under Emmanuel Steward of course. He turned pro March 4 '88, fighting as a light heavyweight. He won his first fight by TKO1 against Adrian Riggs. His first 11 fights didn't go past round 4 and then in his 12th he beat Ramzi Hassan, a tough Jordanian fighter, by TKO 5 to win the vacant WBO title, becoming the organization's first light heavyweight champion and in his very first pro year! Hassan had only been stopped once previously-in 12 rounds by John Willis. Moorer became the terror of the division and major names avoided him. He made 9 defenses of the WBO belt, most notably stopping Leslie Stewart by TKO 8 in 1989. Struggling to make the weight constantly, walking around at over 200 pounds, Moorer chose to move to heavyweight, ending his light heavyweight career with a perfect record of 22-0, all knockouts. He had his heavyweight debut April 19 '91 against Terry Davis and won by TKO 2. In his fourth heavyweight fight, he had an exciting but rather short showdown against Alex "Destroyer" Stewart; Moorer dropped Stewart twice in first round but Stewart came back in the second and shook him with a series of right hands. Moorer recovered and came back, knocking Stewart out with three devastating uppercuts in round four. Early next year he faced his biggest opponent ever-in terms of size: Mike White, 6'10 and 275 pounds. Moorer showed no fear and put White down in the first and tenth and the last round, but the bell saved White from getting knocked out and so Moorer had to settle for a unanimous decision.


On May 15 '92 he had his first unforgettable fight: the WBO title showdown against Bert Cooper. Cooper had come off a loss to Holyfield where he put Holyfield down for the first time in his career and he would do the same to Moorer, who had never been down previously, early in round one when he hit him with a series of lefts and rights which put Moorer thru the ropes. Moorer looked hurt but he got up and came back, putting Cooper on the canvas with a right and a left. Cooper again bounced back in the third round and again put him down with a series of blows as Moorer was against the ropes. Moorer finally ended the fight in his favor in round five with a beautiful series of punches, culminating with a right uppercut that put Cooper on the canvas, unable to beat the count. Moorer vacated the WBO belt soon however, intending to fight for the main ones. He got his wish when he was chosen as Evander Holyfield's first title defense after Holyfield reclaimed the WBA and IBF belts from Riddick Bowe. It was April 22 1994 at Caesars Palace and Moorer would make history by becoming the first southpaw to win a world heavyweight championship. Despite being put down by a left hook to the side of the head in round two, Moorer bounced back and had a great round five where he hurt Holyfield against the ropes with several shots. The fight was even and Holyfield took over in the next couple rounds before Moorer, urged on by his new trainer Teddy Atlas, came back strong to snatch the late rounds and with that the titles by majority decision.


But this great moment of glory would soon fade when he was chosen to fight George Foreman in his first defense. Foreman had unsuccessfully challenged Holyfield before for the undisputed championship and lost to Tommy Morrison in the fight for the very belt Moorer had vacated. Moorer was a 3-1 betting favorite and was guaranteed a 7 million purse. It was November 5 '94, exactly a week before Moorer's 27th birthday, at MGM Grand in Vegas. Nobody could have expected what was to happen as Moorer took control of the fight from the start and outboxed and outpunched Foreman for most of the first 9 rounds. It looked like another disappointing loss for Foreman and an easy payday for the much younger man, younger by nearly 19 years. After 9 rounds, with Moorer ahead by 5 points on two of the scorecards and 1 on the third, the unthinkable happened: Foreman chased Moorer and then threw a right that landed but not quite cleanly. He then threw another right that hit the target and down went Moorer, just like that. He was unable to beat the count and just looked helplessly on as the referee reached the count of ten. While the whole boxing world celebrated the grand return of Big George as a world champion after 20 years, Michael Moorer's career was in tatters. It was a huge blow to both his unbeaten record of 35-0 and his esteem. He was back in the ring after 6 months and beat Melvin Foster by UD10. He was then away from the ring for a year before going to Germany to fight Axel Schulz for the vacant IBF title, June 22 1996. Moorer dominated the first six rounds against a sluggish Schulz, who turned it up in round seven but was never a real threat to Moorer, who in the end was victorious by split decision and could thus lift his third world title belt.


He made his grand comeback on American soil by defending against Frans Botha aka The White Rhino. Botha at 6'2 was the same size as Moorer and weighed 5 pounds more, but was wobbled by Moorer in round three and knocked down twice in round eleven, before Moorer stopped him against the ropes in the twelfth and last round. The fight was on the undercard of Holyfield-Tyson I, November 9 at the MGM Grand. Moorer made one more defense against Vaughn Bean, undefeated at 27-0. The small but nimble 5'11 Bean made it a dull fight with his cautious approach. Moorer on the other hand was constantly chided by Atlas to pick up the pace. The two parted ways after the fight, Atlas leaving due to his disappointment over Moorer. He then signed for a rematch with Holyfield with Freddie Roach taking over as his new trainer. The fight again happened close to his birthday, November 8, which would prove to be bad luck for Moorer. He looked rather pudgy in the middle as he stepped into the ring. The fight began well for Moorer, who staggered Holyfield at the end of the first round with a right hand under the chin. Holyfield began to assert himself in the third and attacked Moorer's body. A vicious left hook-straight right combination dropped Moorer for the first time in the fight in the fifth. He got up and survived the round. He was however down twice more in the seventh round, both from right uppercuts and got up again. In the eight, he went down twice more from explosive combinations and as the round ended, the fight was stopped on the advice of doctor. Moorer protested the stoppage, saying he was ready and able to continue, but it was obvious he was not doing well.


That fight effectively spelled the end of his successful career and even though he came back 3 years later in 2000, in August 2002 he was knocked out in 30 seconds by the extremely heavy-handed David Tua and in 2004 dropped a decision to then-undefeated Eliseo Castillo. His last hoorah came in a fight with former cruiserweight champion Vassily Jirov, at the end of that 2004: Jirov was well ahead after 8 rounds when Moorer landed a straight left that put the Kazakh out of the game in round 9. He also knocked out Cliff Couser in 1 round and retired in 2008 after scoring another KO1 against unknown Rich Boruff. His record is 52 wins, 40 by ko, 4 losses and 1 technical draw. After retirement he was given a job by his old trainer Freddie Roach, working as his assistent. He was however fired in June 2009, only a year later, "due to a conflict of personalities that had been creating issues amongst wild card stable." In 2011, he returned to his hometown of Monessen in Pennsylvania, to raise his family. He is the father of four children.


Michael Moorer was one of the most talented heavyweights of the 90's, that so-underrated generation, but his success there was rather short-lived. Attitude problems and weight problems seemed to take their toll on him during his championship reigns. He had temper issues and it seems he never was too fond of training and staying in shape. Which is a shame, because he could have perhaps done more otherwise.

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