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Forgotten Warriors: Joe Lasisi


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A Nigerian light heavyweight who fought Virgil Hill for his WBA title in 1989, only to get stopped in 7 rounds, in his own opinion unfairly, Lasisi was a rather unique case for an African fighter of that time. After losing that fight, he would only lose one more, a majority decision to David Vedder, in 1990. Lasisi was a 6'2 strongman who hit hard and scored 22 ko's in 25 wins. He was the first Nigerian to fight for the world light heavy title since Dick Tiger. This is his story.

 

Lasisi was born in Oju-Olokun, a neighborhood situated at the Lagos Island, a part of the city of Lagos, birth date not given. He fought as amateur and was said to be a terror there at national level with his punching power, but, for some reason, he was denied a place at the 1984 Olympic team, which went instead to Jerry Okorodudu, whom he already beat. Lasisi worked as a Customs Agent and believed that was why he was discriminated against by the national Olympic committee. He therefore had no better choice but start out as a pro, which he did in May 1983. After scoring 3 easy knockout wins, he fought Okorodudu for the first time in the pros and beat him by a TKO8, after Okorodudu had to retire with a broken arm. Funnily enough, Okorodudu then accused Lasisi of using black magic to beat him! With that win, he won the Nigerian light heavy title and he defended it twice before vacating it to fight for the West African title, which he won in December '85 by TKO2 against George Menesah Klingenberg. After defending that one once by ko, he won the African title as well by defeating none other than the outstanding Lottie Mwale by KO8. That would remain his most impressive achievement. He made one defense of that title, again by KO8, against Ray Acquaye. He then set his sights towards America and started fighting there. His first fight there was on 28 October '87 and against the 9-0-2 Sergio Daniel Merani. Lasisi was again impressive and made Merani retire on his stool after 3 rounds. Next year, he beat the future heavyweight contender Jesse Shelby by TKO1 and Mike Sedillo by RTD8, and then beat the future IBF cruiser champion Uriah Grant by UD10, also knocking him down once. His ratings went up with those victories.

 

In December that same year, he once again fought Okorodudu and once again, the match ended controversially, after Okorodudu quit in the 8th, claiming he was thumbed. He was now ready to challenge for a world title, his record 20-0 with 18 ko's. His opponent turned out to be the WBA champion, Virgil "Quicksilver" Hill, an excellent technician who had a sneaky left hook. The fight was originally going to be in New York, at least according to Lasisi himself, but Hill's manager pushed for Bismarck isntead, which was Hill's home base. Lasisi already knew Hill from before and had sparred with him. Because of the extreme weather differences between North Dakota and Nigeria, Lasisi was affected by the cold climate of Bismarck. The fight happened on 27 May 1989 and Lasisi was put down late in the first round by a counter left. It looked like more a matter of bad balance than the punch being so hard. He came back and threw many punches, but had trouble landing against the elusive Hill. Hill kept moving and jabbing while Lasisi kept chasing him. In the fifth, he managed to knock Hill off balance with a chopping right, but was unable to follow up properly. He still landed some good shots and bullied the champion, but Hill returned the fire. He also had some success in the sixth and looked like he won it, but in the seventh he was suddenly hit by a surprise left while rushing towards Hill and then another one badly hurt him. Hill then jumped him and hit him with a follow up combination against the ropes and the ref jumped in and waved it off with 1 minute and 4 seconds left. It did look premature, as Lasisi was still on his feet and didn't look completely out of it. Still, his protests were useless and he had to go home empty handed. He came back in December that year, fighting at home in Lagos, and won an easy fight against a debuting fighter by KO2. In 1990, he first beat Keith McMurray on points, before fighting the tough and rugged David Vedder, who also lost against Hill previously. He dropped a close majority decision to the American in Vegas, and that was pretty much the end of his career. He retired but came back briefly in December 1995 and on 29 November 1996 he won the African light hw title one more time by KO11 against the 11-0 Onebo Maxine, which was rather impressive. He didn't defend it and instead was away from the ring until 1999, when he had his last fight against Hollar Mathe, whom he defeated by TKO2.

 

Joe Lasisi was a man who never had the odds on his side, first as amateur and later as a pro. However, he still managed to reach the bright lights of world championship boxing, only to be stopped prematurely. He was a never say die fighter who was physically very strong and muscular and a formidable offensive fighter, however his defensive abilities were less than great-which is why he lost to Hill like he did. However, losing to a guy as skilled as Hill was no shame. Only a pity he wasn't able to get another big fight, but that was a common story back then for African fighters or fighters from another continent than North America in general. That is why he is a FORGOTTEN WARRIOR!

 

Lasisi_Joe.jpg

 

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