“Terrible” Tim Witherspoon To Return July 1st - A Terrible Idea?

tim witherspoon23.05.07 - By James Slater: Joining the currently large number of veteran heavyweights who refuse to retire for good, former two-time heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon makes yet another comeback this coming July. Tim, now one year short of his half-century, boxes against a yet to announced opponent in Birmingham, England. Witherspoon’s having the desire to fight again when nearly fifty years of age is a quite shocking one, to say the least. His fighting days looked to be well and truly over back in 2003, the year the Philly boxer last made a ring appearance.

For four years ago, Tim was out pointed over ten rounds by one Brian Nix - the same Brian Nix, who, two fights later, would be stopped in three rounds by the then undefeated Audley Harrison. Before that loss, “Terrible” Tim was KO’d for one of the rare times in his long career, in five rounds by the soon-to-face Evander Holyfield, Lou Savarese. Coming back now, when he can surely be nothing more than four years older and who knows how many pounds heavier, can only be a bad idea, surely?

But Tim believes he still has something to offer. He even went as far as saying that more veteran heavyweights should be fighting again also. Perhaps he looks back at what George Foreman was able to accomplish and feels he can do likewise. Or maybe the forty-nine year old is only interesting in boxing in a ‘senior’s tour.’ Time will tell.

Choosing to launch this latest comeback in Britain is a curious move. Tim obviously feels he will pass the British Boxing Board of Control’s strict mental and physical exams adequately enough. For not to downgrade any State in particular, it is certainly a lot easier for a man who is not at all fit to fight to get a licence is specific places in America. We have seen enough evidence of this in the past. But Tim has chosen to box in Britain, therefore he must be confident he is one hundred percent fit and able to box. And good luck to him, too.

For while I do feel his return is one hell of a risky thing he’s partaking in - and in answer to the title of this article, I say yes - as a person I hope nothing bad happens to the likeable Witherspoon. Would it be better if he forgot his idea of joining the already veteran-cluttered heavyweight division? Of course it would. But it’s a free world, and Tim is therefore
free to do what he chooses to do.

A lot will be revealed by the eventual choice of opponent for the man who once ruled his weight class twice. And who knows, if carefully matched Tim just may get a further few wins under his belt. He will never get close to reviving his great days, however. Sure, Tim was a fighter smack bang in the middle of an era known as ‘The lost generation of heavyweights,’ but he was a damn fine fighter in his prime. An expanding waistline eventually spoilt a lot of his potential, but Tim gave some great ring performances all the same.

Who can forget his superb fight with the legendary Larry Holmes? Holmes was the unbeaten champ, Witherspoon was an unbeaten contender, and twelve action-packed rounds were the result. Tim had more than his share of good rounds, the ninth in particular was a sensational one for the then twenty-five year old. Larry retained via a desperately close and somewhat controversial split decision, but Tim had made a name for himself that night way back in 1983.

He would eventually go on to capture two versions of the splintered championship - the result of Larry’s decision to fight exclusively for the newly organised IBF. Tim won the vacant WBC belt with a points win over Greg Page ( one of only four men to ever stop Tim, in a return match in 1999!) and after losing that title on points to Pinklon Thomas, Tim won the WBA version with a points win over Tony Tubbs. In so doing, he became one of only a handful of two-time heavyweight champions - alphabet version only, of course. Only one successful defence of his second title followed - an eleventh round KO of Britain’s Frank Bruno - before the Philly fighter’s shock one round loss to James “Bonecrusher” Smith.

It could be argued that at that time Tim’s best days were already long gone. He found himself in the wilderness soon after the Smith defeat, the result of his court battles with Don King. And since then Witherspoon has never got close to becoming world champion again. His last good performances came in 1996. When on a previous comeback campaign, Tim KO’d the huge Cuban, Jorge Luis Gonzalez in five rounds and was then out pointed by the tough Ray Mercer in a fight many thought Tim had done enough to win. Since then Tim has gone 10-8-1, his last fight being the decision defeat to Nix.

Tim’s overall record stands at 55-13-1 (38) at the moment. Whether another win, another loss, or another draw is added to these stats, we will see in Birmingham, England on July 1st.

Article posted on 23.05.2007

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