Three Merciless KO’s

Tommy MorrisonBy Ted Sares:

That shot he threw against Pegues, thank God his head didn't wind up in the third row…It was vicious, but that is what our sport is.

-- Promoter Dan Goossen.


Back when Ray Mercer was a major factor, he frequently lived up to his moniker of “Merciless.” These days, Ray needs more mercy than anything else having lost to Kimbo Slice in an exhibition affair he would have been better off skipping.

But back in the day, Mercer was a hard puncher, a great closer and no one had a better chin. . His fights with Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis were unforgettable and will always be a proud part of his legacy even though he lost both. And speaking of a legacy, his amateur career was outstanding including a Gold Medal at the 1988 Olympic Games. The thing was, when Ray was good, he was very good, but when he was not so good, well, let’s just say he could have done better (for example, against Larry Holmes, Jesse Ferguson and Marion Wilson and) leave it at that. Now let’s get to the Knockouts.

Tommy Morrison (1991)

After icing Francesco Damiani on January 11, 1991, with a single uppercut in the ninth round that broke the Italian’s nose (in a fight Ray was well behind in), he burst upon the scene as a force to be reckoned. At 17-0, he was matched with another force by the name of Tommy “The Duke” Morrison. The bout was held at the Convention Center in Atlantic City. Mercer’s WBO title was at stake.

The Duke, 28-0 at the time, started out strong with crisp and accurate combinations and looked as if he would take Ray’s measure as he dominated the first 4 rounds, but then the tightly wound Oklahoman started to gas at the end of the fourth. Ray quickly seized the opportunity and caught him in a corner in the fifth. He battered him unmercifully with at least 14 unanswered shots several which snapped Tommy’s neck back dangerously. He sagged like a rag doll and was slack-jawed. It was a horrible and scary thing to witness. Referee Tony Perez finally stopped the slaughter with only 28 seconds gone, but he could have (and should have) done it earlier as Tommy was savaged in one of the most brutal KO’s in boxing history.

Jeff Pegues (2001)

Ten years later, Ray did it again as he met the limited Pegues who was 18-7 at the time. This bout was held in Elgin, Illinois which reflected Ray’s decline as a major attraction. This time, Ray knocked Jeff into the ropes with a powerful right. Jeff leaned helpless and out on his feet as he was tangled in the ropes. Mercer then wound up and threw a right hand haymaker that connected flush on the poor 222 pound heavyweight out of Akron (and a Mike Tyson sparring partner) sending him out of the ring and rendering him totally unconscious. It was reminiscent of the Alex Ramos-James Kinchen fight in 1984 in which Kinchen had a free shot at Alex who was out on his feet, but in that one, it was an unnecessary shot in my opinion. In this one, it happened too fast for referee Genaro Rodriguez to stop it. Jeff would lose his remaining 8 bouts all by stoppage. In fact, His last 9 bouts lasted a total of just twenty rounds and it seems reasonable to conclude the Mercer KO “ruined” him in merciless fashion.

Don Steele (2001

Just a month later, Mercer met “The Man of Steel” at the Silver Star Casino in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Don, at 249 lbs, was 44-2 coming in, and remarkably each of his 44 wins came by way of early stoppage but against horrible opposition. Only two opponents had winning records (1-0 and 3-1)!

Ray used him as a punching bag throwing punishing jab after punishing jab until Don’s face broke up. It appeared Mercer was looking to get in some rounds, as he held back on his head shots and combos. Finally, he staggered the game Steele into the ropes with a hard jab in the fifth and followed up with, of all things, a malefic shot straight to Don’s less than hard mid-section. And for the second time in a row, a Mercer opponent was knocked out of the ring as if he had been catapulted. He went through the ropes, over the table and then onto the concrete floor. As Steele lay prone, some weird (or perhaps wired) fan jumped on top of him and seemed to smother him in an affectionate if not erotic embrace. That was one for my memory bank. At any rate, the fighters hugged one another and Mercer congratulated The Man of Steele for having a steel chin. Don finished with a deceptive mark of 45 (KO 44) - 6 (KO 5).

The Future

Ray continues on and seems to have found a friendly boxing environment in Sweden, but its clear (particularly after having been KOd by Shannon Briggs in 2005) that his best days are well behind him. He is scheduled to fight one Ivicia Perkovic (14-9) in Sweden later this month and I wish him well.

Article posted on 09.01.2009

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