Sharkie's Machine: 'A Great Fight Starring Jean Marc Mormeck'

03.04.05 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr.: The Cruiserweight division got interesting Saturday night in Wooster Mass., where WBA Cruiserweight Champion Wayne Braithwaite (21-1-0-17 KO's) lost his title to Frenchmen, Jean Marc Mormeck (31-2-0-21 KO's). It was a battle that saw Braithwaite go down for the first time in his career and lose his first professional fight.

If you're a hardcore fight fan in the USA, you've heard about Mormeck, seen his name at the top of the rankings and yet never seen him fight. Mormeck is a stocky figure, 198-pounds at five-feet, eleven inches. He's got a chiseled physique and a blonde beard that finely lines his dark skinned jaw. He has a no nonsense demeanor and has won his last 28 fights..

Most who know Braithwaite, enjoy his tenacity in the ring and his aggressive, 'kick your ass' kind of style. He's about the most exciting fighter in his division today. But Braithwaite's anxious aggressiveness turned against him Saturday, wasting too much energy in the first round and going into the next breathing heavily.

The Guyanese Brooklynite had to be frustrated that he landed so many clean shots to the body and the head without making so much as a dent in his opponent-Jean Marc Mormeck, who now holds both WBA and WBC Belts.

Leading up to this fight, Wayne did a lot of talking, saying he would knock Mormeck out, etc., etc., etc. But-talk does not win fights. Mormeck took a humble approach and reaped the rewards for doing his talking in the ring instead of in the press.

The Fight

Braithwaite started the first round aggressively, throwing a barrage of power punches intent on ending things early. That was a bad strategy that compromised his energy. Braithwaite is a natural fighter, his style shifts back and forth from southpaw to conventional and he often lands punches from awkward angles.

I picked Wayne to beat the Frenchmen-which I've only heard about and never seen in action. Mormeck turns out to be a great asset to the European boxing circuit.

Mormeck, who is an inch shorter but weighed about ten pounds more than Braithwaite, was patient, or what some refer to as being a slow starter. He had a rock solid chin and took the best Braithwaite could offer without ever flinching.

By the second round, Braithwaite was already breathing heavily. Mormeck was cutting off the ring and pressing Braithwaite into the ropes, where he worked him with a variety of punches. Uppercuts, hooks, straight rights, overhand rights, the works. He scored at a high percentage and Braithwaite was wobbled but survived the pounding and was getting his legs back as the
round came to a close.

Braithwaite was noticeably exhausted. His corner drenched the canvas with water-to delay of the start of the third round for a clean up. Whenever I see this, I know the fighter in that corner is looking for some extra time. Mormeck didn't need to understand English to read what Braithwaite was doing and why.

In the third, they boxed. Both scored some. Mormeck landed a nice right to the face that stunned Braithwaite and seemed to zap some of his confidence. Wayne moved back and tried to set a safer distance from which to operate. When Mormeck would move in, Braithwaite would hold. After a while, the ref warned him about it. Braithwaite became aggressive late in the round and landed several clean shots. Mormeck showed a good beard and scored a few well-placed punches of his own as the round came to a close. Braithwaite scored more often but Mormeck scored the more damaging punches.

In the fourth, Braithwaite was warned for pushing. He was having a hard time keeping Mormeck at a comfortable distance. Mormeck would drive him into the ropes and score with accurate punches that were hurting him.

As the fight progressed, Braithwaite looked ever more fatigued as he was warned several times for holding, holding behind the head and pushing. Mormeck was clearly winning all the rounds and in the fifth, Braithwaite looked ready to drop after a flurry of accurate punches rocked him against the ropes.

Wayne kept ending up on the ropes and he was paying for it. His corner (and even his mother/manager in the audience) said he needed to stay off the ropes. Mormeck had the advantage in that scenario yet Braithwaite kept allowing himself to be steered there. Wayne was fighting on instinct and was getting easier to hit as the rounds went by.

Had Braithwaite made the adjustment to keep to the center ring, box from the outside, and take advantage of his longer reach, he might have had more success. But somehow, it seemed a hopeless cause for Braithwaite, who fought bravely but was simply out classed by Mormeck, who had the superior boxing skills on the inside and a thick, solid body that could take Wayne's best punches. Braithwaite landed numerous, flush, body shots but Mormeck never wavered.

In the seventh, Wayne used whatever reserves of energy he had and came out slugging. He was popping Mormeck with all kinds of shots that HAD to be doing some damage. But Mormeck moved in and just landed an overhand right that sent Braithwaite to the canvas for the first time in his career. Braithwaite held as often as he could get away with and survived the round.

In the eighth, Mormeck continued to score well and a right hand punch opened a cut on Braithwaite's left eye. Wayne looked so sluggish in the eighth; I doubted he'd survive the round. He got a point deducted for holding and things were looking bleak but Braithwaite surprised the crowd and Mormeck with a sudden burst of energy and scored all over Mormeck with some good shots. He would have stolen that round with his heroic stand but since he lost a point, it was a 9-9 round.

The ninth round was delayed again, to fix tape on Braithwaite's glove. It was another intentional tactic to give Wayne some extra recovery time. It mattered not though because Mormeck put a beating on Braithwaite all through the ninth.

By the tenth round, Braithwaite had finally found his range and was out boxing Mormeck effectively for the first time since the first round.

In the eleventh, Mormeck made adjustments and showed that he too, could box from the outside, as he landed his jab with accuracy and regularity. Braithwaite did well but it was only enough to score the round even.

In the final round, knowing he needed a knockout to win, Braithwaite continued boxing from the outside, looking for an opportunity that would never come. Suddenly, Mormeck committed to boxing outside and out boxed the boxer, landing his jab regularly and effectively from outside. Braithwaite seemed to give up on the notion that he could knock Mormeck out and just boxed uncommitted, until the bell rang. Mormeck won the last round to cap things off.

They hugged at the end of the fight. Braithwaite was humbled and Mormeck proved to be a gentleman. Whatever hard feelings there were before the fight-were gone. Respect rightly ruled the moment.

The official scores were 114-112, 115-111 and 116-110 all for Mormeck. I scored it 117-109 for Mormeck.

* * *

If Mormeck gives Braithwaite a rematch, it would be interesting to see what strategy Wayne might employ that would work against such a difficult opponent in Mormeck. After what I saw Saturday night, I can't imagine he can find one.

But Braithwaite might do better than last time, considering what he learned from this valuable experience. Who knows, after being undefeated for 21 fights, this might be his best learning experience and make him a better fighter. At 29 years old, Braithwaite's still young enough to learn new tricks. He has the right attitude and as he showed even in defeat-he is truly a Warrior.

Now that Mormeck has two of the four most recognized Belts, there are still two more out there to be had if unifying the division is his goal. Cruiserweight is not exactly stacked with talented contenders but WBO titlest Johnny Nelson would be a good choice for his next defense, as would Kelvin Davis (who I believe has been stripped of his IBF Title). O'Neil Bell and Valery Brudov might also be logical next opponents.

It's really surprising that the 200-pound weight class would have so few great fighters. I'll bet if guys like Chris Byrd, DaVarryl Williamson or James Toney were fighting at Cruiser, it would be a more exciting division. It's understandable why they go up to HW; that's where the bigger paydays are. But guys like Mormeck and Braithwaite could make great fights with a lot of guys who call themselves HW's these days.

If I could pick Mormeck's next opponent, it would be James Toney, who now campaigns at HW. That would have been an interesting match up for Mormeck. But Toney talks even more than Braithwaite-and from what I saw Saturday night, Mormeck knows how to make big talkers accountable. It's disappointing that Toney moved up to HW. He's really a blown up Cruiser.
Toney is the one man I'd most want to see Mormeck fight. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen.

If, somehow, John Ruiz beats Toney bad enough, he'll consider a move back to Cruiser. But if he did, I doubt he'd be looking to fight Mormeck. Maybe a Sione Asipelli or Jason Robinson type or someone we've never heard of will be more up Toney's alley.

Congratulations to Jean Marc Mormeck, who fought the perfect fight against Wayne Braithwaite.

Braithwaite is a very tough fighter and I have no doubt that he'll be back. He might be the one to chase the IBF and WBO Titles before Mormeck gets to them. For now, he just does not match up well with Mormeck. But things change.

* * *

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Article posted on 03.04.2005

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