Back To The Cruiserweight Division

25.07.05 - By Michael Amakor: What can you say about the Cruiserweight Division? For the past several years, the cruiserweight division has been battling in the throes of obscurity, and the last time the division generated any excitement was when a certain 1984 Olympic bronze medallist by the name of Evander Holyfield beat Dwight Mohammed Oawi in a sensational fifteen round slugfest back in 1986 to win the WBA Title. Holyfield went on to unify the titles in the division before leaving the division to become a Heavyweight.. Since his departure, there have been a host of vaguely recognizeable champions like Virgil Hill, Adolpho Washington, Imamu Mayfield, Uriah Grant, Nate Miller, to name a few, who have all lacked the star power to attract boxing fans to the division. This situation continued uuabated for several years further relegating the Cruiserweights to the dustbin of boxing divisions.

However, a few events are signaling the revival of the division; Not too long ago, the various alphabet organizations in their infinite wisdom increased the weight limit of the division from 190 to 200 pounds, in a long overdue move that is sure to retain talented fighters within the division. The second event happened in a well publicized boxing event this past April, when we watched WBA Champion Jean Marc Mormeck display fearsome punching power as he that backed up the WBC Champion “Big Truck” Wayne Braithwaite over twelve rounds, to annex his title, and become the first unified champion of the division since 1988.

Notwithstanding these great strides, a lot still needs to be done to garner more interest so that the division can afford to pay its top ranked championship contenders the prize money they deserve. This is important because several worthy champions of the division like James Toney, Juan Carlos Gomes, Al Cole, Orlin Norris, and Vassily Jirov, to name a few, have cited these reasons for leaving the division. However, these ill advised and desperate moves have been disastrous for their careers, as all of them have seen their stock fall dramatically in their fruitless searches for more money and a heavyweight title. Out of all of them, only James Toney made head way with his victory over John Ruiz for the WBA Heavyweight Belt.

Light Heavyweight Champions, are also notorious for skipping the cruiserweight division in their quest for glory, but have paid the price, in my opinion, for doing so. Two fighters come to mind immediatly; The first that I can remember was former WBO Light Heavyweight Champion Michael Moorer, who skipped the cruiserweight division entirely and campaigned for the rest of his career as a full fledged Heavyweight. However, few fights later, it became apparent that he had lost the fearsome punching power that had allowed him dominate the Light Heavyweights, and thereafter most of his fights ended in boring twelve round decisions.

Roy Jones Jr. also skipped the cruiserweight division right into a title winning victory over John Ruiz for the WBA Heavyweight Belt. Roy decided after that to go all the way back down from a solid 193 pound muscled champion to a 175 Light Heavyweight shadow to defend his titles against Antonio Tarver, with costly results, as Jones was viciously knocked out. I honestly believe that Roy Jones would have preserved his legacy a little longer if he did not ignore the cruiserweight division when he did. This sudden fluctuations in weight, going from light-heavy to heavyweight, wrecked his conditioning and contributed to his losing the second fight against Tarver, in my opinion. Four months later, Jones, again got frightfully knocked out by Glen Johnson in his next fight. In hindsight, Jones should not have subjected himself to that ordeal and instead should have fought as a Cruiserweight where he would have been sure to retain his conditioning and power.

The need for more fighters to revert back to the division became clearer to me when I watched Vassily Jirov and Orlin Norris battle each other to a majority draw a few days ago; both guys should serve as poster boys for what can happen when you leave your natural weight division, and move into the heavyweight division. I blame the 39 year old, Orlin Norris, less for damaging his career in his move upwards, because back in the day the limit was 190 pounds, so it is quite possible that he outgrew the division, or perhaps he was just too lazy to train to make the weight. Yet in Norris' last fight with Jirov, you could see that Norris still has something left in the tank, as he was able to go the distance with the younger Jirov, proving that he could be a more respectable force if he scales back down to the cruiserweight division.

You will have to agree with me that Norris was completely mismatched when he fought against against the giant heavyweights, Henry Akinwande and Vitali Klitchko in some of Norris'losing efforts in the Heavyweight Division.

Jirov, on the other hand, gets the most blame for making the same mistake that has turned his once blossoming career into an ongoing disaster. He should have consulted former cruiserweight champions like Al Cole and Juan Gomez, who would have likely have warned him about moving up to the Heavyweight Division. Jirov lost his very first fight in that division against Joe Mesi, he lost his very next fight against Michael Moorer, and has now battled Orlin Norris to a draw. By now, Jirov should understand that he does not have the power to be effective in the division, and should, as a matter of urgency, go back down to the Cruiserweight Division. He should do so before a few more losses force fans and boxing experts to perceive him as yet another journey man.

Personally, I would like to see Jirov match his wits against WBA and WBC champion Jean Marc Mormeck, in a fight that is sure to generate more interest in the division and secure for both fighters a huge pay day. After that, we should start clamoring for the winner to unify the division. Things will get very interesting when that happens because there are two fighters of British vintage lurking in the shadows waiting to spring a surprise on boxing fans, one of them is the unknown, but highly ranked WBO Champion Johnny Nelson and IBO Champion Carl “The Cat” Thompson, who once feasted on former champions Chris Eubank and Ralf Rocchigiani in dramatic fashion.

Another great fighter in the division is Wayne Braithwaite, who showed great courage in getting up from a knock down in his fight with Mormeck. He was able to switch styles under pressure and land a ferocious volley of punches that came close to stopping newly crowned IBF Champion O’Neil Bell dead in his tracks. Braithwaite should consider easing himself back into position by seizing the IBF title to prepare himself for a rematch with Mormeck or as a contender in a unification series.

On a final note, perhaps the fighters are not to blame for the state of the division, because I just read that Don King won the purse bid to promote a bout between Virgil Hill, and the unbeaten Russian, Valery Brudov for the WBA regular
cruiserweight title, which is now vacant because Jean Marc Mormeck was declared the Super champion. King usually puts together great fights, but I have to disagree with him on this one, as this is another meaningless fight contracted in hell, that will slow the momentum of interest in the division. But perhaps it is all for the better, as Brudov may force Virgil Hill to retire for good, and inject new fresh blood into the crowded deck of Cruiserweight Championship contenders.

Punch On

Article posted on 25.07.2005

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