For whatever reason, precious few southpaws have managed, over the long history of boxing, to claim the world heavyweight title; yet on this day a quarter of a century ago, Michael Lee Moorer made a piece of boxing history by becoming the first-ever lefty to claim the ultimate crown. It was against legend and “Warrior” Evander Holyfield that former Kronk 175 pound terror Moorer did it, yet after the fight few people were talking about his win, the fight itself, or the history-making.
Instead, after a 12 round fight that was oddly bereft of action – oddly because Moorer was a proven puncher and Holyfield was rarely in a dull encounter – all of boxing was talking about Teddy Atlas and what the now star trainer had done between rounds as he worked Moorer and all but physically forced him to fight. Moorer, who was decked in round-two, fought conservatively throughout the fight, perhaps believing he was doing enough to pick up the rounds. Atlas disagreed. Strongly.
Atlas, who had replaced Kronk guru Emanuel Steward as Moorer’s latest trainer, bellowed at his reluctant warrior to “fight like we trained or else don’t come back to this f*****g corner!” Moorer, looking more shocked than he had been when put down by the defending heavyweight champ earlier in the fight, rose his game, at least a little bit.
It was mighty close on the cards after the 12 rounds were history, and Atlas’ anger and frustration at his fighter’s less than ravenous appetite for combat were now fully understood. Indeed, had one of the three scoring officials not scored the Holyfield knockdown round 10-10, all-even, the crown would not have changed hands. As it was, Moorer was the new king by way of a controversial majority decision.
But there was much to talk about after the fight. Atlas was, as mentioned above, the talk of the town, but there was also the small matter of the vanquished Holyfield’s “heart attack.” It was soon all over the news how Evander had been diagnosed with a faulty ventricle in his biggest fighting asset, and this was blown up big time. Had Holyfield actually suffered a heart attack during the fight, some asked?
A long evaluation in hospital later (along with a visit to a faith healer whose name escapes me right now!) Holyfield, after retiring for a short spell, was given a clean bill of health and, as it turned out, came back and gave us his finest, most exciting ring performances. As for Moorer, he would not enjoy a long reign as champ; beaten as he was in his first defence some seven months later. A certain heavyweight legend from a different era had watched (and re-watched) Moorer’s triumph over Holyfield, and he “knew” he could unseat the new boss.
Of course, Big George was right, as we all found out that November.
In the long history of the heavyweight division, Moorer W12 Holyfield holds a quirky distinction. No-one particularly enjoyed the fight, the most memorable action took place BETWEEN rounds, and the fight proved to be the precursor to a far bigger, more celebrated fight that ended with a modern day miracle. One that was only possible due to what happened 25 years ago today.