One of the more underrated heavyweight champions, one of the so-called “Lost Generation” of heavyweights, who took turns holding a version of the world title in the 1980s, Mike Weaver added a whole lot to his weight division. Dubbed “Hercules” due to his ripped physique, Weaver served in Vietnam, and it was whilst a Marine that Weaver began boxing.
Weaver flattened the Marine Corps heavyweight champion, this due to a squabble the two men had over a song on the jukebox, and Weaver was told by all how he should become a fighter. Weaver didn’t even know he’d taken out the Corps champ! After a somewhat brief amateur career, Weaver went pro in September of 1972, aged 21.
After some initial setbacks, these in the form of three losses in his first four fights, two of them via stoppage, Weaver began to, in his own words, “take boxing seriously.” Additional losses came before Weaver got into his groove and became a contender, including two defeats at the hands of the Bobick brothers, Duane and Rodney, but by 1978 Weaver – with a record of 15-8(9) – was on his way to becoming an unlikely world champion.
An October 1978 KO win over Bernardo Mercado got people talking, while Weaver was then given a shot at WBC heavyweight boss Larry Holmes. This came in June of 1979 and a great fight ensued, one that saw Weaver, now nine years a pro, give Holmes hell before being stopped late.
But would Weaver ever become champ? Fans got their answer in dramatic fashion in March of 1980, when Weaver, trailing on points after 14 rounds of his fight with defending WBA heavyweight ruler John Tate, sensationally turned Tate’s world upside down with an in-close left hook to the jaw that landed flush on Tate’s jaw when there were just :45 clicks left on the clock.
Weaver’s reign would be quite short-lived, his title controversially taken from him by the itchy trigger finger of a referee who worked Weaver’s December 1982 fight with Mike Dokes.
Weaver, who was making his third defence, was caught early and floored, yet he was back up and defending himself on the ropes, only for Joey Curtis to dive in and stop the fight. It was over at the 1:03 mark. So, Weaver’s title reign had come into existence as the result of a KO that came desperately late in a fight, and it had ended as the result of a TKO that came, prematurely, inside a veritable flash at the very start of a fight. Weaver got a rematch with Dokes – the fight taking place 40 years ago today – yet he was again denied, this time courtesy of a hugely debatable 15 round draw that allowed Dokes to keep the belt.
Here, Weaver kindly takes the time to recall some key moments from his ring career:
On his early days:
“Vietnam was a major part of my life, and I did get into boxing while serving. But I don’t talk about that time, not even with my family. Not ever. I was naturally big at 6’1” and 200 pounds. I had a fight with another Marine over a fight I wanted on the jukebox. I knocked him out, and I later found out he was the boxing champion of the Marine Corps!”
On the biggest puncher he ever faced:
“[Bernardo] Mercado was the hardest puncher I ever faced. He put me down in our fight, and he had done it to me in sparring, too. He hit very hard.”
On the Holmes fight of 1979:
“I wasn’t scared of Holmes. I told everyone I was going to beat him, or at least give him the hardest fight of his life. They all just laughed. I pushed him real hard and I even scored a knockdown but the referee called it a slip. Holmes brought out his greatness in stopping me (in the 12th round).”
One the sensational KO over Tate:
“Early on, I never took boxing serious. But I was real serious for the Tate fight. I trained my hardest ever for that fight. I knocked him out with 45 seconds left in the fifteenth round. My team had told me, ‘What are you waiting for! Go out and knock him out now or else don’t bother coming back to this corner.’ It meant so much to me to become world champion. I was just an opponent, with nobody really building me up.”
On the controversial stoppage loss to Dokes and the rematch that followed:
“Dokes never hurt me [in the first fight]. I was actually told by friends that they (the Las Vegas officials) would find every reason they could to stop the fight. They told me not to take the fight. Afterwards, after what happened, I never again trusted the powers-that-be in the sport. My heart was never really in the sport any more, although I did continue to fight for a long while. In the second fight, I beat Dokes, but I couldn’t beat the system and they called it a draw.”
Weaver retired in late 2000, after a rematch loss to Holmes (“we were old guys than, just seeing what we could do”) – this with a more than somewhat deceiving 41-18-1(28) record.