50. Today I'm looking at the man who finished at No. 33 in my standings - Michael Moorer.
No. 33: MICHAEL MOORER (champion 1994)
Something of an enigma, Michael Moorer had a natural ability to wreak destruction with his powerful fists and possessed well-schooled boxing skills to boot; after 22 straight knockouts as a light-heavyweight he moved up to the heavyweight division where he won 13 successive fights, culminating in defeating a near-peak Evander Holyfield to win the Heavyweight title in 1994. At this point, the world was at Moorer's feet; however, he lost the title in his first defence to an aged George Foreman and would never fulfil his considerable potential.
When he won the title with a majority points verdict against Holyfield, Moorer became the first southpaw to become Heavyweight champion, and one of the few former light-heavyweight belt-holders to also succeed in winning the heavyweight crown. These were both laudable achievements, as was beating Holyfield before his long and gradual decline set in. However, when Moorer lost the title against 45-year-old Foreman, a single right hand knocking him out, his reputation took a huge knock. Moorer rebounded to win the lightly regarded IBF crown, but lost it in a rematch to Holyfield in 1997. A comeback three years later saw a decidedly patchy run of form, including a 30-second loss to David Tua in 2002.
Aside from the first Holyfield victory, Moorer's best wins were against Bert Cooper, Vaughn Bean, Frans Botha and Axel Schulz - a pretty thin CV. He destroyed everyone he faced at light-heavyweight, although the division was weak and he only held the lightly-regarded WBO bauble.
Emmanuel Steward, who moulded the young Moorer into a highly destructive and smooth boxing light-heavyweight, once remarked that his charge was the most "awesome puncher" he had seen at 175lbs, with power that "could make mountains crumble". Sadly, Moorer and Steward split after his wild and memorable war with Cooper in 1992, and thereafter the development of Moorer's skills and his physical conditioning were erratic as he skipped from trainer to trainer. Teddy Atlas coaxed a great performance out of him versus Holyfield, but it was, sadly, a one-off. Moorer had all the tools to become a dominant champion, but failed to nurture them or treat them with respect.
The mercurial Moorer was capable of displaying impressive bravery and determination; for example, he rose from the canvas in round 2 to beat Holyfield and took and threw lots of leather in that absolute heart-stopper of a thriller versus Cooper. However, although he took his punch up to heavyweight with him, his chin was a different story. Ultimately, Moorer's inability to withstand big shots or sustained pressure, coupled with his mental weaknesses, too often left him exposed.
His victory against Holyfield was a significant upset, but, sadly for Moorer, he is now more remembered for being on the receiving end of Foreman's mighty and fairytale-completing right than for any of his 52 victories from 57 fights.
Moorer was an under-achiever. After terrorising the light-heavyweight ranks and defeating Holyfield he had the potential to stake a claim for greatness. Ultimately, however, his mercurial conduct, conditioning and personality prevented him from reaching the heights which he was capable of; after his loss to Foreman, his career thereafter was the very definition of anti-climax.
Total marks (out of 50): 25
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N.B. For the purposes of consistency, this series of articles uses the fight records found on BoxRec. I'm aware that, particularly in the era of newspaper decisions, no contests etc there are possible different interpretations / statistics quoted in different sources. Any queries, check BoxRec and then contact me if you have a further query.
Luke G. Williams