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Barry Hugman's World Championship Boxing
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Cruiserweight World Champions & Their Championship Fights (200lbs)
The cruiserweight division had its first champion when Marvin Camel won the WBC title on 31 March 1980, but it would not be until Carlos De Leon had relieved him of his belt on 25 November 1980 and had signed up for a rematch that my version of the 'world' title would be on the line. Coming into the fight with 31 wins and two defeats on his slate, the hard-punching De Leon, who had a good array of shots to call upon, was recognised as the top-rated man in the division by the Boxing News, with Camel placed at number two. As a member of the Flathead Indian tribe, Camel, a southpaw who had 40 wins, two draws and three defeats on his record since starting out in June 1973, could always be relied upon to put in a solid performance.
24 February 1982. Carlos De Leon w rsc 7 (15) Marvin Camel
Venue: Playboy Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Juan Jose Guerra.
Fight Summary: Getting solid blows off from the start De Leon (182¾) was soon in charge, and in the third round Camel (183½) was hurt by a cracking left hook, finishing the session with a bad cut over the right eye. Although Camel kept going with the southpaw jab he was unable to stop the champion’s right hand regularly smashing into his features, causing even more blood to flow. At the end of the seventh, with Camel’s face badly bloodied and swollen, it was no surprise when the doctor advised the referee to stop the fight.
The next man up for De Leon would be S. T. Gordon, an aggressive, hard-punching fighter with 17 wins and five defeats on his record. At least three of those defeats came at the hands of men he was giving away a lot of weight to, one of those being Gerry Cooney, while only two of his victims had lasted the distance. The fight that got him a shot at the title had come in his most recent contest when defending his NABF title, Yaqui Lopez being stopped inside seven rounds at the MGM Grand Hotel, Reno, Nevada on 24 July.
27 June 1982. S.T. Gordon w rsc 2 (15) Carlos De Leon
Venue: Front Row Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.
Fight Summary: Following a fairly even opening round, when the champion was caught by a big right to the jaw after taking the fight to Gordon (189), a barrage of blows put him on the floor. Forced to take the mandatory ‘eight’ count it was soon clear that De Leon (187) was still dazed, and after being backed into a corner and taking a steady shellacking from both hands the referee stopped the contest with nine seconds of the session remaining. In the aftermath, the winner claimed he was unaware until shortly before the fight that the WBC had increased the weight-class limit from 190 to 195lbs. He went on to say that had he known he would have obviously come in heavier.
16 February 1983. S.T. Gordon w rsc 8 (12) Jesse Burnett
Venue: Byrne Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Vincent Rainone.
Fight Summary: Defending for the first time Gordon (194) started aggressively when taking the opening three rounds, stunning Burnett (183) in the third with a left hook before the latter came back strongly in the fourth. Burnett began well in the fifth, but was being broken down by the end of the session as the champion hit back hard. Stepping the pace up in the seventh Gordon began to up the ante before unleashing his full armoury in the eighth, and after battering Burnett with heavy blows from both hands a right to the head dropped the latter at the end of the session. After getting up and staggering to his corner, the befuddled Burnett was stopped from continuing by the referee seven seconds into the interval.
Having lost his WBC title to Gordon, Carlos De Leon would have an opportunity to regain his laurels when matched to challenge his conquerer. Since his defeat at the hands of Gordon, De Leon, with 34 wins and three defeats on his slate, had beaten Ivy Brown and Leon Spinks and was confident that he would not make same mistakes again.
17 July 1983. Carlos De Leon w pts 12 S.T. Gordon
Venue: Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.
Scorecards: 119-109, 119-109, 118-112.
Fight Summary: In a return match, De Leon (191¼) came back much stronger this time round to comprehensively outbox the champion after dropping him with a right over the top in the opening session. Picking up points with a stinging left jab and making sure that the slower moving Gordon (194¾) was unable to corner him, De Leon was way out in front entering the final third. Cruising through to the last round De Leon capped a top-class display when forcing Gordon to take another mandatory ‘eight’ count after landing some heavy head shots. The fight ended with De Leon all over Gordon, by now carrying a badly swollen left eye, but he was unable to find the finisher.
21 September 1983. Carlos De Leon w rsc 4 (12) Yaqui Lopez
Venue: Municipal Stadium, San Jose, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Henry Elesperu.
Fight Summary: Getting away fast, De Leon (188¾) had his 42-year-old challenger on the deck inside the opening 40 seconds, but then allowed him to recover. After outboxing Lopez (188¾) in the second De Leon was forced to defend in the third as the Mexican moved his attack to the body, a pattern that continued into the fourth. With Lopez back in the fight it all changed when a long left from De Leon opened up a bad cut over his right eye and led to the referee calling it off at 2.51 of the fourth.
9 March 1984. Carlos De Leon w pts 12 Anthony Davis
Venue: Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.
Scorecards: 118-113, 118-112, 115-112.
Fight Summary: far too fast for his slow-moving challenger, De Leon started well when hurting his man with a big right to the jaw in the opening session. Well ahead after six rounds De Leon was pegged back in the seventh and eighth before dropping Davis with a right to the jaw in the ninth. Although De Leon tried hard to finish the fight there and then, and banged away at Davis’ now swollen left eye in the tenth, he virtually stopped working in the final two rounds due to a damaged right hand.
2 June 1984. Carlos De Leon w pts 12 Bash Ali
Venue: Coliseum Arena, Oakland, California, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Henry Elesperu.
Scorecards: 118-112, 118-112, 117-111.
Fight Summary: Taking control from the first bell the champion had far too much ability for the outclassed Ali (190), romping to an easy win without being pressed. De Leon (192½) had been expected to win early, but for whatever reason he rarely threw more than one punch at a time. Ali, who had been out of the ring for over a year after suffering a broken jaw, hardly ever threatened De Leon, being more often than not on the receiving end of the latter’s left jab.
Alfonzo Ratliff would be De Leon’s next challenger, bringing to the ring 19 (15 inside the distance) wins and two defeats when giving away weight to Tim Witherspoon and Pinklon Thomas. As a fighter who carried a powerful punch in both hands and used his added reach well he was a threat.
6 June 1985. Alfonzo Ratliff w pts 12 Carlos De Leon
Venue: Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Carlos Padilla.
Scorecards: 116-113, 117-114, 114-117.
Fight Summary: After making a solid start the champion found himself in a battle of attrition as Ratliff (192½) came on strongly in the third round, throwing punches from both hands, and by the eighth both men were showing distinct signs of wear. With Ratliff cut over both eyes and De Leon (187¾) over the left it seemed set for an early night, but there was no let-up in the action. Thereafter, both men punched away. In the 11th De Leon caught Ratliff heavily, only for the latter to stun the champion with a big right to the head immediately prior to the announcement that he had won by a split decision.
The rugged Bernard Benton, who was a bull of a fighter, always working hard, especially to the body, would be Ratliff’s first challenger. With a record of 17 wins, one draw and three defeats, although losing his USBA title to Boone Pultz in his most recent contest, he had beaten Pierre Coetzer and Ricky Parkey.
21 September 1985. Bernard Benton w pts 12 Alfonzo Ratliff
Venue: Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Joey Curtis.
Scorecards: 117-112, 115-113, 115-113.
Fight Summary: Never giving the champion a moment’s respite, Benton (190) kept up the pressure for round after round to walk off with the decision. Although both men were cut over their left eyes early on it failed to stop Benton’s forward march, and even when Ratliff (194) caught him with solid counters it made no difference. Despite Ratliff having a good reach advantage he was unable to keep Benton off with the jab, spending much of the fight trying to get himself going. At the final bell it was Benton who found favour with the judges, regardless of the fact that many of his blows failed to hit the target.
Carlos De Leon was looking to become a three-time WBC champion at the weight when selected as Benton’s first challenger, but would need to stick to his boxing in order to wear the latter down.
22 March 1986. Carlos De Leon w pts 12 Bernard Benton
Venue: Lawlor Events Centre, Reno, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Mills Lane.
Scorecards: 117-114, 115-113, 114-114.
Fight Summary: After what was a difficult fight to judge, with the champion pressing throughout as De Leon (185) scored with jabs and right-hand counters, it was the latter’s cleaner work that ultimately won the day. There was never much between them, but it was De Leon’s double left jab that continually bemused Benton (185) and kept the former title holder marginally ahead. Eventually, De Leon began to open up in the tenth, and in the 11th he twice stunned Benton with combinations before going back to his boxing in the 12th.
10 August 1986. Carlos De Leon w rsc 8 (12) Michael Greer
Venue: Parking Lot, Sant Alfphio, Giardini Naxos, Sicily, Italy. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Rudy Ortega.
Fight Summary: Fighting well for the opening seven rounds the challenger more than held his own with De Leon (188¼), banging in left hooks and scoring with the jab. He was also ahead on all three scorecards. It was only in the eighth that De Leon came to life, Greer (186¼) being pushed back to the ropes after he had been hurt by solid uppercuts to the jaw. At that stage of the contest, when it was clear that Greer was unable to fight back, the referee came to his aid at 1.45 of the session.
21 February 1987. Carlos De Leon w rsc 4 (12) Angelo Rottoli
Venue: Sports Palace, Bergamo, Italy. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Franz Marti.
Fight Summary: Being cut over the right eye so early ruined any hopes of victory the challenger may have had, and with De Leon (188¼) concentrating on the injury there was little chance of a distance fight. At the end of the third the doctor allowed Rottoli (189½) one more round, but with De Leon totally in control and the wound pouring blood the referee stopped the contest after the fourth session ended.
22 January 1988. Carlos De Leon w pts 12 Jose Maria Flores Burlon
Venue: Convention Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBC. Referee: Frank Cappuccino.
Scorecards: 119-110, 118-111, 118-110.
Fight Summary: Having been booked to meet Pinklon Thomas in an overweight match, when the latter pulled out, De Leon (188) found himself taking on Burlon in a title defence instead. Clearly unprepared, De Leon let Burlon (189), a most inept challenger, stay the full course when it was clear to most of those in attendance that he could have ended the contest as and when he liked. Apart from a brief spell in the sixth when hitting back with both hands after being stunned, and in the 11th when winging in wide hooks, Burlon did very little to suggest that he wanted to be a champion.
With just 17 winning fights behind him, the 1984 Olympic Games bronze medallist, Evander Holyfield, had won the WBA title when beating Dwight Muhammad Qawi in his 12th pro fight on 12 July 1986, and had made a successful defence against Henry Tillman before depriving Ricky Parkey of his IBF belt. Having turned back further challenges by Ossie Ocasio and Qawi, Holyfield had already proved to be a willing box-fighter who could both give and take.
9 April 1988. Evander Holyfield w rsc 8 (12) Carlos De Leon
Venue: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: World. Referee: Mills Lane.
Fight Summary: The WBC’s De Leon (188) spent much of the fight with his back to the ropes trying to counter the hard-hitting Holyfield (190), who complained afterwards that he was being butted when at close quarters. Several times De Leon was badly hurt, but he remained on his feet and occasionally troubled the IBF/WBA champion with sneak punches until coming undone. Having been cut over the left eye in the sixth De Leon was still there in the eighth, but after Holyfield cut loose with both hands and he was left unable to defend himself the referee stopped the fight on the 1.08 mark.
Holyfield relinquished his world title on 9 December in order to campaign as a heavyweight. Several years passed by, and It was only when the top-rated Orlin Norris defended his WBA title against the number four man in The Ring ratings, Arthur Williams, that a contest involved my version of the 'world' title. Norris, who had won the vacant WBA title when knocking out Marcelo Figueroa inside six rounds on 6 November 1993, had turned pro in June 1996 and had 39 wins, three losses and one no contest on his tab. A former national Golden Gloves champion, Norris, the brother of Terry, who had both skill and power, had beaten Renaldo Snipes, Jesse Ferguson, Greg Page, Oliver McCall, Tony Willis and Anthony Hembrick, while Williams, a rough, tough customer, had a record of 21 wins, one draw and one defeat that was quickly avenged, and had recently defeated Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Jeff Lampkin.
4 March 1994. Orlin Norris w pts 12 Arthur Williams
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Toby Gibson.
Scorecards: 114-112, 118-110, 112-114.
Fight Summary: Thought to be the leading light of the cruiserweight division the champion almost came unstuck against the unheralded Williams (189), who took him to a split decision. Dropped by a big right in the opening session Williams looked a beaten man for several rounds, despite cutting Norris (187) over the right eye in the second, before having a barnstorming sixth in which he had the latter all over the place. Thereafter, every round was tightly contested, both men being shaken badly in the 11th, and even though Williams’ cleaner work in the 12th gave him the round on two of the cards it was too little and too late.
2 July 1994. Orlin Norris w rsc 3 Arthur Williams
Venue: Mirage Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Richard Steele.
Fight Summary: Ordered to defend against Williams for the second time following their earlier contest, Norris (188) made no mistake this time round. For whatever reason it was clear that Williams (190) was but a pale shadow of the man who had come close to beating the champion, and by the end of the second he had already been set up for the finish. Even though lacking composure, with Norris continually throwing punches in the third eventually Williams, floored by several terrific overarm rights to the head, was rescued at 1.08 of the session.
12 November 1994. Orlin Norris w rsc 2 James Heath
Venue: The Bullring, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Julio Alvarado.
Fight Summary: In what was an easy defence for Norris (187¾), his challenger barely bothered him before being stopped at 2.46 of the second round. Having dropped Heath (187¾) with a cracking left uppercut in the opening session Norris remained on the attack in the second, concentrating on the body before backing his man to the ropes and dropping him with an overarm right to the jaw. Although Heath managed to beat the count the fight was immediately halted when he was deemed unable to defend himself.
17 March 1995. Orlin Norris w pts 12 Adolpho Washington
Venue: Memorial Auditorium, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Hubert Earle.
Scorecards: 115-114, 115-114, 115-114.
Fight Summary: Yet again Washington (190) lost a title challenge that could have gone either way, this time when up against Norris (190). In fact it was Washington who landed some of the heavier shots of the fight, looking as though he was taking over in the sixth as Norris’ work-rate dropped. Boxing cleverly, Washington was making life tough for Norris, and even with his left eye swelling up in the ninth and fast tiring he was still right in the fight. Although Norris made up some ground in the tenth and 11th, with it still being desperately close at the final bell it was too tight to guess.
Norris’ next challenger would be Nate Miller, a hard-punching fighter, who although beaten by Al Cole twice had defeated Bert Cooper, Tyrone Booze, Michael Greer and Dwight Muhammad Qawi in a career that showed 25 (21 inside the distance) wins and four defeats.
22 July 1995. Nate Miller w co 8 Orlin Norris
Venue: London Arena, Millwall, London, England. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.
Fight Summary: Having had trouble making the weight Norris (188¾) boxed very much in a subdued fashion, and by the seventh he looked completely exhausted after running out of ideas against a challenger who, although behind on the cards, had barely exerted himself. All at sea in the eighth, having been hurt by a left hook and an overarm right to the head earlier on as Miller (186¾) picked up the pace, Norris was counted out at 2.04 of the session. Driven to the floor by solid blows from both hands, Norris tried to get up before falling back to the canvas where he was administered oxygen prior to leaving the ring.
13 January 1996. Nate Miller w rtd 4 Reinaldo Gimenez
Venue: Jai-Alai Fronton, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Bernie Soto.
Fight Summary: Walking into his challenger from the opening bell Miller (188½) was happy to keep the fight at close quarters where he could drive in solid shots to the body and determine the way the contest went. Gimenez (189), who had recently been beaten by Marcelo Dominguez, was never really up to the challenge, doing very little other than throw one punch at a time before retreating and covering up. Ironically, the Argentine’s best round came in the fourth when he connected with several heavy punches before retiring himself at the end of the session, claiming that he had nothing left in the tank.
23 March 1996. Nate Miller w rsc 9 Brian LaSpada
Venue: The Arena, Miami, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Bill Connors.
Fight Summary: Little more than a club fighter the challenger hardly deserved a crack at Miller (188¼), and the fight had barely started when he was floored by a right over the top. Although LaSpada (187) was ready to be taken Miller failed to finish him off, being happy to give him time and space. Only in the fifth did LaSpada, who offered up a weak left jab in resistance, remotely come close to winning a round. Even then Miller continually failed to finish his man off despite hurting him in every session. Eventually the fight came to an end, much to the relief of the crowd, with LaSpada receiving a badly gashed left eye in the ninth following a head clash prior to the referee calling it a day 36 seconds into the session.
31 August 1996. Nate Miller w rsc 7 James Heath
Venue: Point Theatre, Dublin, Ireland. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Carlos Berrocal.
Fight Summary: In control throughout, the champion took his time regardless of the fact that he had Heath (187½) on the floor from a left hook in the opening session. Never at risk, Miller (189½) had Heath at his mercy right up until the finish. Picking off Heath at close quarters or at distance, Miller wore his man down with solid blows to head and body before stepping it up in the seventh. Clearly without a chance, Heath was rescued by the referee with six seconds of the session remaining after being decked by a right-left hook to the head.
22 February 1997. Nate Miller w rsc 2 Alexander Gurov
Venue: The Theatre, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Jorge Alonso.
Fight Summary: Boxing for the first time in America Gurov (190) was unable to bother the champion with his southpaw stance even though he was a good three inches taller. With Miller (188) looking to jab and work the body in the opening session it was already obvious that Gurov was in for a tough night, and in the second he was quickly in trouble. Just about making it up at the count of ‘nine’, having been dropped by a right to the jaw, the former European champion was floored twice more before being stopped at 1.54 on the ‘three knockdowns in a round’ ruling.
The former undefeated WBC light heavyweight champion, Fabrice Tiozzo, the brother of Christophe, would be Miller’s next challenger. With only one defeat, to Virgil Hill, in a 38-fight record, the fifth-ranked Tiozzo had beaten Ramzi Hassan, Eddy Smulders, Mike McCallum, Eric Lucas, Leslie Stewart and Mike Peak.
8 November 1997. Fabrice Tiozzo w pts 12 Nate Miller
Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Richard Steele.
Scorecards: 115-113, 115-113, 117-114.
Fight Summary: Having moved up from light heavyweight, Tiozzo (190) became a two-weight title holder when outscoring Miller (190). Taking all the champion could throw at him, which included several heavy rights to the head, Tiozzo began to push Miller back in the last few rounds, his cause being helped when a clash of heads saw the American cut over the left eye in the ninth. Realizing he had to do something in order to retain his title Miller gave it everything in the final session, but was unable to dislodge Tiozzo despite catching him with some solid blows.
2 May 1998. Fabrice Tiozzo w rsc 1 Terry Ray
Venue: Astro Bullet Arena, Villeurbanne, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.
Fight Summary: After exchanging left jabs from the opening bell the champion quickly took advantage of an opening when dropping the 35-year-old Ray (187¾) with a left hook-right cross. Although getting up Ray was almost immediately downed again by heavy shots from both hands as Tiozzo (189½) opened up. Clambering to his feet, Ray was rescued by the referee on the 60-second mark after being put down for the third time and in no condition to defend himself even though he was upright.
14 November 1998. Fabrice Tiozzo w co 2 Ezequiel Paixao
Venue: Francois Mitterrand Space Arena, Mont de Marsan, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.
Fight Summary: Tiozzo (189) was never under any kind of threat whatsoever from a challenger who appeared to be short of ideas and power and after finding his range with the left jab he dropped the Brazilian with a right cross at the end of the opening session. Starting the second as he left off, with Tiozzo hurting Paixao (183½) almost every time he connected, the latter was counted out at 1.04 of the round having taken another heavy right to the jaw.
13 November 1999. Fabrice Tiozzo w rtd 7 Ken Murphy
Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Joe Cortez.
Fight Summary: Having been sidelined by injuries - to the jaw and back - since his last defence, Tiozzo (189½) was happy to return to action. It did not take him too long to get going, Murphy (188) being in trouble from a left hook to the body towards the end of the second round. Although Murphy was prepared to fight it had become one-sided by the fourth, and in the sixth it was noticeable that Tiozzo had picked up the pace as he looked for an early night. Still walking forward in the seventh, after Murphy found himself on the end of a short right to the head that downed him on getting back to his corner he was retired at the end of the session.
8 April 2000. Fabrice Tiozzo w rsc 6 Valeriy Vykhor
Venue: Bercy Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.
Fight Summary: When a cracking countering right to the jaw had dropped Vykhor (188½) half a minute into the first it appeared that the referee might call a halt, but he let it continue when the champion failed to follow up. Boxing patiently Tiozzo (189½) kept the jab going before working from head to body, which led to Vykhor being cut on the right eye as heads came together in the third. Although Vykhor was strong he was unable to bother Tiozzo, and at 1.45 of the sixth the fight was called off by the referee after the Ukranian had been floored by a mixture of right uppercuts to the head and body shots.
A former two-time WBA light heavyweight champion with a record of 45 wins and three defeats, Virgil Hill would be the next challenger for Tiozzo. A pro since 1984, nicknamed ‘Quicksilver’ for his speed that was coupled with solid punching ability, Hill had not boxed for over 18 months and this would be only his third fight at the weight.
9 December 2000. Virgil Hill w rsc 1 Fabrice Tiozzo
Venue: Astro Bullet Arena, Villeurbanne, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Luis Pabon.
Fight Summary: On becoming the oldest man to win the cruiserweight title, the 36-year-old created a major shock when stopping Tiozzo (190) with just one second of the opening round remaining. Immediately on the attack behind a solid left jab the much faster Hill (190) soon had Tiozzo over from a right to the face, and although the champion was quickly back into the fray a left to the jaw had him down again. With Hill not letting up, following a battery of blows from both hands Tiozzo was on his way down for the third time when mercifully rescued by the referee.
Hill would remain inactive until it was announced that he would be making his first defence against Jean-Marc Mormeck, an accurate, solid-punching fighter who was ranked at number one by the WBA but outside the top ten according to The Ring magazine. With 26 wins and two defeats on his record, he had beaten Valeriy Vykhor inside the distance, along with 17 others, and carried a threat.
23 February 2002. Jean-Marc Mormeck w rtd 8 Virgil Hill
Venue: Sports Palace, Marseilles, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.
Fight Summary: Having reeled off the opening two rounds with some ease the champion could be forgiven for thinking that it was going to be an easy night’s work against the cumbersome Mormeck (185). Clearly, Mormeck had not read the script, literally steamrollering Hill (189¾) who began to go downhill as age finally caught up with him. Advancing from the third onwards, pounding the body with solid blows from both hands, Mormeck got right on top of Hill, and at the end of the eighth the latter was retired on his stool after being badly cut over the left eye and driven around the ring in that session.
10 August 2002. Jean-Marc Mormeck w rsc 8 Dale Brown
Venue: Gaston Deferre Beach Arena, Marseilles, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Luis Pabon.
Fight Summary: Very competitive for five sessions, with the challenger winning at least two of the rounds, by the sixth Mormeck (188) was building up his work-rate. In the seventh, Brown (189½), who was forced to take heavy blows to head and body, was cut on both cheeks and ended the session with his right eye closed. With Mormeck totally on top in the eighth, driving Brown before him and taking nothing in return, the referee rescued the latter on the two-minute mark when it was clear that he had nothing left.
1 March 2003. Jean-Marc Mormeck w rsc 8 Alexander Gurov
Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Fight Summary: Appearing in America for the first time Mormeck (187½) made a slow start as his southpaw challenger got his jab going, and it was not until he began working the body that he found success. In what was an exciting fight, when Mormeck picked up the pace in the sixth, landing several solid punches to the head, by the seventh Gurov (188½) was visibly weakening as he was hit with increasing regularity. Given a standing count at the end of the seventh, having been hurt by lefts and rights to the head and sagging on the ropes, Gurov was stopped after just 32 seconds of the eighth following a steady battering from both hands. At the finish two of the judges had Gurov two points ahead.
22 May 2004. Jean-Marc Mormeck w pts 12 Virgil Hill
Venue: Carnival City Big Top Arena, Brakpan, South Africa. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Wally Snowball.
Scorecards: 115-114, 115-113, 115-113.
Fight Summary: Just a mere shadow of his former self, Hill (194¾) lost his return match against the champion by a unanimous decision, taking a battering in the process as his long career caught up with him. Although Hill was in survival mode for much of the time, being forced to take heavy blows to head and body, he continued to show his defensive skills as Mormeck (196¼) forced the fight. Sustaining a swollen left eye in the third made Hill’s task even more difficult, and after he was dropped by a right to the jaw in the eighth his case looked hopeless. That Hill came back to take three of the remaining four rounds as Mormeck relaxed the pressure did not distort the fact he was past his best, something he recognised when announcing his retirement from the ring.
2 April 2005. Jean-Marc Mormeck w pts 12 Wayne Braithwaite
Venue: DCU Centre, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Richard Flaherty.
Scorecards: 116-110, 114-112, 115-111.
Fight Summary: In a unification battle, Mormeck (198), the WBA champion, proved too good for the switch-hitting Braithwaite (188), his WBC counterpart. For five rounds it was very competitive, both men getting home with heavy shots, but in the sixth Mormeck got on top when driving in solid blows to Braithwaite’s head and body. That was followed by Mormeck having Braithwaite down from a cracking right to the head in the seventh. Docked a point for holding in the eighth and badly cut over the left eye in the same session, Braithwaite dug deep to somehow stay in the contest when taking two of the last three rounds as Mormeck tired.
O’Neil Bell, who had won the vacant IBF title when beating Dale Brown on 20 May 2005, and then making a successful defence against Sebastiaan Rothmann, would be next for Mormeck. A lanky, loose-limbed boxer with an awkward leaning style and solid punch-power, Bell had 25 (23 inside the distance) wins, one defeat and one technical draw on his record.
7 January 2006. O’Neil Bell w rsc 10 Jean-Marc Mormeck
Venue: MSG Theatre, Manhattan, NYC, New York, USA. Recognition: IBF/WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Wayne Kelly.
Fight Summary: Looking to add to his IBF title, Bell (199½) was forced to take plenty of hits in the opening six sessions as Mormeck (197¾) threw everything but the kitchen sink at him. However, by the seventh Mormeck was visibly tiring from his efforts and it was Bell's turn to go on the offensive, one judge making it a 10-7 round. Although Mormeck just about held Bell at bay in the eighth and ninth, the tenth saw his demise as the latter poured in punch after punch until the Frenchman dropped. Stopping the count at ‘five’ so that Mormeck could receive treatment, the referee brought the contest to an end on the 2.50 mark.
Bell forfeited the IBF title on 31 March for not fulfilling his mandatory requirements when pulling out of a prospective defence against Steve Cunningham, and would eventually give Mormeck a chance to get his old titles back.
17 March 2007. Jean-Marc Mormeck w pts 12 O’Neil Bell
Venue: Marcel Cerdan Sports Palace, Levallois-Perret, France. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Massimo Barrovecchio.
Scorecards: 115-113, 115-113, 116-112.
Fight Summary: Bell (198½) lost his remaining two championship belts and the 'world' title after being generally outboxed by Mormeck (198¼) in what was a return bout. Once again Mormeck started strongly when pushing Bell back with solid combinations, but the latter always looked dangerous with heavy counters, especially in the sixth when catching the Frenchman with solid blows from both hands. Under pressure several times in the second half of the contest, Mormeck began to use his better skills, boxing and moving, as Bell continually got frustrated with his inability to land a finisher.
The former undefeated British and European champion, David Haye, would be Mormeck’s first defence, having beaten Arthur Williams, Glen Kelly, Alexander Gurov and Giacobbe Fragomeni along the way. A former silver medallist from the 2001 amateur World Championships, Haye had only lost to Carl Thompson as a pro in 20 contests while winning 18 by the short route.
10 November 2007. David Haye w rsc 7 Jean-Marc Mormeck
Venue: Marcel Cerdan Sports Palace, Levallois-Perret, France. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Franco Ciminale.
Fight Summary: Finally getting his chance of a crack at Mormeck (199), the holder of two championship belts and the 'world' title, Haye (199½) started strongly before coming under pressure from rights to the head, one of which floored him in the fourth following a terrific left hook. Keeping his cool Haye gradually recovered his strength, coming back well with solid blows to the head in the fifth. In the sixth, despite being cut over the right eye Haye began to dominate, his speed and movement being too much for Mormeck, and in the seventh he dropped the latter following a burst of heavy punches from both hands. Although Mormeck was on his feet at the count of 'eight' the referee quickly decided that he was in no fit state to continue. The finish was timed at 1.05 of the session.
8 March 2008. David Haye w rsc 2 Enzo Maccarinelli
Venue: O2 Arena, Greenwich, London, England. Recognition: WBA/WBC/WBO/The Ring. Referee: John Keane.
Fight Summary: Putting up his two championship belts against Maccarinelli (197), the holder of the WBO title, Haye (198) started in confident fashion, finding his distance and showing excellent speed as he looked to measure his rival. Even though he was cut by the left eye in the second nothing was going to stop Haye, who moved in menacingly with both hands before cornering Maccarinelli and smashing in heavy blows. When the Welshman eventually slid to the floor, prior to getting up in a dazed state, the referee stopped the fight at 2.04 of the session.
Having decided to move up to the heavyweight division, Haye relinquished the WBC title on 12 May and at the same time he notified the WBA that he would be sending back his belt. He also stated on 23 May that he would not be defending the 'world' title again before relinquishing the WBO title on 22 July. Further to Haye moving on, when the top-ranked Steve Cunningham put his IBF title on the line against Tomasz Adamek, rated at number two in the world, the contest would also involve my version of the 'world' title. Tall and slick, with a long reach and 21 wins in 22 contests, Cunningham had won the IBF title on 26 May 2007 when gaining revenge for a defeat suffered at the hands of Krzysztof Wlodarczyk before going on to make a successful defence against Marco Huck. A former WBC light heavyweight champion, Adamek, who was an upright, tough fighter with a good jab and punching power in his right hand, had 35 wins and one defeat against Chad Dawson on his slate, and had earned his high ranking when stopping O’Neil Bell inside eight rounds of an eliminator.
11 December 2008. Tomasz Adamek w pts 12 Steve Cunningham
Venue: Prudential Centre, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: Earl Morton.
Scorecards: 115-112, 116-110, 112-114.
Fight Summary: In an exciting fight of give and take the tough Adamek (198) picked up the win after dropping Cunningham (197) three times; in the second, fourth and eighth. The knockdown in the fourth came when Cunningham, who had been giving Adamek a real going over, was dropped by a big right that strangely saw only one of the judges making it a 10-8 round. Following the fight Cunningham stated that he had planned to box but getting carried away when looking for a kayo win had cost him. On winning, Adamek became a two-weight world title holder.
27 February 2009. Tomasz Adamek w rsc 8 Johnathon Banks
Venue: Prudential Centre, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: Eddie Cotton.
Fight Summary: With Adamek (199) defending his championship belt, Banks (200) made an excellent start when winning three of the opening four rounds, solid lefts and rights keeping the champion at distance. However, by the fifth Adamek was taking the fight to Banks when targeting the body, and in the sixth the latter was given time out after one went low. Although caught heavily by a right himself in the eighth, Adamek shook it off before twice blasting Banks to the canvas and forcing the referee to intervene at 1.30 of the session.
11 July 2009. Tomasz Adamek w rtd 4 Bobby Gunn
Venue: Prudential Centre, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: Earl Brown.
Fight Summary: Regardless of the fact that Gunn (194) had been beaten easily by Enzo Maccarinelli, he was matched against a champion who had lost just one fight in 38 and had mixed at a much higher level. There was no doubting Gunn's spirit as Adamek (199) walked through him, but the latter was unable to score a knockdown despite the result being inevitable. However, at the end of round four, having taken many unanswered blows and being saved by the bell, Gunn was retired by his corner.
Adamek relinquished the IBF and Ring titles on 18 October, having decided to fight in the heavyweight division. Further to that, Steve Cunningham (22 wins and two defeats) and Troy Ross were signed up to find a new IBF champion. Since losing his IBF title to Adamek, Cunningham had beaten Wayne Braithwaite to become the top-ranking fighter in The Ring magazine, and with Ross rated at number five in the same magazine the contest would also involve my version of the 'world' title. A strong southpaw, Ross had lost just once in 24 fights, but was largely untested at this level despite his high ranking.
5 June 2010. Steve Cunningham w rsc 4 Troy Ross
Venue: Jahn Sports Forum, Neubrandenburg, Germany. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Bill Clancy.
Fight Summary: Contested for the vacant IBF title after Tomasz Adamek decided to move up among the heavyweights, Cunningham (193) regained his old title when Ross (193¾), a southpaw, was pulled out of the contest by the referee at the end of the fourth round on the advice of the ringside doctor. It had been fairly even up to that point, with Cunningham marginally ahead despite being dropped by a straight left to the chest in the fourth. Towards the end of the session Ross' swollen left eye began pouring blood after taking a hard hit, and it was that injury that ultimately ended the fight.
12 February 2011. Steve Cunningham w pts 12 Enad Licina
Venue: RWE Rhein-Ruhr Sports Hall, Mulheim, Germany. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Charlie Fitch.
Scorecards: 118-110, 117-111, 115-113.
Fight Summary: The challenger was never out of the contest, continually trying to get to close quarters where he could work Cunningham (198½) over with the right hand. Cunningham, however, was the better boxer of the pair, and although Licina (198¼) gave him a run for his money he was nearly always second best. Generally boxing on the back foot the taller Cunningham controlled the fight with his left jab, but when he had to he was able to call on solid right hands as Licina tried to turn the contest into a brawl.
Cunningham’s next defence would be against the unrated Yoan Pablo Hernandez, a Cuban-born southpaw who had been the undefeated WBA ‘interim’ champion. With 24 wins and one defeat on his record, he had beaten Thomas Hansvoll, Mohamed Azzaoui, Enad Licina, Ali Ismailov and Steve Herelius, and was seen as a more than capable box-fighter.
1 October 2011. Yoan Pablo Hernandez w tdec 6 Steve Cunningham
Venue: Jahn Sports Forum, Neubrandenburg, Germany. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Mickey Vann.
Scorecards: 59-54, 58-55, 56-57.
Fight Summary: Knocked down by a southpaw left hook from Hernandez (200) in the opener, from which he required two attempts to make it to his feet, the champion was saved by the bell and then spent most of the second trying to regain his equilibrium before coming back strongly in the third. In that session, however, a clash of heads saw Hernandez cut on the left temple and in the sixth another accidental coming together left him badly cut over the right eye too. With Hernandez having great difficulty in seeing clearly, the referee, on advice from the ringside doctor, stopped the contest at the end of the session and called for the cards. Although one of the judges had Cunningham (199¼) in front at that stage, he lost his title on a split decision.
4 February 2012. Yoan Pablo Hernandez w pts 12 Steve Cunningham
Venue: Fraport Arena, Frankfurt, Germany. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: Eddie Cotton.
Scorecards: 115-111, 116-110, 116-110.
Fight Summary: In a return fight that was called for following the unsatisfactory ending in their previous go, Hernandez (198½) put his IBF title on the line against Cunningham (197½). Making a fast start, Hernandez caught up with Cunningham with a southpaw left hook that left the latter on his back. Getting to his feet and then being put down again, Cunningham somehow survived before coming back hard in the sixth. From thereon in both men took and gave hard shots, and although Cunningham made a great effort in the final session Hernandez would not be denied.
15 September 2012. Yoan Pablo Hernandez w pts 12 Troy Ross
Venue: Stechert Arena, Bamberg, Bayern, Germany. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: David Fields.
Scorecards: 114-113, 115-112, 116-112.
Fight Summary: In a battle of southpaws, Hernandez (200) was given plenty of trouble by the hard-hitting Ross (193½). Shaken up in the third by a solid left hook, Hernandez was floored in the fifth from the same punch and was lucky to get through the round, almost falling down several times from the after effects. Although still dazed in the sixth Hernandez gradually got his boxing together, coming back well in the ninth to hurt Ross. At that point it was all to play for, but with Hernandez winning three of the last four rounds on the cards he picked up the unanimous points verdict.
23 November 2013. Yoan Pablo Hernandez w co 10 Alexander Alekseev
Venue: Stechert Arena, Bamberg, Bayern, Germany. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: Lindsey Page.
Fight Summary: In a battle between southpaws, Hernandez (198½) was up against his mandatory IBF challenger, Alekseev (198½). Hernandez started the better of the pair when dropping Alekseev in the second following a left hook to the jaw, and continued as the aggressor until being boxed-off in the fourth. Still going well, his jab and right hooks being effective, Alekseev was suddenly dumped by a cracking overarm right in the fifth. Despite that, Alekseev came back strongly to win three of the next four rounds, hurting Hernandez enough to force him to hold, before a crashing right to the head in the tenth sent him down to be counted out on the 1.35 mark.
16 August 2014. Yoan Pablo Hernandez w pts 12 Firat Arslan
Venue: Exhibition Centre, Erfurt, Germany. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: Randy Neumann.
Scorecards: 115-113, 116-113, 113-115.
Fight Summary: Having failed to lift the WBO title from Marco Huck two fights earlier, the 43-year-old Arslan (199¾) came within a whisker of taking Hernandez's title in an all-southpaw battle. Although Hernandez (199¾) made a good start, by the fourth he was being pegged back as Arslan's good inside work nullified many of his offensive efforts. One of the judges had Arslan winning seven of the last nine rounds while the other two saw him taking five but ultimately it was Hernandez's better work in the closing stages, as Arslan tired, that gained him the split decision.
Due to defend his IBF title against Victor Emilio Ramirez, Hernandez forfeited his belt on 21 September 2015 after injuring his knee and being unable to go through with the fight. Hernandez eventually forfeited recognition of the 'world' title on 24 November 2015 for not meeting a top-five-rated opponent for well over three years and thought to have retired. My version of the 'world' title was next contested when the WBA champion, Denis Lebedev, met Victor Emilio Ramirez, the IBF title holder. Ramirez, who would be coming to the ring with 22 wins, one draw, two defeats and one no contest on his tab, had been handed the IBF title on 24 November 2015 after Yoan Pablo Hernandez had been stripped, but had failed to get nothing better than a draw when making his first defence against Ovill McKenzie. A southpaw, Lebedev had also been handed his WBA title on 30 October 2012 after Guillermo Jones had refused to meet him, but eventually lost it to the same man after successfully defending against Santander Silgado. However, as Jones failed a drug test in the aftermath, Lebedev was again handed the title, on 17 October 2013, making successful defences against Pawel Kolodziej, Youri Kayembre Kalenga and Lateef Kayode. Prior to meeting Ramirez, the hard-punching Lebedev had 28 wins, one draw and one no contest from 30 fights.
21 May 2016. Denis Lebedev w rsc 2 Victor Emilio Ramirez
Venue: Khodynka Ice Palace, Moscow, Russia. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Steve Smoger.
Fight Summary: In a battle between two champions, Ramirez (198½) representing the IBF and Lebedev (198¾) the WBA, it was the latter who came away with two belts after stopping his rival at 1.57 of the second. Following a relatively even opening round, after Lebedev got home with a southpaw left uppercut and followed it up with a short left Ramirez was decked. Although the Argentine regained his feet and appeared not too interested in carrying on, the contest was only halted when he was once again under the cosh and not fighting back.
The big-hitting Murat Gassiev would be next for Lebedev, having 23 (17 inside the distance) wins and one no contest on his record. Although he had beaten no big names, the tenth-ranked Gassiev was seen as a real comer to a division bursting with talent.
3 December 2016. Murat Gassiev w pts 12 Denis Lebedev
Venue: Khodynka Ice Palace, Moscow, Russia. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Albert Earl Brown.
Scorecards: 116-112, 116-111, 113-114.
Fight Summary: The southpaw champion started well enough when keeping Gassiev (198½) at distance with the jab, but in the fifth round a cracking left hook to the body had him down in some pain. Somehow beating the count, Lebedev (199¾) gradually got himself back into the contest as Gassiev tired. However, he was never quite able to take full advantage and found himself on the wrong end of the split decision. Prior to the contest, Lebedev had successfully ensured that his WBA ‘special’ championship title status was not at stake.
21 October 2017. Murat Gassiev w co 3 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
Venue: Prudential Centre, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: IBF. Referee: Albert Earl Brown.
Fight Summary: Up against a former WBC title holder in Wlodarczyk (199½), the current IBF champion, Gassiev (199), started as expected by walking the challenger down to the ropes where he would look to get off lefts and rights. Although Wlodarczyk showed a good jab, Gassiev just walked through him, and in the third a left uppercut to the chin that was followed by a crunching left hook to the body saw the former counted out on the 1.57 mark. This was a quarter-final leg of the 2017/18 World Boxing Super Series.
3 February 2018. Murat Gassiev w rsc 12 Yunier Dorticos
Venue: Bolshoi Ice Dome, Adler, Russia. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Eddie Claudio.
Fight Summary: In a semi-final leg of the 2017/18 World Boxing Super Series, the IBF’s Gassiev (199¼) took on the recently upgraded WBA champion, Dorticos (199½), in what became a battle of wills between two supreme fighting men. Both landed heavily at times, the Dorticos jab and Gassiev’s hooks and uppercuts being the best of them, and coming into the ninth it was all to fight for as far as the judges were concerned. It was at that point that Gassiev, the less tired of the pair, began to take over. Having stunned Dorticos in the 11th, the final session saw Gassiev smash the Cuban to the floor with a tremendous right-left to the jaw. Although getting up, Dorticos was soon down again for another count, courtesy of lefts and rights, before the contest was stopped by the referee on the 2.52 mark after the latter had been belted through the ropes from another heavy right to the head.
Gassiev’s next defence would be against the WBC and WBO champion, Oleksandr Usyk, a hard-punching southpaw with 14 (11 inside the distance) wins since going pro in November 2013 after winning gold medals at the 2008 European Games, 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympic Games. Having won the WBO title when beating Krzyzstof Glowacki on 17 September 2016, Usyk went on the make successful defences against Thabiso Mchunu, Michael Hunter Jnr and Marco Huck before adding Mairis Briedis’ WBC title to his collection on 27 January 2018. At 6’3”, Usyk makes good use of his reach when banging in straight rights and lefts. Uysk v Gassiev came about due to both men reaching the final of the World Boxing Super Series and would involve the world title with all four belts on the line.
21 July 2018. Oleksandr Usyk w pts 12 Murat Gassiev
Venue: Olympic Sports Complex, Moscow, Russia. Recognition: World/The Ring. Referee: Celestino Ruiz.
Scorecards: 120-108, 119-109, 119-109.
Fight Summary: Contesting the final of the 2017/18 World Boxing Super Series, and involving all four title belts, Usyk (198¼) surprisingly dominated Gassiev (198¼) with the southpaw jab that seemed to find him all night long. Although Gassiev had the power to end the fight, and occasionally found the target with heavy shots, he was hardly ever given a chance to land as Usyk boxed him off. It was not just the jab that Usyk used, but follow-up lefts also left their mark on Gassiev. As the first man to win the Muhammad Ali Trophy, the future looked extremely bright for Usyk.
10 November 2018. Oleksandr Usyk w rsc 8 Tony Bellew
Venue: The Arena, Manchester, England. Recognition: World/The Ring. Referee: Terry O’Connor.
Fight Summary: Defending his universally recognised world title for the first time, the southpaw champion ultimately had too much for Bellew (199¼) who had started well when winning the opening two rounds. Wary of Bellew’s countering right, Usyk (198¼) took his time before beginning to open up in the the sixth and seventh. Coming into the eighth it could be seen that Usyk meant business and, after rocking Bellew with a left hook, another such punch dropped the latter heavily. Although Bellew made a great effort to get up when it was clear that he would not do so, the referee closed the contest on the two-minute mark. Bellew announced his retirement in the aftermath.
Uysk, who was looking to meet Carlos Takam in a heavyweight contest, relinquished the WBA portion of the title on 27 March 2019 when asked to defend against Denis Lebedev, before handing in the WBC/WBO belts on 6 June and the IBF title on 15 June due to his aspirations at the higher weight. The coming final of the World Boxing Super Series on 16 May 2020 between The Ring’s top-rated Mairis Briedis, the WBO champion, and the IBF’s Yunier Dorticos, ranked at number three, would also carry the vacant WBC title as well my version of the 'world' title.
26 September 2020. Mairis Briedis w pts 12 Yuniel Dorticos
Venue: Plazamedia Broadcasting Centre, Munich, Germany. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: Leszek Jankowiak.
Scorecards: 117-111, 117-111, 114-114.
Fight Summary: As well as Dorticos’ IBF title being on the line, this was the final of the World Boxing Super Series and also involved The Ring Championship Belt. Although Briedis (198¾) won nine of the 12 rounds according to two of the judges he always had to be wary of giving the hard-hitting Dorticos (199¾) too much of a target to aim at, utilising his many skills throughout. Every now and then Briedis would land solidly, especially with right uppercuts and rights over the top before getting back to his boxing. By round ten Briedis was beginning to mark up around the left eye, but he was still in control. Coming into the final session Dorticos knew he had to pick up a stoppage, and although he gave it all he had he was too tired to bother Briedis who coasted through to the final bell. Just to show how close some of the rounds were, one of the judges had them both winning six rounds apiece.
16 October 2021. Mairis Briedis w rsc 3 Artur Mann
Venue: The Arena, Riga, Latvia. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: Joerg Milke.
Unbeaten in 21 contests since turning pro in 2015, 17 of them ending early, Australia's Jai Opetaia would be Briedis' next challenger. A former world junior amateur gold medallist, the unranked Opetaia, a southpaw, was seen as an outsider despite fighting on home territory.
2 July 2022. Jai Opetaia w pts 12 Mairis Briedis
Venue: Gold Coast Convention Centre, Broadbeach, Australia. Recognition: IBF/The Ring. Referee: Chris Flores.
Scorecards: 116-112, 116-112, 115-113.