Boxing - Snips and Snipes: RIP Tommy Morrison

Death was a common denominator regarding two world heavyweight champions Tommy Morrison and Mike Tyson. “The Duke” Morrison died on Sunday night in a hospital in Nebraska. Although Tommy had been diagnose HIV positive in 1995 he always refused to accept that diagnosis and his family refused to divulge the cause of his death.

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Boxing - Snips and Snipes: RIP Tommy Morrison
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Snips and Snipes: RIP Tommy Morrison

Morrison was the type of fighter and personality that fans love. A thunderous puncher and a better boxer than many gave him credit for, Morrison’s fights were never dull and he was always open and friendly with fans. As an amateur a loss to Ray Mercer cost him the chance of competing at the 1988 Olympics and he turned pro the same year. He won his first 28 fights before the same Ray Mercer retained his WBO heavyweight title by stopping Tommy in five rounds in 1991. Tommy had the biggest night of his career in June 1993 when he outpointed George Foreman to win the vacant WBO title. George would go on to beat Michael Moorer for the world title shortly after. Suddenly Tommy was a big money fighter. He made a defence against Tim Tomashek and in October 1993 made his second defence against Michael Bent. Bent had been a top amateur, who also lost to Mercer at the 1988 US Olympic Trials. Bent came into the fight with a 10-1 record and it looked an easy defence for Tommy who was in line for $7.5 million purse for a fight with Lennox Lewis. The fight was over in 93 seconds and Tommy was an ex-champion after reigning for only four months.

Tommy carried on boxing and by beating Donovan Ruddock earned the right to challenge Lewis for the IBC title in October 1995. He was halted in six rounds and shortly after that that Tommy was diagnosed HIV positive. He did not believe the diagnosis seeing it as some form of conspiracy. He fought once in 1996, once in 2007 and once in 2008 but admitted that his life style out of the ring was fast and reckless. He moved to the Mid West and opened a gym, but that failed and at the age of 44 boxing lost one of its colourful characters. RIP Tommy.

Appearing on “Today Show” on US TV Mike Tyson was a place he has been before. He openly admitted to being a vicious alcoholic and “on the verge of dying”. He stated that when he’s drunk “Sometimes I don’t want to live no more”. Tyson has lived a life of such violent ups and downs that any person could be excused for feeling that way. This interview reminded me of the time he sat with his then wife on TV and made a similar confession which must have been traumatic and demeaning. Tyson lost his rudder when first Cus D’Amato and then Jimmy Jacobs died, but even then he was a young man who had to be watched and controlled to hide his darker side. Most of what he has suffered has been self inflicted and for a while he was a person with whom no one sympathised. Yet the public is funny. Now he is in demand for appearances and the mood towards him has softened somewhat, but by his own admission he is still living on the edge. It would be nice to remember him as the ferocious punching fighter that ripped through the heavyweight division in the mid to late 1980. Arguably his peak lasted no more that five years, but they were great years-inside the ring.

The Wlad Klitschko vs. Alex Povetkin card in Moscow on October 5 is starting to take shape. Already set is Pole Mateusz Masternak defending his EBU title against his No 7 rated challenger Russian Grigory Drozd and IBF No 5 Ruslan Chagaev facing 42-year-old Serbian Jovo Pudar. The promoters say that 10,000 tickets for the show were snapped up as soon as they became available. Robert Stieglitz and Arthur Abraham will try to settle who is the best with a third fight for the WBO super middle title in either December or January. First Stieglitz has to get through a voluntary defence against Nigerian Isaac Ekpo in Leipzig on October 19. Ekpo has an impressive looking 22-1 record but has only faced old or third rate opposition. He was first rated by the WBO in December at No 12 for winning the interim WBO African title with a victory over novice Said Mada Hamou (no I’ve never heard of him either) and has climbed to No 7 by beating Marciano Commey (22-10), Ayitey Powers (18-22-1 and loser of his last 5 fights) and 37-year-old Flash Issaka (22-14). Who knows, perhaps Ekpo is the next Dick Tiger but rating someone for the title they win irrespective of who you beat is stupid and dangerous. Also on the Leipzig show unbeaten Dominic Boesel defends his WBO Youth light heavyweight title against Italian Mirko Ricci.

Still on the WBO. They showed their gratitude to Juan Manuel Marquez for all of the big sanctioning fees and prestige he brought them by stripping Marquez of his light welterweight title. Marquez had wanted to go into his fight for the WBO welter title with Tim Bradley as a champion, but as usual greed tops gratitude and despite his request to the contrary they stripped him.

The light heavyweight division has fights that can be made and fights that cant. The Adonis Stevenson defence of his WBC title against Tavoris Cloud is on for September 28. Bernard Hopkins defends his IBF title against Karo Murat on 26 October. Best of luck in trying to sell that one. Murat has had only two fights in over two years. He drew with Gabriel Campillo in October 2011 and then stopped Sandro Siproshvili in June last year. Inactive for 15 months and the only win since June 2012 is over a guy who had lost 6 of his previous 7 fights gets you a No 2 ranking with the IBF (No 1 is vacant). What rubbish. One that can’t be made is against anyone in the USA for Juergen Braehmer as his criminal record would be a major stumbling block to him getting a visa. His only other routes would be against Beibut Shumenov or, as he is the WBO mandatory challenger, Sergey Kovalev, but both of those will be looking to make their next title defences in the USA. If Hopkins wins then a Kovalev fight would be good business but they are contracted to different TV channels so that is a stumbling block.

The undercard to the Stevenson vs. Cloud fight will feature Jean Pascal vs. George Blades, David Lemieux vs. Marcus Upshaw and Eleider Alvarez vs. Edison Miranda. Blade lost in eleven rounds to Zsolt Erdei for the WBO light heavy title in 2007 and has had only one fight in the past three years. The 6’4” (193cm) Upshaw has lost 3 of his last 4 fights but I guess a win over Renan St Juste in 2010 might be a hook to hang it on. Alvarez and Miranda are both Colombians ( so they fight each other in Canada?) with Alvarez very much the new torch bearer for Colombian light heavyweights and Miranda, 3-5 in his last 8 fights, perhaps on the way down, although all five losses have been to top notch opposition.

A red hot flyweight match to look forward to will see the top two WBO rated fighters Giovani Segura and Herman Marquez clash. Segura has scored 26 of his 30 wins by KO/TKO and Marquez has the same number of KO/TKO wins in his 36 victories. War will be declared. Segura got quite a reward for beating Jonathan Gonzalez last month. Before the fight Segura was No 11 in the WBO ratings and Gonzalez No 7. Now Segura is No 1-for beating No 7!

Former WBC champion Oleg Maskaev continues his return next month when he tackles Corey Sanders. “The Big O” is looking for revenge. He was floored twice and stopped by Sanders in eight rounds back in 2002. Their careers diverged sharply after that. Four years later Maskaev was WBC champion and Sanders lost his next seven fights and retired in 2007. Now he is returning at the age of 38 so that Maskaev can get his revenge.

Gone are the days when it was Las Vegas, New York or Atlantic City for the big fights. Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios is in Macau and now Dubai is in the picture on 29 November with a good strawweight title fight between defending WBO champion Merlito Sabillo and mandatory challenger Carlos Buitrago. Also a thing of the past is the time when to be an attraction one of the fighters had to have a connection to the venue. In Dubai we have a Filipino fighting a Nicaraguan. Also in the past; local rivalries were what stirred fans but even those are rare these days.

The Pacquiao vs. Rios undercard will see heavyweights Andy Ruiz and Alex Leapai clash. Mexican Ruiz is 20-0 but at 6’2” (188cm) and 250lbs he looks more than just fleshy to me. Although Ruiz was Mexican amateur champion the only major event he managed to qualify for was the 2007 World Championships where he lost to American Mike Hunter. He just does not strike me as the future of heavyweight boxing.  Leapai is a similar case for me. He is 6’0” (183cm) and weighs around 240lbs and his loss to Kevin Johnson is proof enough for me that whoever wins between these two will not figure highly in the post-Klitschko era.

Still on heavyweights. Swedish hope Robert Helenius is ready to get back into action. The “Nordic Nightmare” needed surgery after injuring his hand in beating Michael Sprott in March and he is now healed and looking to fight soon. Helenius is 6’6 ½” (200cm) tall and fights at around 240lbs which is a better height/weight ratio.

WBC cruiser champion Krzys Wlodarczyk is trying his hand at heavyweight. He will fight Pole Albert Sosnowski on February 22. The 31-year-old Pole has Giacobbe Fragomeni as his mandatory challenger but again that will be a hard sell as Fragomeni is 44. Three years older than when Wlodarczyk stopped him for the vacant title in 2010. Sosnowski is a good choice as the Pole vs. Pole (what did I just say about local rivalries) is an attraction and Sosnowski is not a big heavyweight, and has been in indifferent form.

Still on cruiserweights Ola Afolabi returns to the ring on the 2 November when Gennady Golovkin defends his WBA title against Curtis Stevens in Madison Square Garden. Hopefully one day Afolabi will get to fight for a title other than the WBO or get to fight Marco Huck at a neutral venue. The WBA have been caught with their ratings down over Golovkin vs. Stevens. After losing to Jesse Brinkley (by 12, 10 and 8 points) in January 2010 Stevens was inactive until March 2012 since when he has beaten Romaro Johnson, Elvin Ayala, Derrick Findley and Saul Roman. The WBA rightly assessed these results as being insufficient to get into their top 15-until now. Suddenly Stevens will magically appear in their next ratings and with one rub of the magic lamp a sanctioning fee appears.

Bad luck for Argentinian Luis Carlos Abregu. With his wins over Thomas Dulorme and Antonin Decarie getting him the No 1 spot in the WBC ratings he was ready to cash in. However, a hand injury has side-lined him and he will not fight again until 2014. Floyd Mayweather Jr vs. Saul Alvarez is a great fight for boxing and for the WBC but you can be sure that if Floyd wins the WBC will not be saying you need to fight Abregu-or else. There are different rules for some fighters.

On the subject of Alvarez I overlooked the Alvarez family in my talk of the Kameda and Morales clans producing world champions. The Alvarez clan has a champion in Saul, the youngest of the four fighting brothers. They can claim a champion of sorts in the eldest of the brothers, Rigo, who was interim WBA light middle champion, but has been inactive since October 2011. The two middle brothers, 31-year-old Ricardo (21-2-3) and 27-year-old Ramon (16-4-2) just don’t seem to be of the same quality so looks like there is not going to be a four world title family anytime soon.

The De La Hoya family also has a chance to produce another world champion. It is early days but Oscar’s cousin Diego is turning pro. He is 19 and reportedly had 250 amateur fights (if he started at 9-years-old that would still be 25 fights a year, ummm). He will be watched with interest. Hope he fights better than his publicity guys count.

There has been some talk of Vasyl Lomachenko getting a rating if he wins his first fight and then going for a world title in his second fight. The question has then arisen as to whether he would set a record for winning a world title in the least number of fights. The current record is held by Thai Saensak Muangsurin who won the WBC light welter title in only his third fight, although Muangsurin had an extensive Muay Thai career before switching to “international style” boxing. Cold water is being thrown over any record attempt by data base keepers Fight Fax who recognise Lomachenko’s fights under the AIBA professional banner as pro fights and say he has already had more than two professional fights. To me this is grey area. In the past amateur fighters in both France and Spain have had fights against professional opponents but have been able to make a decision at a certain point whether they wish to continue into a professional career or stay amateur. There was even a case where a French fighter won the French pro title and then returned to the amateurs. You then have to consider whether if a full time professional beats a fighter who decided subsequently to stay amateur should it appear on the professional’s record?

With regard to Fight Fax’s stance there is also the question of who administers and oversees the contest. If a fight is held in a State with no established Boxing Commission and the show is not overseen by a recognised Commission from another State then Fight Fax view that it is a “no decision”. These are shown on the record but not on the fighters total record. It is my understanding that the AIBA bouts are overseen by the amateur bodies in each country where the bouts occur. If that is so then there are many countries, including the USA, where amateur and professional boxing are run by totally separate bodies - so it appears that to be consistent Fight Fax should not count these AIBA fights if they are not overseen by a body recognised as overseeing professional boxing in that State or country. It is not straight forward, but the important thing is that one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time is turning professional and his meteoric rise will be interesting to watch. He has his first fight on the undercard to Marquez vs. Bradley facing Jonathan Oquendo. Although Oquendo has lost inside the distance to Juan Manuel Lopez and Wilfredo Vazquez he has 23 wins, 16 by KO/TKO so he won’t be happy being regarded as a sacrificial lamb.

Victor Ortiz may have been inactive in the ring, but he has been testing the water in another profession. The former WBC welter champion has been inactive since suffering a broken jaw against Josesito Lopez in June last year. He has tried his hand at acting and is in the film “Expendables 3”. As for boxing there is talk of a fight with Randall Bailey. Sounds like he wants to give his jaw a real rest.

Looking for a positive I saw that Kazak amateur star Serik Sapiev has been appointed a UNESCO Ambassador in recognition of the charity work that Sapiev has done with children. He almost matches Lomachenko in achievements having been World Military Champion, World Championships gold medal winner in 2005 and 2007 and was Olympic champion at the London Games. Good to see someone in boxing getting recognition from as important a body as UNESCO.

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