Boxing


Michael Moorer: He Kept His Word

09.12.04 - By Wray Edwards: Just about midnight, in Miami, Florida at the American Airlines Arena, Michael Moorer was speaking with us before the post-fight news conference. He had just lost a decision to Eliseo Castillo on the Casamayor-Seda undercard. Eastside Boxing asked Michael how this loss had affected his future career plans. Mike looked me in the eye and said, "I'm going to have to go back to the gym, work harder and do what I have to do
to get back and win."

At that time, and in light of his poor showing versus Castillo, one was tempted to think he was being overconfident. In fact, my article about that fight, and his statements, characterized his confidence as "touchingly unrealistic"; touching, because he was a very personable and direct guy to talk to. I liked him, and nobody wants to see a good person kid themselves. Unrealistic, because he did not look very good opposite Castillo whom he should have been able to confront more effectively. I thought, "This guy's done"..

Evidently Richard Hogans of Memphis, Tennessee (one of Moorer's trainers) thought differently. From the look of him tonight, Michael (37) did work harder, did do what he had to do to get back and win. Fat had turned to muscle.

Fox Sports Network presented Moorer's 9th return to the ring, after a three year lay-off, to deal with the odd, circling, bull-dozer style of Vasilly Jirov. Introducing the fight for The Best Damn Sports Show Period were Tom Arnold, Sean O'Grady, James Toney, Chris Byrd and a whole host of the sort of friendly dudes and commentators one expects from FSN's jocular approach to sports events.

The presentation, strangely sanitized of ring card girls, considering FSN's often ribald approach, was fairly well organized, if somewhat irritatingly front-loaded with commercials. The boxer-bio material preceding the fight was informative though oddly mixed with rather inane quips from the "celebrity" peanut gallery.

THE FIGHT

ROUND ONE saw Moorer stepping forward flat-footedly, as usual, rocking back-and-forth to set up for one of his patented one-hit wonders. Jirov stayed back and circled left and right, on his toes, while warming up his right jab; Slight edge to Vasilly for work rate, with one good pop thrown in by Michael.

ROUND TWO had Vasilly increasing right jabs which flustered Moorer, in general, though Mike got in another good tag. Jirov increased body shots.

ROUND THREE included the first blood of the match as the "Tiger" turned bull-dozer traded skulls with Moorer. Vasilly was cut, but Moorer was the one who took a knee for a semi-eight count. Weird.

At 0:43 of round four Jirov, continuing his very effective jab, finally got in a very big right which rocked Moorer a bit. ROUNDS FIVE and SIX were unremarkable with Vasilly circling to prevent Moorer from getting set to deliver from the floor. Jirov consistently got off first tagging Mike with accurate jabs at about a 60% landing rate. Mike tried a few jabs but was not fast enough to beat Jirov to the punch very often.

ROUND SEVEN was the turning point of the fight. Contradicting pre-fight assessments that Moorer's 247 pounds would become a problem in the later rounds, Mike began to pick up the pace. He stepped closer to Jirov, who began to circle less, and elected to begin trading inside with Moorer. Jirov had been balancing his attack with a very good mix of jabs to the head and what should have been meaningful body shots. Though Moorer reacted to some of them, his extra bulk seemed to absorb much of the punishment without real harm.

Round Seven also included a harsh pay-back to Jirov for his head-long encounter style, as he was cut near the right eye and began to bleed. This seemed to really encourage Moorer who stepped it up another considerable notch, and really started to put the lie to those who said he would fade as the fight got longer. Obviously Hogans' training emphasis on stamina conditioning was now paying off, as Moorer, who faded against Castillo in Miami, really started to rip at Jirov. This was the first round I gave to Moorer which left the fight at 69/64 for Jirov after seven.

ROUND EIGHT was another turning point for Jirov as he elected to step in on Mike even more as they traded very energetically back and forth. This activity finally tested referee Pat Russel's patience with Jirov bulling his head around, and though Moorer did some pretty good "roughing the passer" acting, Vasilly was finally assessed a one point deduction for his skullduggery. Still, Jirov kept a slight edge making the round 9/9 in the increasingly chaotic (for him) trend of the match: 78/73 Jirov.

ROUND NINE started with Jirov exiting radically from his jab-and-circle fight-plan, and mixing it up very dangerously with Moorer on the inside. Jirov began to drop his guard and "shoulder around" with Mike in close encounters. With about 1:10 to go in Round Nine, Moorer landed some really snappy rights and lefts which slapped Jirov around pretty good. Suddenly Jirov, leaning to his left dropped his right guard below his waist and Moorer clocked Vasilly with a left to the right temple and ear of Jirov's head. Jirov had already put in a request for a right and a left, which his brain had in the delivery pipe just before it realized the trauma of Moorer's left. The punches flailed harmlessly as Jirov emulated Newton's apple.

Jirov, falling to his right, went down to his hands and knees, then struggled to his feet, almost immediately, as the ref began the count. For some reason, Vasilly decided to do a quirky little Bo Jangles dance toward the ropes. As he turned to begin his sales pitch to the ref regarding his fitness to continue, Moorer watched intently to see if his left had closed the show. Patrick looked into Jirov's eyes...nobody was home. Russel waved Vasilly out, and Moorer raised his great arms in victory.

In post-fight interviews Moorer, who had been rated IBF #15, seemed to feel he was ready for bigger and better things. He's probably right. The WBA North American and WBC Continental titles are OK, but the bucks are available somewhat higher up the ladder where sterner tests await.

Moorer and his most recent opponents Eliseo Castillo and Vasilly Jirov have all been called "bums" by certain boxing "fans" That kind of talk is generally inappropriate considering the difficulties these men willingly face. It is especially loathsome if one has spoken with them, or observed their post-fight sportsmanship, which prove them to be hard-working, honest athletes. Fox Sports is to be congratulated for taking up the slack by promoting and covering these events.

Article posted on 10.12.2004



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