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Boxing News, December 15, 2006

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Punch-Perfect Moorer
Ex-champ Begins Comeback in Style



It’s been my lot this year to cover some of the lamest boxing pay-per-views known to man. Since sarcasm and cynicism come as easily to me as devouring chocolate sundaes, I don’t especially mind.  My last PPV report was on the Mike Tyson exhibition on October 20 ($30 US), which I described in numerous ways as the absolute nadir of PPV, since the sport started screwing boxing fans in this fashion.  Second place might go the PPV that took place this past Saturday—for $30 US. The main event—Michael Moorer’s highly anticipated return to the ring against journeyman and Mike Tyson doppelganger Cliff Couser—would be a buzzkill if it were shown on ESPN2.

This card at the Seminole Hard Rock Arena in Hollywood, Florida, is such easy prey, I’m going to refrain from taking too many pot-shots. It’s no fun when boxing’s greedy, myopic moneymen make it this easy. Warriors Boxing, the promoters of the show, have pulled this stunt before. They seem to think this event was special. because they aired four heavyweight fights that included two former world champions, Moorer and Oliver McCall.

Well, it’s not. It’s still junk.

Moorer, who came in at a blubbery 250, made short work of Couser. The opponent has beaten no one of note for the past six years but has been KO’d by Clifford Etienne, Lance Whitaker, Malcolm Tann, Vladimir Virchis and now Moorer, who ended it at 1:36 of the first.

Couser, now 25-11-2 (13), should volunteer his services as a full-time Mike Tyson impersonator.  He enters the ring in black trunks with no robe and no socks, a 20-inch neck, and features that bear an uncanny resemblance to the once-baddest man on the planet. But his skills are nothing like a prime Tyson’s, nor is his knockout percentage, but he does swing for the fences.

Couser came at Moorer and backed the former champ into the ropes. The almost serene Moorer stayed cool and then got off a short right hook to the body that landed on the beltline. He then went upstairs with a tight right hook, which froze Couser for a second. He followed with the same perfectly thrown shot, but this time it landed on the opponent’s right temple.  He was out before he hit the canvas; his right leg twitched hideously in the air as medical staff rushed to his aid.

Normally I would frown upon a 39-year-old former heavyweight champ making his umpteenth comeback, and doing so with a Michelin tire for a gut. But Moorer has a preternatural calm in the ring—just like the older version of George Foreman, who knocked him out 12 years ago and took his WBA and IBF belts. Now fighting totally flatfooted but retaining admirable punching technique, Moorer might have more punching power than when he was a trim 214 and took on Evander Holyfield for the first time. Indeed, his one-punch KO of Vassily Jirov two years ago was most impressive. (Equally impressive was his deciding to retire on that high note—an idea I wish he’d stuck with.)  Moorer is now 48-4-1 (38), and with the heavyweights being what they are, a string of wins against nobodies could put him back into title contention. Hey, it worked for Shannon Briggs.

Roman Greenberg of London via Tel-Aviv, Israel, faced Steve Pannell in a scheduled 10-rounder. But it only lasted three, as Roman knocked Pannell down multiple times a out of there at 2:23 of the round.

For years, Greenberg has gotten a lot of ink. It’s not often that you see a Jewish heavyweight, even in the prelims of the Golden Gloves. But when I finally got to see him at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, first against Jason Gethers (April 2004), then against Marcus McGee (January 2005), I didn’t see what the fuss was about.  And we’re members of the same tribe!

Greenberg has a European style with his left held out in front.  But he looks as though he’s studied a lot of Naz tapes. That’s okay if you’ve got blinding speed and catlike reflexes, but I didn’t see those qualities in evidence. What I recall seeing was a lazy heavyweight who barely threw punches and behaved as if once he did, we’d witness something the second coming of George Foreman. Now 24-0 (17), and checking in at a puffy 243, Greenberg’s managers have been taking him along slowly.

Pannell, 39, is no exception to this—even if commentators Al Bernstein and Sean O’Grady refused to admit it. In between lauding Pannell’s jab, size and experience, they never mentioned that he’s gone 1-8 since 1998, every loss via KO. It’s true he was in with a who’s who of the division—Rahman, Wlad. Klitschko, Botha, Mercer, McCline and journeymen like Ed Mahone, too. But it doesn’t take Mickey Duff to notice he’s got whiskers like my 97-year-old grandma.

I gave Pannell the first two rounds.  He does, in fact, have a decent jab and it caused Greenberg problems, including a bloody nose by the second (a short right actually opened it up).  Greenberg makes a lot of defensive errors, which he consider flash and style. He slips punches—often getting tagged by them—with his hands in his pockets.  He leans back from shots and stands tall when he backs straight up.  While I like the way he turns the left into a sneaky hook, à la Kostya Tszyu or Wlad. Klitschko, he holds it dangerously low; eventually someone will make him pay with a right over the top.  His record doesn’t indicate he’s faced an opportunistic fighter with a big punch. Before he does, he better tighten things up.

But he definitely had enough to use Pannell as the stepping stone that he is. Midway through the third, Pannell threw an excruciatingly slow and wide overhand right, which Roman timed with a short one-two.  The right connected flush and put the man on his back and barely able to beat the count.  Not longer after, the same exact sequence took place, except this time Roman’s left landed as well. Pannell went down once more.  On shaky legs—which didn’t look good to begin with, frankly—Pannell had his back to the ropes while the 24-year-old looked to end it. A right uppercut did the trick.

When the knockdowns came, the commentators praised Greenberg’s “great power.” Maybe it’s there, maybe it’s not.  Certainly, the chinny Steve Pannell isn’t a decent acid test.  This victory notwithstanding, in Greenberg I see the proverbial work-in-progress—but one who’s not killing himself to improve.

Would love to be wrong. Time will tell.

A fighter with less talent than Greenberg but with more fire in his belly is Michael Marrone. At 16-0 (13) he too has a ways to go. On the other hand, he has the benefit of being managed by icon Lou Duva, who he has known since childhood.

Marone wasted no time at the sound of the bell.  Within a couple seconds, he dropped the sorry Robert Bellamy, now 14-6-4 (9), with a left hook. 

For the remained of the round, Marrone didn’t just headhunt but raked the body with hooks. When a weakened Bellamy dropped his guard, another short left hook had him hurt. He grabbed a rope to avoid falling, but the ref gave him a standing eight-count.

The second round was still no picnic for the 6’5’’ Ballamy, whose clumsiness  is complemented by nonexistent skills. Towards the end of the third, twelve hard hooks upstairs went unanswered by Ballamy, forcing a TKO stoppage at 2:48.

Again, I hate to sound like a crusty pessimist, but I don’t see Marrone ever being a top-10 heavyweight. Even though he weighed a somewhat soft, muscle-free 226, he looks like a cruiserweight. His respectable KO ratio is due to the fact he’s been matched softer than Roman Greenberg has. But he’s only 21, and I’d be more than happy to be wrong about his prospects.

Former WBC heavyweight champ Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall was in a dreadfully boring match against Cuban journeyman Yanqui Diaz, who fell to 13-5 (8). Nothing much happened until the seventh, when McCall connected with three right uppercuts on the inside to Diaz’s chin. The opponent was counted out at 2:28.  

The now 49-8 (36) McCall was always heavy-handed and granite-chinned and that much hasn’t changed. Although still muscular in the chest, shoulders and arms—especially for 41—the ex-champ looked seven months pregnant at 259. In August 2005, when he stopped the Polish star Przemyslaw Saleta, he was a ripped 235.

McCall, though still nuts, made a good point pitch his post-fight interview.  He reminded Sean O’Grady and the twelve PPV buyers listening that since his in-the-ring meltdown against Lennox Lewis nine years ago, he’s gone 21-1 (16). Many of his fights have been against stiffs, but several have been names prospects such as Roman Greenberg appear not yet ready to face.

“Give me shot, Oleg! I knocked you out once, I can do it again,” McCall called out to the WBC titlist Maskaev.  McCall is ranked #5 by that sanctioning body. He also called out “The Giant,” WBA beltholder Nicolai Valuev. Interestingly, he didn’t mention the name Klitschko.  Although this recent desultory performance doesn’t have me pining to see him again, I’m willing to believe he’s a tough outing for most of the titlists and the majority of the top-10.  

Jnr. welter Jesus Pabon KO’d Eli Addison in the second.

Jnr. middle Timmy Leonard stopped Louis Ruiz in one.

Jnr. welter Danny Vanstaden won a UD 4 over Jesse Francisico






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