by Fox Doucette
An argument broke out in 27th-century San Dimas as the Temporal Commission argued over the matchup for this week’s Historical Fight Night. The head of the commission turned to the guys in the time machine and said “We’re doing Roy Jones-Michael Moorer at heavyweight. Thing is, Jones only had one title fight at that weight.”
“Look, I see where this is going. If you expect us to go back to that boring fight between Jones and John Ruiz, you’re out of your mind. No way are we taking the time machine back to that stink bomb.”
“What, are you kidding me? No, I want you to go back and get Roy from the Glen Kelly fight. We can always put the weight on him in the gym in 2016.”
So that’s what you’re getting, folks. Moorer comes in from the first fight with Evander Holyfield, a fight that he had no business at all winning. Jerry Roth turned in one of the all-time most head-scratcher scorecards, giving the fight to Moorer 115-114 on a 10-10 second round in which Moorer got knocked down. If he gave it 10-9 or 10-8, the fight’s a draw. Even then, your columnist had it 115-112 for Holyfield and the HBO guys, Harold Lederman and Larry Merchant, both had it 114-113 for the at-the-time champion.
So why get a guy from a fight he by all rights lost? Because it was Teddy Atlas’s greatest (and by greatest we mean “most Teddy Atlas”) night of his career as a trainer, and Rule of Funny applies. Besides, a hard-punching heavyweight like Moorer shouldn’t have a problem with Roy Jones…should he?
Our co-feature, and it is here that I give proper credit to Boxing Tribune compatriot Danny Howard for suggesting these matchups in this week’s episode, brings you Paul Williams taking on Vernon Forrest at junior middleweight. The Punisher comes in from beating the bananas out of Verno Phillips for the only title belt Williams held at 154 (WBO, “interim” version), while Forrest steps in from beating Michele Piccirillo into a fine paste for the WBC version of the title. These guys held belts at 147 and 154 contemporaneously with each other…yet they never fought. We aim to rectify this tonight.
From the Historical Fight Night Arena Presented By You, If You Donate On Patreon, in San Dimas, California, these fights are scheduled for 12 rounds using the Unified Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Scoring is on the 10-point must system, there is no three knockdown rule, no standing eight count, only the referee can stop the fight, and a fighter cannot be saved by the bell in any round including the twelfth and final round.
Now, for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching from around the world…
Let’s Make History.
Paul Williams (11/29/2008, 36-1, 27 KOs) vs. Vernon Forrest (12/1/2007, 40-2, 29 KOs)
A quote from Ricky Gervais (which we’ve used before here, talking about Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran) about the Falklands War comes to mind when comparing these two fighters.
“The reason it’s my favorite war is that it was a range war and what that means is that the Argentine guns could fire 9 kilometers. The British guns could fire 17 kilometers so we just parked our ships 10 kilometers away and theirs were falling into the sea and we were shelling the shit out of them. It’s the war equivalent of holding a midget at arm’s length and he’s flailing and you’re just kicking him in the bollocks like that.”
Paul Williams has an 82-inch reach, freakishly long arms on his 6’2″ frame, a lot like Hearns and his 78-inch reach giving him a 6’6″ wingspan when he’s only 6’1″.
Forrest is only two inches shorter than the Punisher, but his reach is fully nine inches shorter. Williams is built like a basketball player…indeed, Kawhi Leonard, who is noted for his insanely long arms that allow him to play defense against anyone in the NBA, has an 87-inch reach on a 6’7″ frame. Imagine Wladimir Klitschko with six extra inches of reach and you get the idea.
Williams also has a fatal flaw; he gives up his height and fights inside a little too readily, and it leaves his long, lean body open to get hit.
Guess what Vernon Forrest did to perfection against Michele Piccirillo.
Mills Lane is your referee here, and in his words, “let’s get it on”:
The diligence with which Forrest executed his fight plan was to be commended from the get-go here. He came in looking to hit the body of Williams, and if he got smacked around a bit to get there, it was just going to be part of the cost of admission to his own personal show.
The oldest maxim in boxing is “take out the body and the head will fall.” With unity of purpose, Vernon Forrest took out the body, chopping away at it like a lumberjack, even if he had to walk through hell to get there.
This is not to say that Williams was a passive participant in the process. Every time Forrest advanced, Williams unleashed, from superior range, a collection of jabs and straight left hands, using his southpaw stance to his advantage to confuse his opponent and, if that failed, to step on his opponent’s front foot and throw him off his balance.
Lane counted no less than three slips in the round, as Forrest hit the floor like he was Joe Frazier in the first George Foreman fight, the difference being that not once was such a fall precipitated by a valid punch.
Still, there are worse things to be than dropped without being punched, as all that dropping of the hands to throw those body shots left him open to a guy who could shorten those long arms and throw inside as well as anyone in the fight game.
Williams began to take control a bit, as he started timing Forrest and hitting him with harder shots, working off the hook rather than the jab in an effort to force Forrest to respect his considerable punching power. When he had Forrest raising his guard a bit more, Williams threw the short inside uppercut underneath that defense, landing rising shots to the body that appeared for the moment to turn the momentum of the fight. After two rounds that were all but impossible to score, the third round was far more toward the beyond-doubt end of the judging spectrum.
The middle rounds of this fight were the classic example of the kind of back-and-forth give-and-take that define a perfectly-matched pair of opponents. Williams continued to enjoy the range advantage when he wanted to fight on the outside, but what good is a range advantage when you voluntarily give it up by trying a little too hard to get after your opponent? Williams would lunge a little bit when he wanted to land a body shot, and for the most part, all it got him was out of position and into his opponent’s wheelhouse.
So it went for the next four rounds, Williams controlling the fight on the outside and Forrest landing at-times devastating punches in close and downstairs.
All that body punching finally started to have the desired effect for Forrest. Williams began to tire a bit, looking for his wind more than he had in the early rounds, the effects of the body punching on clear display, and Williams began to push Forrest back, trying to maneuver him into position to hit him to the body himself, all the while a bit leaden, his hand speed having abandoned him to the cause of getting enough oxygen.
Forrest pressed the advantage and had his best round of the fight. Williams had lost some steam, but he did still have the simple fact on his side of his longer arms.
As the fight entered its later stages, Williams finally realized, or perhaps more to the point was forced to consider, that the inside was not going to be a range where he’d be able to win the fight. Much as he had in the third round, Williams turned it into a range war, something for which Forrest had no answer, and the Punisher won the ninth and tenth with ease.
Trouble was, it took a lot of effort and energy to keep a guy off him who not only retained his determination to get inside and work that long body to his advantage (“breaking some windows”, as Teddy Atlas so often puts it), but who continued to widen the gulf in stamina between himself and the man in front of him.
If this fight were scheduled for 15, it would have all the makings of a late-round stoppage, but time was not on Forrest’s side if that was indeed his aim. He hadn’t consistently landed to the head, so he wasn’t going to enjoy the fruits of a pair of knockdowns the way he had in the Piccirillo fight. Indeed, nobody had been down at all.
Williams was gassed; Forrest wasn’t quite strong enough to finish him. Forrest fought like he believed his cornermen when they said he needed a knockout, working his way inside and ripping the hooks and uppercuts to the body of the Punisher, trying desperately to knock him out and to do so in a way that would ensure that if Williams did hit the canvas, that he would be unable to rise, felled by having his foundations ripped out from under him.
Nobody questioned the winner of the twelfth any more than they had the eleventh. This fight was going to come down to a few easy rounds and a plethora of impossible ones. With twelve rounds of boxing complete, we go to the judges’ scorecards.
Judge Dalby Shirley scores the bout 115-113, Williams. Judge Chuck Giampa scores the bout 115-113, Forrest. And Judge Harold Lederman scores the bout 115-113, for your winner, by split decision…
As the scores were revealed, it proved one thing: You can pull off one hell of a come-from-behind victory if you put money in the bank in the early rounds by punishing the opponent’s midsection rather than trying to headhunt a guy who’s longer and taller than you are.
RESULT: FORREST W-SD12 WILLIAMS
Roy Jones Jr. (2/2/2002, 46-1, 37 KOs) vs. Michael Moorer (4/22/1994, 35-0, 30 KOs)
Jones got eight weeks of conditioning in a 2016 training camp ahead of this fight, and the emphasis was put not on adding bulk, since he was facing a guy who, like himself, had moved up from light heavy to campaign as a heavyweight and wasn’t a naturally bigger guy, but on adding strength without sacrificing speed.
As a result, this was something of a heavyweight contest in name only, as Jones came in at 187 pounds, closer to the heavyweights of the distant past than the ones of even an era where guys like Moorer and Holyfield could reign as champions. Jones was motivated in training by word that got around the camp that disturbed him…a few people actually thought it was the 47-year-old version of Jones who seems downright determined to get himself killed in the ring who was fighting, not a 33-year-old Jones who was brought forward in time. Fortunately, he’s getting a mind wipe after the fight, but with the thought that he needed to re-establish his own legacy driving him forward, Jones trained with an unholy vengeance and purpose, ever after proving his own place in history.
Moorer, meanwhile, ducked the questions when he was asked about his place in history. Jim Lampley, on the original HBO broadcast in 1994, pointed out that Moorer never acted like he was in the biggest fight of his life when he was, in fact, in the biggest fight of his life against Holyfield, and questions swirled around in a maelstrom of “who wants it more” as fight night approached.
Still, when Michael Buffer delivered the catchphrase and referee Raul Caiz Sr. instructed the men to touch gloves, there was only one way this was truly going to be settled.
It’s a funny thing about Roy Jones. You never know quite what you’re going to get with him. When he wants to come out and fight a slow, cautious opening, he can keep you in stasis for two or even three rounds while he decides how he wants to attack. Many a tactical Jones fight was simply a result of his running out of rounds before he was able to land the coup de grace on his enemy, and plenty of his knockouts came about when his strategizing bore fruit sooner rather than later.
But when a pissed-off Roy Jones wanted to make an example of you? The rematch with Montell Griffin comes to mind. The Glen Kelly fight, when Kelly was too shell-shocked to come forward, led to Jones “chicken fighting” (his words) with his hands behind his back in the seventh round on the grounds that the only way he was going to land a counter punch was to literally stick his chin out and invite the opening blow (which, because it’s Roy Jones, led to a spectacular one-punch knockout in one of the most hilarious yet devastating moments in light heavyweight history.)
Jones knew that Moorer could punch, and he decided not to go charging in full bore. When you’ve got a guy in front of you with questionable heart who can be frustrated, and when that guy is a southpaw and thus vulnerable to the big right hand you can throw over the top, nobody’s expecting you to throw it right away.
Teddy Atlas gave Moorer the same advice in the corner he’d given him in the time machine moment fight, reminding him to “be happy with your jab but don’t be satisfied with your jab”, proving that Teddy-isms are a lot older than Friday Night Fights. Still, Atlas had a point. Moorer was, given the guy in front of him, trying to out-box a guy whose reflexes were still top-notch and who ate guys like that for breakfast in his prime.
Jones, in no particular mood to let this drag out any further, opened up a bit, bouncing side to side and beginning to give the angles for which he was so famous. In the course of training, he’d never sacrificed speed for bulk, and he delivered the punches like a 1950s heavyweight rather than the guy who gave John Ruiz a slog of a fight. There were shades of Ali-Liston in the footwork, with right hands coming in one way and left hooks coming in another. None of them landed quite cleanly enough to do real damage, but the effect on Moorer’s offensive capacity was in evidence, as Moorer got tentative, continuing to retreat behind his jab rather than take the fight to his foe.
Roy Jones had a funny way of pressing an advantage. As soon as he knew he was truly out of danger, it was a cat and mouse game. Jones danced around the ring, continuing to fire from all angles, taunting Moorer and commanding him to come forward. He even dropped his hands and stuck out his chin, pointing right at it before bringing his hands back to the ready position.
Moorer knew where that was going and wanted no part of it, so Jones just went back to work, stepping into the pocket and firing the overhand right, which he was able to land almost at will. When Moorer moved to stop it, Jones switched to the left hook, or to the right to the body, every which way but loose.
Finally, a right hand landed flush. Moorer staggered back. Jones pursued Moorer to the ropes, letting loose with a four-punch combination downstairs, and when the body shots lowered the guard of the man in front of him, Jones came back up top with a big left hook.
Moorer continued to weather the assault, but he wasn’t looking good. He put his hands up, but he left his elbows a bit too wide to stop the body shots…and Jones brought an uppercut right down Broadway, splitting the guard, catching Moorer on the chin, and putting him on the canvas for a count of seven.
Moorer was saved after the count, as the bell sounded to end the round before any punishment could be inflicted, but there’s an old saying in the military about the guys being more afraid of the general behind them than the enemy in front of them.
After the verbal dressing-down that Atlas gave Moorer in the corner, nobody could say that tough love had been the right course. Atlas gave a big speech about looking inside the heart and finding the will to win and not just rolling over like a dog, and the light and the fight went out of the eyes of his charge.
The plan had been to inspire. The effect was to demoralize. The moment Jones landed a glancing shot, a phantom punch even, Moorer went down, and he just watched Caiz count. As soon as Caiz said “Ten!”, Moorer rose, right as rain, like a soccer player whose dive has elicited the desired yellow card and who is ready to resume play.
Plenty of people accused Moorer of quitting, not least of whom was Teddy Atlas. But we talk about echoes on this show. When Moorer went to the Place Beyond Time to have his memories reset, the faint whispers of memory that so often find their way into fighters returned to their own time might very well have been what gave Moorer the strength to go down five times and keep coming back for more when Evander Holyfield beat the tar out of him in the rematch. Three years…or 12 minutes’ worth of a lifetime.
No matter the philosophical or mnemonic implications of a ride in a time machine to the 27th century and back, the simple fact remained that the audience in San Dimas had borne witness to a demonstration of what happens when ego meets talent meets superior boxing ability. Roy Jones, determined to put a stamp on history, had beaten the ever-loving crap out of Michael Moorer.
RESULT: JONES KO4 MOORER.
All this talk of Roy Jones reminds me that we haven’t yet featured Antonio Tarver on this program. That all changes next week, as Tarver takes on Eddie Mustafa Muhammad in our main event.
Your co-feature? How about Ricardo Mayorga, at welterweight, taking on Antonio Margarito? We’ve done the last-decade “never fought even though they were contemporaries” angle here this week, but it’s funny how some things raise more questions than answers.
That airs Saturday, March 19th, right here on The Boxing Tribune. Once again, I’d like to thank Danny Howard for his excellent matchmaking suggestions for this week’s episode; I tied myself in knots figuring out who I thought would win that co-feature; the main event was a bit easier once I unhooked myself from having to watch Jones-Ruiz. If you want to get in on the fun, there are a few good Facebook communities with an interest in historical fights; join one and you’ll probably find me there taking suggestions.
And as always, thanks for reading, and see you next week!