Hammer, Kick-boxing Champ, Tries To Nail Down Boxing

SIDELINES

January 09, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

When he jumps into the ring tomorrow night for his third pro boxing bout, Cliff "The Hammer" McPherson finally will be in the right frameof mind.

McPherson is a man who wears two robes -- one glitters and the other, for now, is tattered. He hopes to have two sparkling robes when the night is over.

The Hammer is known best for his kick-boxing as the Eastern Regional champion and the ninth-ranked cruiserweight (181-189) in the world. With an 8-2-2 record in kick-boxing, the Glen Burnie resident is a serious world-title contender.

That's not so in the pugilistic sport where you use only your hands. The Hammer is winless in his first two pro boxing bouts, but intends to atone for that tomorrow nightat the Josh Hall and Victoria Savaliski-promoted dinner and boxing show at LaFontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie.

The show is headlined by the polished Victor Davis, but the Hammer will have a legion of fans on hand to see him win his first pro boxing fight.

"If you've seenthe two pro fights Cliff has had, he could have won either one of them," Hall said of the Hammer, who was decisioned twice in the 182-pound class.

"Considering the short time Cliff has been into boxing,I think he has come along very well. Cliff fought his heart out in both those fights, but he didn't get aggressive enough until it was too late."

Hall, who is in the Maryland State Boxing Hall of Fame for his brilliant career in Baltimore back during the '70s, was impressed with the way McPherson, 31, came back in his last loss in November at LaFontaine Bleu.

"I told Cliff that what he has to do is fight as hard in the early part of the fight as you did when you got your eye closed," said Hall. "He said, 'What do you mean?' And I said, 'After you got hurt with your eye all closed, then you turned tiger.'

"I said, 'Turn tiger before that happens.' "

The problem was that the Hammer just wasn't into it mentally and for good reason. It took a couple shots to the eye and ultimate closing of his peeper to wake him up that night.

"Not to make excuses, but two days beforemy first pro boxing fight, my wife had a miscarriage and that was onmy mind," said the Hammer. "And the last one, I just didn't train right and came out and got head-butted three times.

"I just wasn't into it until he closed my eye. Then, I went after him, but this time, it's going to be Hammer time and I'm ready, in great shape."

Ron Preston, a 178-pounder out of Pennsylvania, will be the opponent. Preston is a 24-year-old who can slug, said Hall.

"I just saw Cliff box five hard rounds in the gym the other night with Butch Kelly and if he can do that with Butch, who has a 6-2 record, then he shouldn't have any trouble with Preston," said Hall.

Kelly, a Brooklyn Parker, will be in McPherson's corner tomorrow night. Kelly is not boxing for a while due to the death of his mom.

The big adjustment from kick-boxing to boxing for McPherson has been learning to use his hands more.

"In kick-boxing, you can sort of pace yourself in two-minute rounds with your legs and hands, but in boxing you have three-minute rounds," said the Hammer. "In boxing the guy is steadily beating you with his hands and you've got to be more aggressive with yourfists."

Hall said that the Hammer needs to "concentrate more on being aggressive with the fists in boxing, because in kick-boxing they throw so many kicks around and you don't have to worry about how many punches they throw."

In a relatively short time, McPherson hasadjusted fairly well, and tomorrow night, he hopes to show how far he has come. Mentally and emotionally, this will be a very important fight for the determined McPherson.

The guy is a bull who works hard at his craft while building roofs by day. He's tasted success in kick-boxing and expects even bigger things to happen in the near future, but he needs desperately to fulfill that inner satisfaction of winning that first pro boxing match.

McPherson is seeking that same self-esteem and confidence when he throws just punches as when he throws fists and feet.

Currently ranked ninth in the world by the Fight Factory Karate Association and 10th in the cruiser division by the Karate International Council of Kick-boxing, the Hammer has an exciting itinerary for 1991.

McPherson, who recently received his biggold belt from FFKA symbolizing his Eastern Regional championship status, is slated to journey to France in February for an 11-round Intercontinental title bout sanctioned by KICK.

The Hammer will tune up for his international debut with a five-rounder at Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple at the end of this month.

"It's finally starting to come together for me, the good money, expenses and the chance to travel a little bit," said the Hammer.

After his trip to France, the Hammer plans to fight in April or May in Chambersburg, Pa.,against Zennie Reynolds of Columbia, Mo. Reynolds, ranked fifth in the world in the heavyweight division, will drop to cruiserweight for his date with the Hammer.

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