Fight against Foreman provides proof Morrison knows what to do in the ring

Phil Jackman

June 16, 1993|By Phil Jackman

News from the Cauliflower Patch:

Hey, this kid Tommy Morrison can fight. Seen it with my own eyes. Yeah, right there on HBO (a rerun of a pay-per-view show June 7) against George Foreman the other night.

It will be on again -- tomorrow, 11 p.m. Check it out.

Anyway, maybe you remember Tough Man Competition Tommy as a guy who could dish it out for about 10 minutes before all the wind came out of his spinnaker like on one of those 12-meter yachts during a sudden calm in an America's Cup race.

Strangely, it didn't happen against Foreman. Morrison got out to his usual fine start and, despite a slight wobble in the seventh round, just kept on going. The scoring -- 117-110, 117-110 and 118-109 -- gave indication of what the judges thought.

Remember now, Foreman is 44 and doesn't flatten guys with a mean look anymore. But good ol' George was in the best shape he's achieved in years and, in his alleged swan song, gave it his best effort.

But Morrison just didn't stand there waiting for his lethal left hook to take effect as he had in three dozen fights before. Tommy had a jab, something he previously figured was outlawed just like the rabbit punch.

Repeatedly, he smacked Foreman with nearly a hundred of them and simply moved away either left or right. If anything, George appeared to be the befuddled one. George favors plodding straight ahead, tidal wave style.

Previously, against questionable opposition but still the best the division has to offer for a guy on his way up, Morrison charged ahead winging, knowing the other guy would fall sooner or later.

These tactics dated back to his tough-man days when, he said, "All you had to have was a little boxing skill to last about five minutes. Then the other guy, usually half-drunk, would fall over from exhaustion."

A trainer named Tommy Virgets is the gent who appears to have made Morrison into a far more versatile fighter. "He doesn't have a good imagination as a boxer," Virgets explained, "so he wants to be programmed. Then, when the program doesn't work, he gets frustrated and makes mistakes."

Not this time. The grand-nephew of John Wayne stuck to the game plan and the options outlined. He certainly wasn't in awe of Foreman. "I don't think George takes a punch that well, particularly to the stomach," he said.

Big George tagged Morrison, but the kid said he was able to roll with the shots because "his hands are so slow you could see the punches coming."

Don't misunderstand, this was not Ali and Frazier pummeling each other unmercifully for an hour. Still, it marked the emergence of a guy who can contend in a division that so rules the interest of the typical fan. What else explains Larry Holmes getting excellent ratings on cable shows that barely resemble fights?

At ringside as a commentator was IBF-WBA heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe and nearby was WBC champ Lennox Lewis. Their mouths watered to the point of almost drowning at the thought of facing this latest "Great White Hope," as though they're supreme beings.

Yes, Bowe beat rugged small man Evander Holyfield for the championship and Lewis inherited his share of the crown by zapping Razor Ruddock, a man who suddenly thought he could become a cutey overnight.

Both men have upcoming assignments but, when asked, denied them. "I have no obligation to meet Frank Bruno," said Lewis. They meet on Sept. 25 in London.

Bowe, after two specious title defenses, is obligated to meet the winner of the Holyfield-Alex Stewart fight June 26 sometime in the fall. Then there's the IBF mandatory against the top-rated Michael Moorer also in the picture.

Of course, rules, regulations, contracts, obligations and handshakes mean nothing in the fight game. Usually, however, things have a way of shaking out so that the best guys inevitably make it into the ring.

Moorer, who fights James Pritchard on USA's "Tuesday Night Fights" next week is coming on strong. It will be an enlarged (220 pounds) Holyfield who Stewart will have to contend with in 10 days.

And, as Morrison says, "I'm making positive strides now. No more of that one-punch stuff. I've got a lot to learn but learning will come a lot quicker now that I'm doing a lot of the right things in the ring."

"Tommy Morrison doesn't have the tools to beat a Riddick Bowe," said Bowe, sagely, all the while standing there in a tuxedo after literally vacationing since late last year when he was in tough against Holyfield.

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