Moorer hopes to focus anger on Holyfield

April 20, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Ask Michael Moorer about his early boxing trials and how he plans to upset heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield at Caesars Palace on Friday night, and the unbeaten challenger rattles off the obligatory answers in a polite but bored monotone.

But mention his one-punch knockout of a Pennsylvania policeman three years ago and Moorer's eyes turn to slits and his anger explodes in short, quick bursts. He uses words with the same aggressive intent as he employs his left hook.

"Don't get me angry," he said. "If I get angry, I don't [care] about anybody. I can be mean."

This is the dark side of Michael Moorer that was evident the night he rumbled with police officer Carl Fronzaglio in his hometown of Monessen, Pa., a mill town some 20 miles from Pittsburgh. It was no contest. Fronzaglio, who was attempting to settle a dispute, suffered a broken jaw and a permanent hearing disability.

Facing a possible five-year sentence for aggravated assault, Moorer, in 1993, was placed on two years' probation and paid a reported $250,000 in damages to Fronzaglio.

Moorer wears his toughness like a badge. Emanuel Steward, his former manager, trainer and father figure, said the fighter worked hard to emulate the bullying style of late heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.

"You can perceive me as the meanest person on earth," Moorer '' said. "Do I care? No, and if I hurt your feelings, that's too bad."

But in the next breath, a contrite Moorer will say: "People try to portray me as being rude and ignorant. But they don't understand me. There are two sides to everybody -- good and bad -- and people only relate to things that have happened to me outside the ring.

"Everyone makes mistakes. I used to have a bad temper, and it gave me problems. But I've controlled that now. I've made a 180-degree turn. I'm not going to let my blood pressure rise. I'm not going to give people the satisfaction."

Moorer, 26, is often compared with former champion Mike Tyson for his menacing attitude.

While Tyson would talk perversely of trying to drive a rival's nose into his brain, Moorer would speak of throwing body shots through his opponent's ribs.

Before he was incarcerated for rape, Tyson felt he had a kinship with Moorer and tried to strike up a friendship.

"Let's take a picture together," Tyson said. "We're two bad Mikes."

But Moorer said there was a difference.

"Tyson's violence is outwardly spoken," he said. "Mine, I keep to myself."

But that is hardly the public perception.

"The best way to describe Michael Moorer is that he's no choirboy," promoter Dan Duva said.

But people who have spent time with the fighter say there is a sensitive side that belies his tough-guy image.

"We were like father and son," said Steward, who guided Moorer to the light-heavyweight title before they parted ways in 1991. "I never had a son of my own, and Michael filled that void for over four years.

"He lived in my house from the time he was 16, and we'd go everywhere together. I taught him how to shave, how to act in public, how to live.

"He'd send me cards every Father's Day, not just a card, but a handwritten note. Michael has a big heart, and he'd give you the shirt off his back.

"But you have to treat him delicately. He'd have a quick temper, and he got into some nasty situations because he can't drink. As soon as a fight broke out, Michael was in the middle."

Admitting they were too stubborn to co-exist, Steward sold his part of Moorer's contract to his manager, John Davimos, a Californian who inherited a fortune.

But Steward and Moorer remain close friends.

"Emanuel was like my father, more than anyone else in my life," said Moorer, who barely remembers his father. "I just felt that Emanuel was too busy with his other fighters in Detroit. He couldn't give me enough attention."

Moorer bounced from Steward to George Benton, who guided him to the World Boxing Organization heavyweight title in May 1992, when Moorer won a slugging match against Bert Cooper.

But Moorer thought Benton's teaching style was too defensive and found a new tutor in Teddy Atlas, who briefly was involved with Tyson.

Atlas says that Moorer is not always a model student.

"We've had some bumpy spots," said Atlas. "He likes to see what he can get away with, and there were days he'd try to get out of training. But I'd push him to go six hard rounds and he'd joke later, 'Not bad for a guy who didn't want to train.' And I told him, 'No, you just acted like a pro.' "

Moorer's mother, Paulette, raised six children working as a secretary. She said Michael was not violent as a boy.

"He didn't do a lot of fighting, just typical boy things," she told The Ring magazine. "He was hyper and more daring than other boys his age, so I thought it would be good for him to get involved in a violent sport."

Michael was introduced to boxing by his grandfather, Henry Smith, a former middleweight and trainer. His living room soon became a ring.

Steward first spotted Moorer when he was 19, fighting as an amateur in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In December 1988, 12 months after turning pro, Moorer won the light-heavyweight crown by stopping Ramzi Hassan in four rounds. But he quickly outgrew the 175-pound division.

Now Moorer (34-0, 30 KOs), is trying to become heavyweight champion of the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation.

He is prepared to vent all his pent-up anger against Holyfield.

Said Atlas: "I tell Michael, any time you get in the ring, the element of fear and danger is great. But I remind him, at the most, you're only in there for 36 minutes, and it can change your

whole life."

FIGHT FACTS

Who: Evander Holyfield (30-1, 22 KOs), Atlanta, vs. Michael Moorer (34-0, 30 KOs), Monessen, Pa., scheduled for 12 rounds.

What: For Holyfield's International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association heavyweight titles.

L Where: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, 15,000-seat outdoor arena.

When: Friday, estimated start of main event, 11 p.m. EDT

TV: TVKO, pay-per-view.

Promoters: Main Events, Inc. and Caesars Palace.

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