Perhaps Moorer is real thing, not a pretender

April 20, 1994|By Phil Jackman

With notable exceptions, anyone who gets to the point where he's fighting for the heavyweight championship is assumed to have the physical and fortitudinal requirements for the task at hand.

Often, though, pretenders masquerading as contenders come up a tad shy when it comes to the mental preparation. More than one fighter has been known to all but turn into a pillar of salt at the sight of the opposition, a large and excited crowd or the customary pomp and ceremony of a Las Vegas fight.

There's more than a sneaking suspicion that none of this, and that includes champion Evander Holyfield, will have any effect on Michael Moorer Friday night when he goes for the title in a pay-per-view show at Caesars Palace.

Perhaps more so than any contender in recent memory, Moorer at least gives the impression of being in control of his and the total situation. Nothing seems like a big deal to the guy who will enter the ring with a 34-0 record and an awesome 30 knockouts.

Pretty much confining himself to short, abrupt answers as he was finishing up training at the fight site, Michael jumped out of character yesterday and gave the assembled media something to run with.

"It was an act," Moorer admitted of his tough-guy routine, showing up fashionably late and putting on as menacing a demeanor as he could muster. With some of the higher-priced seats of $600 and $700 still unsold, Moorer realized, "I had to do my part in the hype."

In any ring confrontation, it's a rule of thumb that one contestant be touted as the good guy, the other the bad. Since Holyfield has long since established himself as the steady, hard-working, respectful, true to the principles that made this country great kind of guy, Moorer, of need, has drawn the opposite role.

"Bad-boy image?" he replies, "naw, it doesn't bother me. People who know me know I'm a good guy. Besides, I guess it sells tickets.

"Actually, I'm just a big kid and I love to just hang out and relax. But some things have happened and my slight brushes with the law have been blown out of proportion, no one heard my side of the story and I'm human, I make mistakes, too."

Come his boxing career, however, there's no mistaking Moorer's approach. "All business," is his description. "I'm strong-minded, always keep a level head and, quite frankly, nothing upsets me. Consequently, what people think of me doesn't bother me. My record is what counts."

Such, Michael's unblemished record doesn't seem to be the case as far as some of the oddsmakers and the bettors along the Strip are concerned. Holyfield, 30-1 with 22 KOs, is an 11-to-5 favorite and talk broke earlier that he was set to sign a contract to meet Lennox Lewis in a title unification bout in November.

The champ seemed embarrassed by this revelation. "I haven't signed to fight anybody," he said. "Anyone knows me knows I'm not the sort of guy that looks past anyone. Guys like Lewis, Riddick Bowe and Mike Tyson, they're waiting in the wings, that's all."

Since his return to the ring to reclaim his IBF-WBA title from Bowe last year, Holyfield has been wishy-washy about how long he figures to campaign.

That has changed, Evander stating, "I'd love to stay in boxing until 1996. Me sticking around until then will give me the opportunity to fight all the [afore-mentioned] contenders and I'd still like to be the champ when the Olympics come to Atlanta [his hometown]."

In a series of telephone conferences with both fighters over the last month, not a whole lot has been said about the preparation, the strategies or anything else to do with the actual conduct of the fight. No surprise. Both are rather boring when it comes to discussing their trade, each following a basic approach of what you see is what you get.

"It's not really going to concern me what Moorer does," said Holyfield in what is an inflammatory statement for him, "because I plan to take it to him and do what comes naturally, like I always do. I'll do things so that he'll have to be concerned with me."

"Do I have the necessary power to knock him out?" said Moorer, repeating the question. "If you hit any guy right, he can go."

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