Moorer stuns Holyfield to capture title

April 23, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- A supremely confident Evander Holyfield had mapped his boxing future through 1996, beginning with a title-unifying match with England's Lennox Lewis and ending with a showdown against former champion Mike Tyson.

But Holyfield's best-laid plans went awry last night when he left Caesars Palace without his crown after losing a majority decision to unbeaten Michael Moorer, who became the first left-handed heavyweight king in ring history.

"I guess I interrupted his plans," Moorer said. "A lot of people doubted me. They said I was in a big fight for the first time. But never underestimate Michael Moorer."

Judge Chuck Giampa favored Moorer, 116-112, and Jerry Roth gave him the final round for a 115-114 edge. Roth called the second round even, even though Moorer was knocked down. The third official, Dalby Shirley, called the fight a 114-114 draw.

But when the final bell sounded, Holyfield, who had regained his IBF and WBA titles by winning a classic rematch with Riddick Bowe in this same ring last November, clearly looked the loser. His face was smeared in blood, the result of a cut near the eye suffered in the fifth round.

And after the fight he was taken to Valley Hospital complaining of a sore shoulder, his left arm in a sling.

Holyfield, whose $12 million purse put him over the $100 million mark in ring earnings, will now be second-guessed for cost-saving measures that prompted him to release trainer Emanuel Steward and cut man Ace Marotti before his mandatory defense against Moorer (35-0, 30 KOs), who was guaranteed $3.5 million.

With new trainer Donald Turner filling both corner roles, Holyfield seemed ill-prepared for Moorer's left-handed style. It was the younger challenger, a 2-1 underdog, who kept the champion constantly off balance with his accurate right jab and sharp left hooks.

Moorer, 26, showing no signs of being overwhelmed by the significance of the event, survived the second-round knockdown and was not seriously threatened again.

Instead, it was Holyfield (30-2, 22 KOS) who was repeatedly wobbled throughout the fast-paced bout before an estimated crowd of 12,000.

Typically, he displayed a lion's heart in trying to retain his title in the final round.

But the 31-year-old Holyfield simply lacked the punch and stamina to overcome his younger rival, who was expertly prepared by his new trainer Teddy Atlas.

Before leaving for the hospital, Holyfield refused to use his ailing shoulder as an alibi. Turner said that he thought the injury occurred in the second round, and began taking its toll in the fifth round when Moorer repeatedly penetrated Holyfield's defense.

"I gave it all I had," said Holyfield, who said he will need time to decide if he will continue fighting.

"His left hand was a big problem," Holyfield said. "I trained for it, and it worked in the gym. But it was a problem tonight. The left eye was a factor. The blood kept running into me eye, but I'm not offering that as an excuse. I can't make excuses. My hat is off to him."

Moorer, who, in the past was known more for his fights outside the ring than his sanctioned fights, needed the stern voice of Atlas in his corner to wipe the doubts away after being floored by a Holyfield hook.

"I was stunned, not really hurt," he recalled. "Like any human, I said to myself, 'What am I doing here.' "

But Atlas, who once trained Tyson, would not allow it to happen again.

Said Atlas: "I told Michael, 'Do you want to win the tile or not? I do. And I'll leave you in the corner and fight the guy if you're not willing.' "

The message was clear and vital.

"Teddy kept pushing me every round," said the new champion from the mill town of Monessen, Pa. "He told me I had to win it for my son. He told me my jab would be the key weapon, and that was the real difference."

Moorer and his manager, John Davidos, were not ready to reveal his plans.

A fight against a low-ranked contender is likely while Moorer awaits the outcome of Lewis' WBC title fight against Phil Jackson in Atlantic City, N.J. Lewis also faces a mandatory defense against top-ranked Oliver McCall.

For the record, Moorer was only the third left-handed fighter to challenge for the heavyweight crown. Germany's Karl Mildenberger (1966) and England's Richard Dunn (1976) were both stopped by Muhammad Ali.

Moorer and Holyfield both weighed 214 pounds. It was the first time in Holyfield's heavyweight career that he didn't give weight away to his opponent.

In an earlier bout, John Michael Johnson stunned "Poison" Junior Jones with two knockdowns in the 11th round in taking away the World Boxing Association bantamweight title.

Also last night, IBF junior lightweight champion John John Molina, of Puerto Rico, had little difficulty defending his title against Gregorio Vargas, of Mexico, winning a unanimous decision.

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