Michael Moorer was born on November 12, 1967. He had a good amateur boxing career, with a record of 48-16, winning a Bronze at the Goodwill Games and the US Amateur Championship in 1986 as a Light Middlweight. He turned pro in March 1988 as a light heavyweight (175lbs), under the tutelage of Kronk master trainer Emmanuel Steward.
Moorer entered boxing at a good time, for a new sanctioning body had just entered the ever-widening game of world championship titles: the WBO . However, unlike many of the other fringe, alphabet soup of such groups, the WBO had serious promotional muscle in Europe. In only his 11th pro fight, Moorer met a veteran Arab journeyman, 25-4 Ramzi Hassan for the newly minted WBO 175lbs belt. He beat Hassan the way he had won all his previous bouts: by knockout.
Moorer’s light heavyweight days have been discussed with an unjustified awe. He defended his WBO title 9 times, but against thoroughly sub-par opposition. The best, Leslie Stewart, was noteworthy mostly for having lost to many of the 175lbs fighters that Moorer never faced: Virgil Hill, Donny Lalonde, Drake Thadzi, Bobby Czyz, Henry Maske, Marvin Johnson, and Uriah Grant. “Double M” might have won all his fights at light heavyweight by knockout, but he never got into the ring with even one guy who had a pulse.
A 6’2″ southpaw with a 78″ reach, Moorer was an athletic and well-rounded fighter with explosive knockout power at 175lbs. However, he was too undisciplined to make weight, and toiling in the underpaid ranks of the 190lbs cruiserweights had little appeal, so Moorer soon moved up to heavyweight. In that division, he was a small fighter with skills, a stiff right jab, decent power, and as his opposition improved, a suspect chin that started to reveal itself. A fit Moorer weighed in at 215lbs, but even before winning the title he showed an alarming tendancy to weigh in at as much as 230lbs for unimportant fights.
Moorer debuted as a big guy in 1991. He continued his knockout streak again, including a bout with fringe contender Alex Stewart. Stewart was Moorer’s sternest opponent yet: a big heavyweight who had been previously beaten only by Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. Moorer put Stewart down in the 2nd and knocked him out in the 4th.
1992 saw Moorer’s 26 fight knockout streak come to an end against heavyweight tomato can Mike White. He then fought gatekeeper “Bigfoot” Martin and won a points victory, but was knocked down in the process. He was then matched against “Smokin'” Bert Cooper for the vacant WBO Heavyweight Title. In a thrilling see-saw puncher’s war, Moorer went down in 1st and 3rd, and Cooper down in 1st and out in the 5th. Just as quickly as he gained the title, he let it go: Moorer did not make a single defense of the WBO belt, more than likely because Tommy Morrison and Ray Mercer were lurking in wait for a chance at it.
In 1993 Moorer and trainer Emmanuel Steward parted company, with Moorer moving on to the Duva family and trainer George Benton. He met and decisioned faded “Lost Heavyweight” and former champ James “Bonecrusher” Smith , among others. He then left the Duva’s and hired the services of Teddy Atlas as trainer (Atlas is now an announcer for ESPN). Despite not having done much in 1993, and having never faced a real top heavyweight, Moorer was the #1 contender for the IBF.
Evander Holyfield and George Foreman
In January 1994, Evander Holyfield had regained the WBA – IBF titles , and had announced he was seeking a fight with WBC King Lennox Lewis. However, the IBF demanded that Holyfield defend their belt against Moorer first. Holyfield agreed, and the two met in April 1994. Holyfield knocked Moorer down in the 2nd with a counter left hook, put threw out his shoulder in the process. Relying mostly on his right hand, Moorer gradually built up a steady momentum against Holyfield and carried a razor thin Majority Decision. Holyfield went to the hospital to have his shoulder looked at, and was diagnosed with a heart condition: he had fought Moorer virtually one-handed and with a bum ticker, and still almost won!
Something of a pall hung over Moorer’s title win, and so Moorer and his manager looked to cash in with what they perceived as an easy fight with 45 year old George Foreman . Indeed, that fight was easy at first: Foreman was slow, and Moorer found him an easy target. However, that meant Moorer got lazy and increasingly stood in front of Foreman, to better use him as a human punching bag. Trainer Teddy Atlas pleaded with Moorer to stop standing in front of Foreman and giving him chances to score, which Moorer arrogantly ignored, with predictable results: a hard 1-2 in the 10th crushed Moorer, making George Foreman the oldest man to ever win the world heavyweight championship.
Moorer’s people began neogtiating a rematch with Foreman, but as it turned out they did not have to. Foreman was not especially interested in defending his WBA and IBF belts against dangerous opponents, and was soon stripped of both of them. Moorer traveled to Germany and fought Axel Schultz for the vacant IBF belt, beating him in an uninspiring Split Decision and becoming a two-time champion. He then defeated the durable 35-0 South African fringe contender Franz Botha, stopping him in the 12th and final round. Teddy Atlas, who had to catcall Moorer into getting busy enough to stop Botha, was disgusted with Moorer’s lack of discipline and focus and quit immediately after the fight.
In the meantime, Evander Holyfield had come back, beaten Mike Tyson, and was reigning as the WBA champion. Hungry for revenge, he got Moorer into the ring in November 1997. Holyfield was a trim 214lbs; Moorer, under a “Michael does what Michael likes” regimen, weighed in at a flabby 224lbs. Moorer did well in the first few rounds, woring the right jab and producing a cut on Holyfield early in the bout, who responded by digging in and turning slugger. Moorer hit the canvas once in 5th, twice in 7th, and twice again in the 8th before the referee stopped the fight. Moorer left the ring in tears, his title lost and his greatest victory having been proven a fluke.
Moorer sank into a deep depression and de facto retired from boxing, ballooning in weight by several dozen pounds. He started a comeback 3 years after being stopped by Holyfield, in November 2000. He won five fights before meeting Maori slugger David Tua in 2002. Moorer managed to get into good shape and weighed 224;bs, but it did him no good and he was knocked out in the 1st Round. He then lost a bout with fringe contender Eliseo Castillo in 2004.
Moorer, now seen as thoroughly washed-up, was matched with Kazakh Vasily Jirov, who had been a fierce champion at cruiserweigh (190lbs). Jirov, also a southpaw, was a smashing body puncher and heavy favorite. He led on all the scorecards until Moorer caught him with a straight left in the 9th and pulled off an upset knockout.
Moorer was still active as late as 2008. His record at that time was 52-4 (40KOs).
Sources: boxrec.com; live fight footage; YouTube; The Ring; KO; personal experience