Forgotten Classics: Derrick Jefferson vs Maurice Harris

By: Steve Gallegos

When was the last time you saw a good, knockdown, Heavyweight brawl. You might have to scratch your head and think hard about that one. How about we go back towards the end of the 20th century when two up-and-coming heavyweights slugged it out before having the fight come to a close with a spectacular ending. That fight was between DerrickD-TrainJefferson and MauriceMo BettahHarris.

In 1999, the Heavyweight division was in very good standing. The Heavyweight Championship of the World still ranked strong as one of the biggest titles in all of sports, if not the biggest. Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis were close to unifying all three major heavyweight titles and there were a class of young, up-and-coming heavyweights waiting for their chance in the spotlight. Michael Grant, Chris Byrd, David Tua, and Hasim Rahman were among that class; Derrick Jefferson and Maurice Harris were hoping to join that class as well.

Derrick Jefferson was a late bloomer in the sport as he began boxing at age 24. His main focus was on playing basketball as he stood at 6″5; however his basketball dreams were cut short after being shot in the leg. He then turned to boxing and had a successful 3 year amateur career in which he won a national title. Jefferson turned pro in 1995 and would go 21-0-1 in his first 22 bouts, 17 by KO. He was a fighter who loved to brawl and go for the KO, which made him a very fan friendly attraction.

Maurice Harris would take a much different path into the sport. He only had a handful of amateur bouts before turning pro at the very young age of 16. He was also a very tall fighter as he stood at 6″4. He turned pro in 1992 as a way to bring in some income and would learn his craft on the job the hard way, going 7-8-2 in his 1st 17 bouts. Harris improved though, and he would go on a very successful run from 1997-1999, winning nine out of ten bouts, including some big wins over James Thunder and Jeremy Williams. He also lost a very close, disputed split decision to the legendary, former Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. He gained some valuable experience during this time as he regularly sparred with both Lennox Lewis and Roy Jones Jr. His record at the time he met up with Jefferson was 16-9-2 and Jim Lampley of HBO complimented Harris by saying there wasn’t a better 16-9 fighter out there.

Jefferson and Harris met on 11/06/99 at the Atlantic City Convention in Atlantic City, NJ as the co-feature of an HBO Boxing After Dark heavyweight doubleheader. The first round got off to a good start for both men as they stood toe to toe and both landed good hard shots. In the second, Jefferson put Harris down with a sensational left hook. Jefferson would go on the attack and would put Harris on the canvas again; however Harris would get up and turn the tide only seconds later as he dropped Jefferson with a right hand. The round would end with both men slugging it out on the ropes. Larry Merchant of HBO called that round the best round of Heavyweight boxing probably since Bowe vs Holyfield.

In the third, Harris controlled the pace of much of the round with a good body attack, as well as right hands up stairs; however Jefferson turned the tide towards the end of the round with a lethal right uppercut that knocked Harris‘ mouthpiece out. Harris was wobbled and almost out; however he caught a break when referee Steve Smoger called timeout to put the mouthpiece back in. The break saved Harris from a knockout.

The fourth and fifth rounds were fought at a slower pace as both men appeared to be winded after going all out in the first three rounds; however there were still some good moments of action. In the sixth, Jefferson began focusing strictly on the body and put Harris down again with a series of body shots. Harris once again got up and wobbled Jefferson in return; however in the middle of Harris‘ rally, Jefferson landed a lethal left hook that put Harris down for good. When the shot landed, it sent Harris‘ mouthpiece flying and Harris fell back just like a tree being chopped down. Referee Steve Smoger didn’t bother to count and the fight was officially ended at 2:52 of the sixth round and the fight was voted as Ring Magazine’s Knockout of 1999.

At the time of the KO, Larry Merchant yelled out “Derrick Jefferson, I love you”. Prior to the bout, Jefferson was determined to impress because he wanted to fight on HBO regularly and HBO would bring him back three times over the next two years; however those two years weren’t kind to him as he would lose all three fights by KO to David Izon, Oleg Maskaev, and Wladimir Klitschko. He would go 5-1 after the Klitschko fight before retiring in 2005 with a record of 28-4-1 with 21 KO’s.

Maurice Harris would continue fighting for the next eight years, still gaining national exposure from time to time based on his exciting fighting style. He would be inactive from 2007-2010 before making a comeback. He would go 9-7-1 from 2000-2012. His record as a professional stands at 25-17-2 with 11 KO’s. Jefferson and Harris put on the best heavyweight fight to end the 20th Century and there haven’t been many heavyweight fights that have come close to matching this one. It’s unfortunate that many heavyweights don’t possess the fire and willingness to give it their all and leave it all inside the ring like these two did.

Sherman Williams Heads to Germany to Spar Wladimir Klitschko Ahead of Joseph Parker Bout

KEY WEST, Fla. (March 26, 2014) – Battle-tested Bahamian heavyweight Sherman “Tank” Williams (36-13-2, 19 KOs) is returning to Germany to spar three weeks with world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (61-3, 51 KOs) and then fight highly-touted New Zealand prospect “Explosive” Joseph Parker (7-0, 6 KOs) on April 26 in Oberhauser, Germany.

Williams vs. Parker will be on undercard of a K2 Promotions-presented event, headlined by Klitschko’s IBF, WBO, WBA Super and IBO title defense against WBO No. 1 ranked mandatory challenger Alex “The Lionheart” Leapai (30-4-3, 24 KOs).

The 5′ 11, 245-pound Williams serves as a perfect sparring partner for Klitschko, whose Apr. 26 opponent stands 6′ 0″ and weighs 245-pounds. Williams, who has fought twice before in Germany, losing decisions to Manuel Charr and former world champion Ruslan Chagaev, has sparred twice with Wladimir and six other times with Klitschko’s brother, recently retired world champion Vitali.

“Based on their (Klitschko brothers) sizes, around 6′ 6″,” Williams explained, “I give them a contrast in style when they’re fighting much shorter guys. I’m aggressive and stay low, so they work on angles to throws shots. I try to slip and jab to get inside against taller opponents. Wladimir is a decent, intelligent, laidback type guy. Outside of the ring he’s reserved. As a fighter, he’s a good technician and hard worker in the gym.

“Germany has been very good to me. In most of my European exploits, I’ve been embraced because they love my Bahamian flavor. They hear me start talking and I bring them happy feelings. I put a beating on Chageav over there, from pillar to post, and the fans ended-up behind me. I have built a solid, steady fan-base in Germany and I’ve been well received since my first trip there. I’m no stranger in Germany and those people know and like ‘Tank’ Williams very well.”

The 22-year-old Parker is 20 years Williams’ junior. He is a 6′ 4″, 230-pound Samoan who has fought only one opponent of note, an aging Frans Botha, who Parker stopped in the second round of their 2013 fight in New Zealand.

“He seems talented from the little I know,” Williams admitted. “I had never heard of him before I was offered this fight. He’s been pushed in New Zealand and Australia, on the fast track but he has never fought anybody like me. There’s nothing he can do that I haven’t seen before and I’m used to being the shorter guy. A lot of guys can talk the talk but we’ll find out if he can walk the walk. I’m bringing my ‘Conch’ punch (overhand right) and Parker is going to know he’s been in a fight.”

In addition to Charr and Chagaev, Williams has fought some of the best heavyweights in the world during the course of his 16 ½-year professional career, such as Evander Holyfield (NC3), Robert Helenius (LDEC10), Chauncy Welliver (WDEC12), Tye Fields (LDEC12), Taurus Sykes (LDEC10), Al Cole (WDEC10), Obed Sullivan (LDEC12), Jameel McCline (D10) and Robert Davis (LTKO5).

“This is a very exciting fight for Sherman,” Williams’ manager Si Stern added. “His experience will enable him to do very well against Parker. A victory can bring ‘Tank’ some excellent opportunities for some major fights around the world.”

In 292 rounds fought, Williams has been knockout only one time, by Davis. His relatively short stature in height, especially for a heavyweight, has been detrimental over the years in terms of him landing high profile fights “I’ve been in the gym since October but it isn’t easy for me to get fights,” Williams noted. “I had fights lined up with David Price and Tyson Fury; they wouldn’t fight me, saying I was too short. I guess they wouldn’t have fought Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson or David Tua.

“The opportunity to fight this kid (Parker) came up. Hey, I’d fight anybody if the right opportunity comes up. This could spring me into something else. I always come to fight.”

Forgotten Legends: Ike Ibeabuchi

Ibeabuchi

By: Steve Gallegos

The Heavyweight division in boxing has been in shambles recently. The Heavyweight Championship of the world is no longer the biggest event in all of sports and many of the top heavyweight contenders lack the excitement to drum up interest in a once very hot division.

The last good era of exciting Heavyweights was in the mid to late 90’s. Superstars of the divison were fighters like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. There were also a string of very good young heavyweights on the rise. Promotional companies such as Main Events and Cedric Kushner Promotions invested heavily in these young, big men, televising all heavyweight cards such as HBO’s “Night at the Young Heavyweights” as well as the recurring Pay Per View event called “Heavyweight Explosion”. David Tua, Chris Byrd, Shannon Briggs and Michael Grant were among the class of the rising young heavyweights; however there was one fighter who steamrolled his way to the top of the rankings, only to have his world come crashing down hard due to problems outside the ring. That fighter was Ike “The President” Ibeabuchi.

At 6″2 with a very muscular frame, Ibeabuchi was a destroyer in the ring, throwing large volumes of punches while smothering opponents. Ibeabuchi took up boxing after watching Buster Douglas’ upset win over Mike Tyson and turned pro in October 1994, scoring a 2nd round KO. Trained by former welterweight champion Curtis Cokes, Ibeabuchi would win his next 16 fights, 12 by KO. He would then get his first taste of national exposure on 06/07/97 when he took on fellow undefeated heavyweight prospect David Tua.

The fight was an HBO Boxing After Dark main event which was supposed to be another showcase for the young, up and coming  Tua. Curtis Cokes said prior the bout that he had the Heavyweight divisions best kept secret in Ibeabuchi. He turned out to be right. Ibeabuchi came out throwing bombs from the opening bell and wouldn’t let up. Both men exchanged hard shots all night, up until the final bell. When the decision was announced, Ibeabuchi was the winner by majority decision. He was no longer the best kept secret.

After the Tua fight is when Ibeabuchi began to have problems outside the ring. He complained of numerous headaches, causing him to hallucinate in which he claimed he saw demons. This would cause many outbursts in public. In August of 1997, Ibeabuchi went into a rage and abducted his girlfriends 15 year old son and crashed his car into a pillar. The teenage boy would suffer life altering injuries due to the attack. The crime was ruled an attempted suicide and Ibeabuchi served 120 days in jail.

He returned to the ring in July,1998 and won two fights by KO before facing another undefeated heavyweight prospect and future heavyweight champion in Chris Byrd. They met on 03/20/99 and Ibeabuchi rushed Byrd from the outset throwing hard shots and smothering him on the ropes. Byrd, known for his quickness and elusiveness, wasn’t able to weather the storm. In the fifth round, Ibeabuchi landed a hard left hook that dropped Byrd on his face. Byrd got up only for Ibeabuchi to drop him once again. Byrd was able to rise again but Ibeabuchi would not let up, causing the referee to stop the bout just prior to bell sounding to end the round.

Ibeauchi was back on top; however it was very short lived as his problems outside the ring would once again get the better of him. While in Las Vegas in July, 1999, Ibeabuchi was charged with sexual abuse after an incident with a female escort at his hotel room. He was convicted of battery with intent to commit a crime and he was sentenced to 2-10 years in prison. He was also convicted of attempted sexual assault in which he received 3-20 years in prison. He remains incarcerated to this day. His professional record to date stands at 20-0 with 15 KO’s. It would have been interesting to see what his career would have been like had he stayed out of trouble outside the ring. Could he have been the successor to Lennox Lewis’ heavyweight throne? Could he have had a legendary matchup against one of the Brothers Klitschko? We could only imagine how it would have all played out.