Forgotten Legends: Vassily Jirov

By: Steve Gallegos

For many in boxing, the Cruiserweight division is known as the waste land before the promise land which is the Heavyweight division; however there was one fighter who put the division on the radar in the early 2000’s. That fighter was VassiliyThe Russian TigerJirov.

Jirov was an exciting, aggressive power puncher with knockout power in either hand. Jirov was born and raised in Balkhash, Kazakhstan and was a decorated amateur who took the gold in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta as well as winning the award for the most outstanding boxer at the olympics. He would turn pro in early 1997 and would go 20-0 with 18 KO’s over the next 2 1/2 years.

He would get his first shot at a world title in 1999 when he met Cruiserweight champion “King” Arthur Williams. They met on 06/05/99 in Biloxi, MS and it was for the IBF Cruiserweight Championship. It was also the first Cruiserweight bout to ever be shown on HBO. Jirov was impressive as he broke Williams down, particularly to the body en route to a seventh round TKO. Vassiliy Jirov was now a world champion.

He would close out the millenium on the undercard of the “Fight Of The Millenium” between Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya and he would score an impressive 10th round KO over “Cowboy” Dale Brown. Jirov would go 9-0 with seven KO’s over the next two years and would successfully defend his title five times, which included a big KO win over the very tough and durable Julian Letterlough.

Jirov would then face the toughest challenge of his career when he faced James “Lights Out” Toney. They met on 04/26/03 at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT and it was one of the most anticipated bouts of 2003. Unfortunately for Jirov, Toney’s experience and technique would be the story of the fight as Jirov was dropped in the 12th round and would lose a lopsided unanimous decision.

Jirov would bounce back with two KO wins to close out the year and would move up to Heavyweight. His first bout at Heavyweight was against unbeaten top prospect “Baby” Joe Mesi, who at the time was considered the future of the division. They met on 03/13/04 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Mesi was dominant throughout the bout and appeared to be on his way to an easy decision, however Jirov showed he had Heavyweight power as he dropped Mesi once in the ninth and twice in the 10th. It was a great way for Jirov to close the show and he would come up just a hair short on the judges scorecards as all three judges had the fight scored 94-93 for Mesi.

The shots from Jirov in that fight did further damage to Joe Mesi as he suffered two hematomas on his brain which sidelined him for two years. After proving he had pop at the Heavyweight level, Jirov elected to stay in the division and he would challenge former two-time Heavyweight Champion Michael Moorer. They met on 12/09/04 at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, CA.

Jirov boxed well and dominated Moorer for 8 1/2 rounds, however Moorer learned 10 years earlier against George Foreman, that any fight can be changed with one punch. In the ninth round, Moorer landed a big left hand that put Jirov down. He was able to get up, however he was on wobbily legs and referee Pat Russell would stop the bout. It was a crushing defeat for Jirov and his hopes for potentially fighting for a Heavyweight Championship were crushed.

Jirov would go 5-0-1 with three KO’s from 2005-2009, however he would not challenge for another world title. His record as a professional stands at 38-3-1 with 32 KO’s. His all action style and power brought luster to a very lackluster division in the Cruiserweights. Did his first loss affect him negatively? Did his move to Heavyweight hurt his career. In the end it was a career that had high expectations, only to come up just a tad bit short of meeting or exceeding those expectations.


History of WBC Heavyweight Champions: Fight Facts, Stats & More


NEW YORK (Jan. 7, 2015) – In the most anticipated heavyweight fight in the United States in a decade,WBC Heavyweight World Champion Bermane “B. Ware” Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs), a Haitian native fighting out of Las Vegas, will make his first defense against the confident, undefeated knockout specialist Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Ala., in the explosive main event of a televised tripleheader on Saturday, Jan. 17, live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. 
Below are some facts and stats on the WBC Heavyweight World Championship:
When Stiverne knocked out Chris Arreola on May 10, 2014, he became the first Haitian-born prizefighter and 22nd boxer overall to capture the WBC Heavyweight World Championship.
Wilder, if triumphant, would become the first undefeated American heavyweight to capture a world title since Riddick Bowe won the WBC, WBA and IBF titles in 1992.

Wilder also would become the 13th U.S.-born boxer to win the WBC title and the first since August 2006.

Hasim Rahman was the last American to hold the WBC belt.  The last American to hold any version of the heavyweight title was Shannon Briggs, who captured the WBO title in November 2006 and lost in his first defense.

At six-foot-seven, Wilder would join Vitali Klitschko as the tallest WBC Heavyweight World Champion; the tallest heavyweight world champion was seven-foot-tall Nikolai Valuev, a former two-time WBA belt-holder who is also the heaviest (323 pounds) world champion in history.

The initial nine WBC heavyweight champions were from the United States, beginning with Sonny Liston, who in July 1963 became the first WBC champion.  Following Liston were Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Leon Spinks, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon and Pinklon Thomas.

On Nov. 22, 1986, 20-year-old Mike Tyson of the U.S. became the youngest ever to capture the heavyweight title when he knocked out Trevor Berbick, who had defeated Thomas.

Other WBC heavyweight champions from the U.S. include James “Buster” Douglas, Evander Holyfield, Bowe, Oliver McCall and Rahman.

The only Jamaican-born boxer to become the WBC champion was Berbick, who also was the first heavyweight outside of the U.S. to capture the WBC crown.

There have been two WBC heavyweight champions from England — Lennox Lewis, three different times and Frank Bruno.

There was one fighter from Ukraine, Vitali Klitschko, who held the WBC belt on two occasions, one fighter from Russia, Oleg Maskaev and one from Nigeria Samuel Peter.

Lewis is the only three-time WBC Heavyweight Champion. He made 14 successful defenses in his stints as champ.

Ali, Foreman, Tyson, Klitschko and Rahman were two-time WBC heavyweight champs.

Ali (two tenures) made a total of 19 successful title defenses.

Holmes, with 16, had more successful title defenses than any one-reign champ; Klitschko had a total of 10, Ali had nine WBC world title defenses two separate times; Tyson, Lewis and Klitschko retained the title nine times once.

Interestingly, the feared Liston had zero defenses of the WBC heavyweight title, the same number as Spinks, Norton, Witherspoon, Berbick, Douglas, Bowe, Bruno and Peter.

Two boxers were stripped of the WBC title – Spinks (March 1978 for failing to defend against mandatory challenger Ken Norton and Bowe (December 1992 for not making a mandatory defense against Lewis).

The WBC title was vacated twice (Holmes in December 1982) and Tyson (in September 1996).

Two boxers retired as WBC Heavyweight Champions, Lewis in February 2004 and Klitschko twice, in November 2005 and December 2013.
With the exception of Liston, all the U.S.-born WBC Heavyweight Champions were promoted at one time by Don King.

Stiverne-Wilder will be 135th WBC Heavyweight World Title fight; 95 of them have taken place in the U.S., including 40 in Nevada (WBC heavyweight title fights have emanated from 20 different countries). Overall, this will be the 300th WBC title fight in Nevada.

Titans of the Heavyweight Division: 11/05/94- Michael Moorer vs George Foreman

By: Steve Gallegos

In 1987, 38 year old former heavyweight champion George Foreman decided to return to boxing after being away from the sport for 10 years. The 1987 version of George Foreman was a much different man than the person who walked out of the ring on 03/17/77.

After losing a decision to Jimmy Young, Foreman had an awaking, a rebirth. He retired from boxing and became an evangelist minister in his hometown of Houston, TX. He also ran a youth center and he was in need of money to keep the center going, therefore he returned to boxing.

He was a new man in the ring, a much, heavier, jollier fellow. In his first career, Foreman was considered a bully, a brute. In his comeback he was the hero, a fighter that the fans quickly got behind. He would go 24-0 with 23 KO’s from 1987-1991. George controlled his own career, hand picking his opponents. Many of his opponents were overmatched against “BigGeorge and many experts didn’t take George seriously, thinking he was more of a sideshow with a big name. He would prove most of the experts wrong when he fought Evander Holyfield on 04/19/91 in Atlantic City, NJ for the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the world.

Foreman fought well in his fight with Holyfield. A lot of fans in the crowd were cheering Foreman on and he rocked Holyfield on a few occasions as well as taking everything Evander was throwing at him. In the championship rounds, Holyfield began to wear down and hold on until the final bell. The end result was a unanimous decision for Holyfield. Although Foreman lost, he proved he wasn’t just a sideshow, that he was a serious contender and threat for anyone in the heavyweight division.

Double MMichael Moorer began his boxing journey in 1988 under the tuteledge of Emmanuel Steward and the famed Kronk gym in Detroit, MI. Moorer began his career as a light heavyweight and went on a rampage knocking out his first 11 opponents on his way to capturing the WBO Light Heavyweight championship. He would defend his title 9 times, all by KO before deciding it was time to move up to Heavyweight.

As a heavyweight, Moorer continued to show his power against much bigger men. In May of 1992 after scoring a 5th round TKO over Bert Cooper to win the WBO Heavyweight Championship, Emmanuel Steward decided to part ways with Michael Moorer. Steward claims that Moorer no longer wanted to listen and he wanted to do things more his way. In 1993, Moorer began working with Teddy Atlas, whose approach was that of a tough loving, hard-nosed, disciplinarian. In just his second fight under Teddy Atlas, Moorer took on Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield. They met on 04/22/94 at the outdoor arena at Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

In the second round, Moorer went down on a 1-2 combination from Holyfield and Atlas began to scold him in between rounds. Atlas was telling Moorer, “You’re lying to yourself and your gonna cry tomorrow. You’re lying to yourself and I’d lie to you if I’d let you get away with it.” After one of the rounds, Moorer went to his corner to find Atlas sitting on the stool, asking him if he wanted to trade places with him. Moorer eventually picked up the pace and went after Holyfield and took control of the second half of the fight.

The end result would be a majority decision win for Michael Moorer and he was now the Lineal Heavyweight Champion of the world and he was also the first southpaw heavyweight champion. His victory; however was tainted. After the fight, Holyfield was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and many also credited Teddy Atlas for willing Michael Moorer to victory.

In 1994, the heavyweight division was somewhat in disaray. Mike Tyson was in prison and Evander Holyfield had retired after the loss to Moorer. Lennox Lewis’ stock had dropped after being knocked out by Oliver McCall and Riddick Bowe was starting to fall off the map. The landscape was open and George Foreman seized the opportunity. Foreman hadn’t fought for nearly a year and a half since losing to Tommy Morrison; however Foreman was a star. Larry Merchant said “There are many fighters and very few stars, that’s why he’s here”.

The stage was set for 25 year old Michael Moorer to defend his heavyweight crown against 45 year old George Foreman. Foreman was determined to cement his legacy and become the oldest champion in boxing history. Moorer was determined to get respect and disprove the critics who gave his trainer the credit for winning the heavyweight title. Foreman and Moorer met on 11/05/94 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV for the Lineal Heavyweight Championship of the World.

It was a packed house at the Grand Garden arena and the majority of the crowd were there to root for Foreman. Many experts didn’t give Foreman much of a chance including expert commentator and former Foreman trainer Gil Clancy, who said he didn’t believe George had any chance other than the puncher’s chance to win.

The first round was a battle of jabs. Moorer used his right jab effectively and Foreman’s left eye began to swell. Foreman threw his left jab for most of the round and when it did land flush, the crowd cheered loudly. Teddy Atlas was calm in between rounds, telling Moorer that the hardest part was over. He also said that Foreman was just another guy and their sparring partners were better. Moorer used his right jab effectively in round two and began to throw his left as well; however he was fighting at a distance which gave Foreman an opportunity to land shots and he did so, to good effect.

Moorer began to step up the attack in the third, throwing a right hook off of his right jab and he began to put together combinations that staggered Foreman. The fight was still being fought at a distance that gave Foreman opportunities to land punches; however Moorer was taking them very well. The middle rounds were much of the same. Moorer continued to land his right jab and hook very well and was piling up points, however he still continued to fight at close quarters in the center of the ring which still gave Foreman opportunites to land shots. Teddy Atlas was pleading with Moorer not to stand in front of George, because he was looking to set Moorer up for a big shot. Michael didn’t follow instructions and decided to fight like a heavyweight champion.

Going into the 10th round, Teddy Atlas instructed Moorer to fight at a much faster pace and step to the side after landing a combination. Foreman had been throwing 50-60 punches per round, however his punch output had dropped significantly to around 35 punches going into the 10th.

Foreman began to Tee off on Moorer in the 10th, using his best weapon, his left jab and he began to land his right hand. Moorer continued to jab, however it lacked the sting that it had in previous rounds. With a 1:10 to go in the round, Foreman threw a 1-2 combination, then he threw it again, this time putting Moorer on the canvas. Moorer was in a daze and wasn’t able to beat the count and referee Joe Cortez reached the count of 10, making George Foreman the oldest Heavyweight Champion in History.

Jim Lampley cried out the now famous words, “It happened!!, It happened!!” Yes it did happen. George Foreman defied the odds and came from behind to knock out Michael Moorer and cement his legacy as one of the all time greats. After the KO, Foreman went to a neutral corner and kneeled down, giving thanks to God for this incredible victory.

Michael Moorer was still dazed and later on stated that he was out before the last 1-2 combination that put him down. Once Moorer regained his composure, he went over and kissed George on the head, showing his sportsmanship. One reporter told Foreman that some people thought the fight was fixed. George’s reply was “Yeah, I fixed it with my fist.” George would defend his title only once, winning a close, controversial majority decision over Axel Shultz five months later. After failing to defend his title in a rematch with Shultz as well as fighting mandatory challenger Tony Tucker, the WBA and IBF stripped Foreman of his heavyweight titles. He would then focus more on his endorsement deals, such as Meineke and he would make a fortune off of his now legendary George Foreman Fat Free Grilling Machine.

Michael Moorer would regain of piece of the heavyweight championship in 1996, when he outpointed Axel Shultz in Germany. 11/05/94 was a legendary night for boxing and history was made. George Foreman vs Michael Moorer will forever be one of the great events in the last great era of the heavyweight division.