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.

Forgotten Legends: Gerald “G-Man” McClellan

McClellan

By: Steve Gallegos

Legendary boxing commentator Larry Merchant often referred to boxing as the “Theater of the Unexpected”. You never know what is gonna happen when 2 fighters step inside that squared circle to do battle. When a fighter steps through those ropes, they risk serious injury or even death. Some fighters end up not leaving the ring the same way they came in. This unfortunately was the case for former Middleweight champion Gerald “G-Man” McClellan.

McClellan was an all action, hard puncher with knockout intentions on every punch he threw. He was one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the early 1990’s until one night in 1995 when his boxing career and life were changed forever. McClellan was born and raised in Freeport, IL  and had a very successful amateur career before turning pro in 1988. Trained by Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, McClellan went on a rampage winning his first 10 bouts, all by knockout, not going past two rounds. He got his first taste of defeat in 1989, when he lost two fights back to back by decision; however it didn’t have any negative effect on the “G-Man“. He would go 12-0 over the next two years, 10 by knockout before getting his first world title shot against the very hard hitting John “The Beast” Mugabi.

They met on 11/20/91 in London where Mugabi had been in with some of the best throughout his career, however McClellan made easy work of Mugabi, dropping him within the first 30 minutes of the fight. McClellan kept up the attack and eventually stopped Mugabi at 2:51 of the first round. He would win his next four bouts, all  by knockout before getting another shot at a world title; this time it was against another very experienced and hard hitting fighter in Julian Jackson.

They met on 05/08/93 in Las Vegas. Jackson came into the fight as a 2-1 favorite, however McClellan proved the oddsmakers wrong by rocking Jackson in the first round with hard shots and immediately dictating the pace of the bout. Jackson would regain his composure and rock McClellan in the second. McClellan weathered more hard shots in the third while landing some hard right hands shots of his own. In the fifth, McClellan would land a huge left hook followed by two rights that put Jackson down. Jackson would get up and McClellan went in for the kill and would drop him again before referee Mills Lane stopped the bout.

A convincing win for McClellan and he was now a two-time world champion. He would successfully defend his title three times over the next year, all by knockout including a first round destruction of Julian Jackson in a rematch in May of 1994. He was at the top of his game and he then decided to move up to Super Middleweight to get bigger fights, however his career and life was about to take a tragic turn.

He would face WBC Super Middleweight champion Nigel Benn in Benn’s Hometown of London, England on 02/25/95. Their bout was one of the most anticipated bouts of 1995. A huge pro-Benn crowd packed the London Arena and over 17 million fans tuned in all over the world to see this much anticipated showdown. McClellan was a huge favorite going into the bout and was confident he could knock Benn out in the first round. McClellan came out landing hard shots going for the quick knockout. He would knock Benn through the ropes in the first round and was very close to ending the bout as he predicted. The very durable Benn regained his composure in the second and began landing hard shots of his own.

In the third, the hard punching McClellan turned boxer and began pumping out a hard left jab to set up hard right hands. By the fifth round, McClellan began to get winded as his mouthpiece was hanging out of his mouth. Benn was in control of the fight going into the eighth, when McClellan turned the tide by landing a huge haymaker that put Benn on the canvas once again. Throughout the course of the bout, McClellan had taken a lot of hard shots and they finally took their toll in the 10th when McClellan took a knee after a barrage of punches. He would take another knee moments later and decided to stay down for the count.

It was a huge upset win for Benn. While sitting on his stool, McClellan began wincing badly. Moments later, he collapsed onto the canvas. He was taken to the hospital where it was discovered he had a blood clot in in his brain, which required an immediate operation. He suffered extreme brain damage in which he was in a coma for 11 days. He would also lose his eyesight completely, became 80 % deaf and was also unable to walk without being assisted. Today, he is under the care of his 3 sisters who assist him with his day to day activities. A non profit organization called Ring 10 was setup to assist former fighters like him and by providing assistance for food and other necessities.

In 2012, McClellan had his colon removed which stemmed from his brain condition. His record as a professional stands at 31-3 with 29 KO’s. He is ranked 27th by Ring Magazine on their list of the 100 Greatest punchers of all time. From a boxing perspective, it was a career that was cut way too short. Who knows how his career would have turned out had he not suffered the injury against Nigel Benn. He more than likely would have won more world titles and possibly could have had classic battles with the likes of Roy Jones Jr, Bernard Hopkins and James Toney. He is now faced with a day to day battle more important than any battle he ever faced in the ring. Our hearts go out to him and his family.

McClellan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Annual NYSBHOF Around the Corner

NEW YORK (April 26, 2013) – The second annual New York State Boxing Hall of Fame (NYSBHOF) induction dinner, sponsored by Ring 8,  will be held this Sunday afternoon (12:30-5:30 p.m. ET),  at Russo’s On The Bay in Howard Beach, New York.
 
“We’re all very excited about the second class being inducted into the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame this Sunday,” NYSBHOF and Ring 8 president Bob Duffy said.  “All are of our inductees are legitimate New Yorkers who’ve each had significant impacts on the sport.  We expect to have more than 300 people there enjoying a memorable event.”
 
Legendary Jack Dempsey (61-6-9, 50 KOs) leads the 2013 posthumous participant inductees list that also indluces Johnny Dundee (83-32-20, 17 KOs), Sandy Saddler (144-16-2, 103 KOs), and world light heavyweight champion Maxie Rosenbloom (207-39-26 (19 KOs).
 
Living boxers heading into the NYSBHOF are Joey Archer (61-6-9, 50 KOs), Iran Barkley (43-19-1 (27 KOs), Mark Breland (35-3-1, 25 KOs), Bobby Cassidy (59-16-3, 27 KOs); Doug Jones (30-10-1, 20 KOs), Junior Jones (50-6, 28 KOs), James “Buddy” McGirt (73-6-1, 48 KOs), and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (50-8-1, 39 KOs).
                                                                                                                           
Living non-participants heading into the NYSBHOF are promoter Bob Arum, managers Shelly Finkel and Tony Graziano, television analyst Larry Merchant; and posthumously, matchmaker Teddy Brenner, promoters Mike Jacobs and Tex Rickard, and blow-by-blow television and radio announcer Don Dunphy, 
 
  
Each inductee will receive a custom-designed belt signifying his induction into the NYSBHOF.  Plaques are on display at the New York State Athletic Commission and Waterfront Crabhouse.  Ring 8 has announced plans for a monument to be built in Long Island City with every NYSBHOF inductee’s name inscribed.
 
The inductees were selected by the NYSBHOF nominating committee members, including Jack Hirsch, Steve Farhood, Don Majeski, Henry Hascup, Ron McNair and Neil Terens.
 
Dave Diamante will serve once again as Master of Ceremonies for the event.  Opening remarks will be made by Duffy, Melvina Latham, Chairperson for the New York State Athletic Commission, and U.S. Congressman (District 2) Peter King.
 
The 2013 award presenters will be U.S. Congressman King (Cassidy), Ricardo Salazar (Jones), Bobby Bartels (Brenner), Duffy (Archer/Jones/Dempsey), McNair (Archer/Jones/Jacobs/Rickard), Majeski (Dundee/Rosenbloom/Saddler), Farhood (Dunphy/Finkel), Brian Adams (Breland), Henry Hascup (McGirt), Tony Mazzarella (McGirt), Hirsch (Arum/Merchant), Tommy Gallagher (Muhammad), and Terens.
 
All boxers needed to be inactive for at least three years, in order to be eligible for NYSBHOF induction, and all inductees must have resided in New York State for a significant portion of their boxing careers.
 
Special guests expected to attend include Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, Juan Laporte, Vito Antuofermo, Renaldo Snipes and Mia St. John.
 
Last year’s Inaugural Class included (participants) Carmen Basilio, Mike McCallum, Mike Tyson, Jake LaMotta, Riddick Bowe, Carlos Ortiz, Antuofermo, Emile Griffith, “Sugar” Ray Robinson, Gene Tunney, Benny Leonard and Tony Canzoneri.
 
Non-participant inductees from the Class of 2012  were judge/HBO analyst Harold Lederman, coach/instructor Steve Acunto, trainer/cut-man Jimmy Glenn, trainers Gil Clancy and Ray Arcel, The Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer, New York Daily News boxing reporter/cartoonist Bill Gallo, and referee Arthur Mercante, Sr.
 
Go on line at www.Ring8ny.com for additional information about the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame.