Saturday, December 31, 2005

Mormeck-Bell: The battle for cruiserweight supremacy

When WBC/WBA cruiserweight titlist, France’s Jean Marc Mormeck, engages IBF belt holder, O’Neil Bell, the winner will emerge as the first undisputed champion in that class since Evander Holyfield. The winner will also become the first such champion since the sanctioning bodies moved the weight limit from 190 to 200 pounds.

The usually moribund weight class has had few bright spots since Marvin Camel and Mate Parlov inaugurated the division in 1979. Despite the obvious need for a division between light heavyweight and heavyweight, the cruiserweights are regularly derided as either fat light-heavyweights or tiny heavyweights. Former champions such as Carlos DeLeon, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Vassily Jirov, James Toney (ever so briefly), and of course the shining star of the division, Holyfield, have been joined by dozens of transient belt holders, many of whom are not famous even in their hometowns.

Mormeck is quietly reenergizing the cruisers and building a name for himself along the way. Dual victories over perennial title-holder Virgil Hill and a climactic unification win over Wayne Braithwaite have established him as a solid campaigner. Only two losses very early in his career scar an otherwise impressive slate.

Bell has also had his moments. Stoppage wins over Kelvin Davis and Derrick Harmon added credence to his reputation as a big hitter. Unfortunately, his decision win to capture the IBF belt was far less than stellar. Canada’s Dale Brown clearly outworked and outboxed Bell only to witness the worst title-fight decision of 2005 when Bell was announced as the unanimous winner. The scores were so widely at variance with what happened in the fight that even the Bell-friendly crowd was stunned.

That bout was followed by a defense against Sebastian Rothmann, in a fight that also appeared to have Bell slipping behind. This time, however, Bell beat Rothmann to the canvas for a clean knockout victory.

Both bouts also provide Mormeck with the roadmap to follow in their unification match. Mormeck has much better skills than either Brown (a fighter he has already stopped) or Rothmann, and the chin to withstand the considerable power of Bell. Mormeck’s all-round talent will offset the one-dimensional, knockout hunt that Bell brings to every fight. Unquestionably, Bell has the power to level anyone in the division and Mormeck will have to handle this case with care. He will. Look for Mormeck to confuse and frustrate Bell down the stretch.

Mormeck wins by decision.

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