Boxing: 5 Boxers Who Dramatically Fell from Grace During Their Prime
You are a fighter close to the very top of the sport. You are in your prime and are on the verge of stepping into legendary status. Many fear you. The foolhardy who claim you are beatable collapse in front of you as the march to greatness continues.
Then, for some inexplicable reason it all goes wrong.
And the fall from grace begins...
The boxers on this list could be some of the biggest 'what if's' in the sport. What could have happened and where would they have been today if they had stayed on the straight and narrow?
5. Tommy Morrison
He may have been given a good beating by Rocky Balboa but Tommy Morrison in the real world of boxing was a genuine prospect.
The exposure from starring in Rocky V propelled Morrison into the boxing limelight and in 1991, he fought Ray Mercer for the WBO Heavyweight title. Although Morrison lost by way of a fifth round knockout, he finally won the WBO title after defeating George Foreman.
At this point, Morrison was arguably about to hit his prime. In good shape and with a heavyweight title, there was talk of a unification battle with WBC Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis.
From this point, it all goes wrong.
Morrison suffered a shocking loss to unknown Michael Bentt in October 1993 by way of knockout, losing his WBO title. He would fight several times over the next few years, eventually winning the fringe IBC Heavyweight Title against Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock.
Morrison finally got his wish to fight WBC Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis but was promptly dispatched by way of a sixth round knockout.
Before a scheduled fight in 1996, Morrison was diagnosed with HIV. At the time, he attributed this to his fast and reckless lifestyle. Unfortunately, the following years saw Morrison break down completely to the point where he argued he was never HIV positive and had received several clean tests. Morrison has been in trouble with the law and has been arrested for numerous offenses over the last few years.
Morrison has attempted a number of comeback fights although these bouts are unsanctioned due to him being HIV positive. The most famous was the 'fake fight' with Corey Williams which can be seen in the above clip.
4. Antonio Margarito
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Prior to his fight with Shane Mosley in January 2009, Antonio Margarito had developed a reputation as a fearsome opponent. Margarito was a former WBO/IBF World Welterweight Champion and held the WBA version of the title.
Margarito had despatched big name opponents such as Kermit Cintron (twice), Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto.
However, Margarito's reputation was blown to pieces by Shane Mosley's trainer Naazim Richardson when he noticed an odd substances in Margarito's hand wraps prior to the fight. After examination the substance turned out to be a version of Plaster of Paris. The hands were re-wrapped and Margarito then lost to Shane Mosley.
Quite simply, Margarito was using loaded gloves.
Margarito was subsequently banned for one year in the United States. But questions were raised over the validity of his other victories, most notably over Miguel Cotto in 2008. Cotto was badly beaten and certain red stains seen on Margarito's wraps used for the Cotto fight were seen on his wraps before the Mosley fight.
Margarito's credibility plummeted over night although he somehow earned a shot at redemption against Manny Pacquiao on 13th November 2010. Margarito was very badly beaten and lost on a wide points decision.
Margarito will fight Miguel Cotto on 3rd December 2012 in a rematch for the WBA Super World Light-Middleweight title. It appears that Margarito is getting a shot at redemption again although most will agree the fight will allow Cotto to put the record straight.
Whatever Margarito does in the future, his record will always be tainted after the hand wraps scandal.
3. Oliver McCall
Sometimes, certain events can never be explained or understood.
One of those occasions was the strange behaviour of Oliver McCall during his rematch with Lennox Lewis for the vacant WBC Heavyweight Championship in Las Vegas in July 1997. The former champion broke down in tears during the fifth round and refused to fight. The contest was eventually stopped by the equally baffled referee Mills Lane.
Before this, the 'Atomic Bull' had a respectable record and has still to this day not ever been knocked down. McCall famously shocked Lennox Lewis in September 1994 to win the WBC Heavyweight title. Although McCall lost the title to Frank Bruno before earning a rematch with Lewis, McCall built up a reputation as a strong and durable opponent.
Unfortunately, run-ins with the law, including time in prison for various issues, blighted the former Heavyweight champion after his defeat to Lewis.
McCall has attempted several comebacks and has held various fringe Heavyweight titles. His next fight is against Bert Cooper on September 10, 2011 for the vacant IBU Heavyweight Title.
However, it may seem that the glory days for the 'Atomic Bull' are now long gone.
2. Edwin Valero
Pure tragedy mixed with unfulfilled potential.
Valero won every one of his 27 fights by knockout, 19 of them in the first round. Valero, at the age of 28, was a true force about to explode onto the world scene and hit the upper echelons of the boxing establishment. Nothing but pure power and speed.
Valero was also the only person to win all of his WBC Lightweight title bouts by knockout.
Unfortunately, Valero had suffered addiction to drugs and alcohol since his amateur years. Whilst growing up on the hard streets of Bolero Alto, Venezuala, Valero became noted as a street thug which led to his troubled future lifestyle.
After issues with domestic abuse and treatment for psychiatric problems, Valero was arrested for the murder of his wife in April 2010. Just a few hours later, Valero committed suicide in his prison cell.
Notwithstanding Valero's personal issues, boxing lost a true great in the making just hitting his prime. A fight with Manny Pacquiao was rumoured to be in the works. What a fight that would have been.
1. Mike Tyson
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The biggest 'what if' of them all.
Tyson's achievements speak for themselves. Tyson was the youngest Heavyweight boxing champion in the history of the sport. He became the first man to unify the WBA, WBC and IBF titles in his division. He has also been recently inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
He terrified opponents with his power and brutality and was definitely one of the most exciting fighters to watch during the 1980s.
Sadly, behind the scenes was a troubled man who fell from grace quickly after his shocking defeat to Buster Douglas. Years of bad management advice (notably the disposal of trainer Kevin Rooney), the loss of influential and calming figures in his life (Cus D'Amato and Jim Jacobs), criminal convictions and very deep personal problems saw Tyson descend into chaos.
The build up to the Tyson vs. Lewis fight in 2002 showcased how far Tyson had descended from being the 'baddest man on the planet' with personal verbal attacks against Lewis and members of the media during training sessions. The public announcement of the fight was infamous for the brawl started by Tyson. The fight itself was a long eight round beat down for Tyson. He never recovered as a fighter again.
In the past few years, Tyson has acknowledged his faults and is set on rebuilding his life for the better.
But what if Cus D'Amato had not passed on early in Tyson's career? What if Tyson had kept Kevin Rooney? What if Tyson had hired good management to look after him and keep him on the straight and narrow?
We'll never know, but it is possible he could have been close to being referred to as the greatest of all time.