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There Is No Moorer Doubt : Boxing: Undefeated challenger defeats Holyfield to win heavyweight title.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the tense, uncertain silence of the moment, the crowd was hushed and anxious, but Michael Moorer was smiling.

He knew, even if nobody else did.

“I did it,” Moorer said in a near whisper as he stared out into the Caesars Palace crowd after 12 rounds of back-and-forth action.

Then, it was official, and the world had its first left-handed heavyweight champion.

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On a majority decision, after bouncing back from the canvas in the second round, Moorer defeated Evander Holyfield to win the World Boxing Assn. and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles.

“A lot of people doubted me,” Moorer said at the post-fight news conference in which he credited trainer Teddy Atlas for pushing him in training camp and throughout the fight. “They said I’d never been in a fight this big--which I hadn’t. But I knew I could do it. I beat the man.”

After crashing to his knees late in the second round, a victim of Holyfield’s sharp left hook, Moorer assumed control of the fight in the third, fourth and fifth rounds, landing uppercuts that had Holyfield stumbling and opening a deep cut over the champion’s left eye.

Asked what he was thinking when he was on his knees during the knockdown, Moorer said: “What anybody else who’s human would think: What am I doing down here?

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“But I came back.”

Even though Holyfield apparently suffered an injured left shoulder early in the fight--a rotator cuff problem for which he was taken to Valley Hospital afterward--Moorer appeared to stall in the seventh round, giving Holyfield a path back into the fight by slowing his pace and absorbing heavy punishment from Holyfield.

But with the fight on the line, Moorer (35-0) surged back in the 12th round, fighting through Holyfield’s final flurry and hitting Holyfield (30-2) repeatedly. Moorer won the 12th on all cards.

Judge Jerry Roth scored it 115-114 and judge Chuck Giampa scored it 116-112 for Moorer. Judge Dalby Shirley scored it 114-114.

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“He wasn’t going to give up, that’s all,” said Moorer’s grandfather, Henry Smith, who taught Moorer to box. “I was never nervous for him, not even during the knockdown, because he’s been down before and he’s always gotten back up.”

Moorer, 26, suggested that the 31-year-old Holyfield was looking past him as he plotted his plans to unify the heavyweight title against World Boxing Council champion Lennox Lewis.

“His plan was to fight Lennox Lewis,” Moorer said. “Never underestimate the other man.”

After the decision, Holyfield said he was unsure whether he would continue to fight and said he thought he could have won the decision. But he credited Moorer for delivering all the punishment.

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Moorer said he simply wanted to rest.

“Michael Moorer fought a great fight,” said Holyfield’s trainer, Don Turner.

Moorer, who has been tentative at the start of fights before, came out in high gear, flicking his hard right jab into Holyfield’s face through much of the early rounds. The jab would eventually be the decisive punch of the fight, catching Holyfield high on his head and keeping the champion continuously off-balance.

“I know I have a pretty effective jab,” Moorer said. “I can disrupt a lot of people.”

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Both fighters were hurt in the second, but Moorer is the one who hit the canvas.

Early in the second, Moorer walked through a Holyfield jab and caught the champion clean on the jaw with a left uppercut, staggering Holyfield against the ropes. Moorer dominated most of the middle of the round with flashing lefts, but the tide turned quickly.

Under Moorer’s pressure, Holyfield landed a clean right hook-left hook combination that immediately dropped Moorer, who entered the fight with a suspect chin.

Things settled down some in the third, but Holyfield showed no signs of backing away from Moorer’s power and Moorer continued to press the issue.

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“He didn’t choke,” said Moorer’s manager, John Davimos, as the fight progressed.

Moorer increased the pace in the fourth, and Holyfield stood his ground and absorbed several heavy uppercuts.

The fifth was one of the toughest rounds Holyfield has ever endured--comparable to the 10th round against Riddick Bowe in their first fight.

Moorer landed a devastating left uppercut halfway through the round that clearly hurt Holyfield, who wobbled around the ring as Moorer prowled after him. Holyfield tried to recover, but by the end of the round had blood pouring over his left eye.

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It was more of the same in the sixth, although Holyfield’s backpedaling eliminated many of Moorer’s hardest shots.

But the seventh was classic Holyfield renewal, emerging from his two-round lethargy with several inside shots. Moorer was never injured but was put on the defensive.

With his corner screaming for him to throw more punches in the eighth and ninth, Moorer for the first time seemed to realize that he was in the biggest fight of his life and looked slightly hesitant and wary of the champion.

Holyfield’s cut was still opening at the end of rounds, but Moorer allowed Holyfield to dictate the pace until the 10th, when he slowly began to reassert himself.

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“I didn’t know (Holyfield was hurt),” Moorer said. “He was punching like a mule.”

In an earlier fight, John John Molina retained his IBF junior-lightweight title in a methodical unanimous-decision victory over Gregorio Vargas.

Molina (35-3) peppered Vargas (29-5-1) with sharp shots from beginning to end and won easily on all three cards.

In a major upset, John Michael Johnson (18-4, 14 KOs) avenged a previous defeat by stopping previously undefeated Junior Jones (32-1) at 1:21 of the 11th round to win the WBA bantamweight championship.

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* THE RIGHT STUFF: Michael Moorer’s right jab was his most effective weapon against Evander Holyfield. Allan Malamud’s story. C10


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