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Boxing Perspective: History Of The Cruiserweight Division – The 1990’s

Jeff Lampkin - IBF
22nd March 1990 - 27th July 1991

Jeff Lampkin won the IBF cruiserweight title when he stopped Glenn McCrory with a heavy left to the body in the third round when they met at the Leisure Centre in Gateshead on the 22nd March 1990.

Lampkin defended his title four months later at the Hilton Hotel in Saint Petersburg, Florida against South African Siza Makathini. The fight lasted eight rounds before Makathini was sent to the canvas by Lampkin’s now infamous left hook to the body and was unable to continue.

The IBF stripped Lampkin of the title in 1991. During my research the most stated reason for Lampkin being stripped of the title was his participation in an IBF bout in South Africa and that prompted the WBA and WBC to also withhold recognition of his title due to sporting sanctions against the country. However in all my research the only date I can find that he fought in South Africa was two years later, in 1993, against England’s Herbie Hide for the WBC heavyweight title. I can only surmise that the actual reason Lampkin was stripped of the title was that he fought a South African, not fought in South Africa as reports stated.

Magne Havnaa - WBO
17th May 1990 - 1st May 1992

After winning the WBO belt on the 17th May 1990 from Boone Pultz after a fifth round stoppage at the Nordjysk Messecenter in Aars, Denmark, Havnaa defended the title twice. The first, on the 8th December 1990 at the Aalborg Hallen in Aalborg, Denmark, he convincingly beat Argentine national champion Daniel Eduardo Neto to retain his crown.

Just two months later he beat Florida’s own NABF champion Tyrone Booze by a very close split decision.

Havnaa vacated the WBO title in 1992.

Massimiliano Duran - WBC
27th July 1990 - 20th July 1991

Further controversy in the cruiserweight division followed when, on the 27th July 1990, Massimiliano Duran won the WBC cruiserweight title with a disqualification victory over Carlos De Leon. The disqualified followed De Leon apparently hitting Duran after the bell to end the eleventh round.

Duran went on to beat French-Congolese Anaclet Wamba, also by disqualification after Wamba head butted in the dying seconds of the twelfth and final round. English referee, Larry O'Connell, had already warned Wamba three times for butting and had also penalized him total of five points.

The craziness of Wamba’s action was clear as at the end of the eleventh, one judge had the fight as a draw, the others had Wamba just a couple of points down, as he was clearly on his way to stopping Duran, who had not fully recovered from a knockdowns in the tenth and eleventh rounds, or winning by split decision at worse.

The following year, on the 20th July 1991, saw Duran and Wamba in the rematch for the title.

During the first round, Wamba cut Duran on the forehead, throughout the fight Duran bled, his corner men couldn’t stop the blood. By the eleventh round, with the ring awash with his blood, Duran felt he was so weakened by the extensive blood loss that he couldn’t continue and the title changed hands.

Duran faced Wamba again this time at the Palais Omnisports, Bercy in Paris, France on the 13th December 1991. Another all out war ensued, but in the end the result was the same as the last with Wamba stopping Duran in the eleventh.

Bobby Czyz - WBA
8th March 1991 - 5th August 1993

Bobby “Matinee Idol” Czyz, who was a member of the United States amateur boxing team whose other members died in the 1980 LOT Polish Airlines plane crash in Poland. Czyz was not on the plane that day due to an auto accident one week before the fatal flight, challenged and beat Robert Daniels for his WBA world cruiserweight title in March 1991.

Czyz’s first defense was against Nigerian Bash Ali whom he beat convincingly with the score of 120-108 given by all three judges.

His next defense was against Canadian Donny “Golden Boy” Lalonde on the 5th August 1992 in Las Vegas, again Czyz won convincingly.

Shortly after his magnificent win, over Lalonde, Czyz was hit by a car and as he would be unable to fight for a while vacated the title.

In 1994 Czyz decided to challenge for the IBO cruiserweight title against Nigerian David Izeqwire. This decision proved disastrous for the “Matinee Idol” as he was knocked down in round four and was unable to answer the bell for round five.

On the fifth of December 1995 Czyz again fought for a title, this time the vacant WBU super cruiserweight version, against Texan Richard “Action” Jackson. This time Czyz was successful , stopping Jackson in the sixth round. Again Czyz vacated the title, this time to move to the heavyweight division. He only fought twice as a heavyweight and lost both bouts.

Anaclet Wamba - WBC

20th July 1991 - 7th July 1995

After the three wars with Duran, Wamba defended his title a further six times.

His second defense, at the Palais Marcel Cerdan in Levallois-Perret, France on the 13th June 1992, was against the WBC international champion, Russian Andrej Rudenko, who he stopped in the fifth round.

Four months later, on the 16th October, Maryland’s Andrew Maynard flew across the Atlantic to face Wamba in Paris, France. Maynard fought a valiant battle but was just unable to make up the negative points after a first round knockdown.

San Jose’s David “Mr” Vedder was the next to fly to France, on the 6th March 1993, to challenge Wamba, and like Maynard was unable to wrestle to belt from his grip.

An interesting side note I discovered whilst researching this article was that Vedder, then a bus driver in Santa Clara, California, was on disability leave at the time of the Wamba fight, for a bad back!

On the 16th October 1993 France’s own Akim Tafer was next to try and stop Wamba’s reign. Completely outclassed Tafer retired at the end of the seventh round.

In July 1994 another American, Lexington, Kentucky’s Adolpho Washington, crossed the Atlantic, this time to the splendid surroundings of the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Washington came closest of all challengers to date when the match was declared a draw after twelve action filled rounds.

For his next defense Wamba flew to Argentina to face the undefeated Marcelo Fabian Dominguez. After a fight of epic proportions Wamba barely scrapped a majority decision with the judges cards reading 116-115, 115-113 & 114-114.

Wamba refused to face Dominguez for a rematch a year later and was stripped of the title.

James Warring - IBF
7th September 1991 - 30th July 1992

On the 7th September 1991 a new IBF cruiserweight champion was crowned when multi disciplined (Kickboxing) champion, James Warring, knocked out Louisville, Kentucky’s James Pritchard in just 36 seconds of the first round when they fought for the vacant title which was stripped from Jeff Lampkin a few months earlier.

Warring’s first defense, at the Studio Comunate San Giacomo in Salemi, Italy on the 15th November 1991 on the 15th November 1991, was against Donnell Wingfield who he stopped in the fifth round.

Six months later he convincingly beat England’s Johnny “The Entertainer” Nelson.

Two months later on the 30th July 1992 Warring’s reign came to an end when he faced Atlantic City’s formidable Alfred “Ice” Cole who out pointed him.

James Warring’s kickboxing history:

WKA world champion.
1984 - Declared “Best Fighter in the World” by Paul Maslak’s Star System. 1988 - Rated number one heavyweight in PKO rankings.

Tyrone Booze - WBO
25th July 1992 - 13th February 1993

The vacant WBO title which was stripped from Magne Havnaa was decided on the 25th July 1992 when Floridian Tyrone Booze, who hadn’t fought for over a year, took the fight with just six weeks notice and had to lose over 30 lbs to make the 190lbs limit, flew to Manchester, England to face unbeaten home boy Derek Angol.

It was a very close bout, both started fast and traded ferocious punches throughout, after six rounds they were tied on points. In the corner just before Booze went out for the seventh round his trainer Jim McLoughlin, worried his fighter might be tiring, pulled a picture of Sharee, Booze's newly born daughter, from his back pocket and stuck it in the fighter's face telling him "Do it for her. This is for her!". This unusual tactic obviously worked as Booze came out even more fired-up throwing massive combinations to Angol’s body and head before, with just 30 seconds to go in the round, letting rip with a massive overhead right that knocked Angol out.

Three months later, on the 2nd October 1992, Booze again flew across the Atlantic, this time to Berlin, Germany where he magnificently defended the title against German national & BeNeLux cruiserweight champion Ralf “Rocky II” Rocchigiani.

On the 13th February 1993 Booze crossed the big pond again to face Markus “Cassius” Bott in his home town of Pforzheim in Germany. Booze’s reign came to an end when the judges declared Bott the victor by unanimous decision.

Alfred Cole - IBF
30th July 1992 - 30th April 1996

Alfred “Ice” Cole defended the IBF title he won, on the 30th July 1992 when he beat James Warring, five times over three years. First up was Jamaican Uriah “Bossman” Grant on the 28th February 1993 whom Cole beat by unanimous decision.

This was quickly followed by a trip to Olympisky Sport Hall in Moscow, Russia to beat former IBF cruiserweight champ, Glenn McCrory. It was a cracker of a fight, Cole looked like he was going for an early victory and in the sixth round sent McCrory to the canvas twice. The Brit wasn’t finished by a long shot and came back to hold his own for the rest of the battle, although not enough to prevent being on the losing side of a decision.

Coles next victim, on the 17th November 1993, was Philadelphia hard man and IBC champ Vincent Boulware who got “Iced” in the fifth round at Caesar’s Hotel and Casino in Cole’s home town of Atlantic City.

Another Philadelphian, Nate “Mister” Miller was next in line, on the 23rd July 1994, and although he made it through the full twelve rounds he was convincingly beaten by Cole.

A rematch with the “Bossman” was to be be Cole’s final fight as a cruiserweight as he was moving to the heavyweight class “Ice” wanted to leave the division in style and comprehensively beat Grant by a huge margin unanimous decision.

Markus Bott - WBO
13th February 1993 - 26th June 1993

After beating Tyrone Booze to lift the WBO title belt in February 1993 Markus “Cassius” Bott made his one and only defense on the 6th June 1993 against Argentinean Nestor Hipolito Giovannini. After a close twelve rounds battle the judges posted scores of 113-114, 113-114 & 114-113 handing the victory to Giovannini.

In the rematch later that year Giovannini won by unanimous decision.

Nestor Hipolito Giovannini - WBO

26th June 1993 - 17th December 1994

Nestor Hipolito Giovannini who Beat Tyrone Booze by a close split decision to lift the WBO belt, in June 1993, faced the former champ five months later in a rematch at the Sporthalle in Alsterdorf, Hamburg. This time Giovannini won by unanimous decision with the judges scorecards reading 118-109, 117-110 & 117-110

Giovannini lost his title on his next defense when he was knocked out in the tenth round by former WBO light heavyweight champion, Poland’s Dariusz “Tiger” Michalczewski in Hamburg, Germany on the 17th December 1994.

Orlin Norris - WBA
6th November 1993 - 22nd July 1995

The vacant WBA title was contested in Paris, France on the 6th November 1993 between former heavyweight contender, Orlin “Night Train” Norris, the older brother of Hall of Fame Jr. middleweight Terry Norris, and former South American cruiserweight champion, Argentina’s Marcelo Victor Figueroa. Norris stopped Figueroa in the sixth round to lift the belt.

The “Night Train” went on to successfully defend the title five times, including two wins in 1994 over future world champion “King” Arthur Williams. Their first bout, at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada on the 4th March, was a close battle which ended as a split decision victory for “Night Train”

Their next meeting, at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, four months later was a very different result with Norris stopping Williams in just one minute and 8 seconds of the third round.

Norris then traveled to the Plaza Mexico in Mexico City on the 12th November 1994 to knock out North Carolina resident James Heath in just under six minutes.

His next win, by a close unanimous decision, was at the the expense of another future world champion, Kentucky’s Adolpho Washington. at the Memorial Auditorium in Worcester, Massachusetts on the 17th March 1995.

Norris and his next opponent, Philadelphian Nate “Mister” Miller crossed the Atlantic to lock horns in London, England. After what had been described as a sluggish, strange performance Norris lost his belt when he was knocked out in the eighth round.

Norris and Miller were to meet again in 1998, this time for the IBA Super Cruiserweight Title, this time the “Night Train” was the victor.

Dariusz Michalczewski - WBO
17th December 1994 - 1st January 1995

Within days of defeating Nestor Hipolito Giovannini to become the WBO champion Dariusz Michalczewski vacated the title to continue campaigning as a light heavyweight.

Ralf Rocchigiani - WBO
10th June 1995 - 4th October 1997

After failing to take the WBO Cruiserweight championship from Tyrone Booze in 1992, Germany’s Ralf “Rocky II” Rocchigiani eventually won the vacant WBO title by stopping, in the eleventh round, tough Lancastrian and future world champ Carl “The Cat” Thompson in his home town of Manchester, England on the 10th June 1995

“Rocky II” defended his crown six times. The first victim was Chicago’s Marc Randazzo who he beat by a clear unanimous decision on the 30th September 1995, at the Stadionsporthalle in Hannover, Germany.

Two months later on the 25th November 1995 another American, West Memphis’ Dan “Pastor” Ward, made the long trip to Germany to face Rocchigiani. Ward did not fare as well as Randazzo as he was stopped in the eighth round.

Next up was yet another visitor from the United States, Jay Snyder from Spartanburg, South Carolina. His challenge was even shorter as “Rocky II” stopped him in just four rounds.

Bash Ali decided to make the trip from Nigeria for his second attempt to secure a world title, his first was for the WBA title against Bobby Czyz. The result was the same and Ali made the flight back to Africa empty handed.

Two battles with tough Swiss contender Stefan Angehrn followed, both ended in the same result, a victory for Rocchigiani. The first on the 13th December 1996 by unanimous decision and the second at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland ended as a majority decision in favour of Rocchigiani with the judges score sheets reading 119-109, 114-114 & 115-114.

A rematch with the rugged Lancastrian, Carl “The Cat” Thompson followed on the 4th October 1997, this time the victory went to the Englishman who dominated the bout, but received only a split decision victory after one of the judges, Jose L. Sousa, gave the nod to Rocchigiani with a 115-113 whilst the other two judges gave the more realistic assessment by awarding 109-119 and 111-117 decisions to Thompson.

Nate Miller - WBA
22nd July 1995 - 8th November 1997

In the first few days of 1996, Nate “Mister” Miller, who scored the magnificent knockout victory over Orlin Norris to secure the WBA Cruiserweight Title, met with Florida based Argentinean Reinaldo Gimenez in his back yard. Cleary determined to hold onto his newly won crown, Miller, proceeded to break his opponent’s spirit by dominating the bout, eventually stopping Gimenez in the fifth round.

Miller, using the same strategy, produced a similar result when he faced Buffalo, New York’s Brian LaSpada two months later at the Miami Arena in Miami, Florida. This time victory by stoppage came in the ninth.

On the 31st August 1996 Miller the flew across the Atlantic to Dublin in Ireland to face Monroe, North Carolina’s James Heath and as in his previous defenses Miller finished off his opponent early, this time just seven rounds in.

In February 1997, and back on American soil, “Mister” Miller faced the imposing figure of Ukraine’s Alexander Gurov in what many thought would be his hardest challenge to date. Gurov, who had a reputation as a knockout specialist, couldn’t handle the slick Miller who was scoring at will with solid combinations to the head. The combinations resulted in three second-round knockdowns and the eventual stopping of the fight with just four minutes and 54 seconds on the clock.

French light heavyweight champion Fabrice Tiozzo, who had recently stepped up to cruiserweight, was Miller’s next opponent on the 8th November 1997. Tiozzo, like Miller’s previous opponent Gurov, had a knockout reputation. However the early stoppage expected didn’t occur instead the bout went the full grueling twelve rounds. Tiozzo ended Miller’s magnificent reign taking the title by unanimous decision.

Miller was to fight, unsuccessfully, for championship honours three more times. Firstly for the IBA supper cruiserweight belt against old foe Orlin Norris in August 1998. Then in April 1999 he crossed the Atlantic to the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, England to face none other than Thomas “Hitman” Hearns for the vacant IBO title and then finally on the 31st March 2000 he traveled to Denmark to face the dangerous southpaw Tue Bjorn Thomsen for the vacant IBC super cruiserweight crown.

Marcelo Dominguez - WBC
25th July 1995 - 21st February 1998

Argentinean Marcelo “El Gordo” Dominguez, who in 1994, landed a WBC title shot, in only his sixteenth fight, against Anaclet Wamba, which he lost by decision, was able to capture the interim WBC belt in 1995 with a TKO win over Akim Tafer. In his next interim title fight, Dominguez, faced unbeaten New York based Russian sensation Sergei Kobazev (22 wins,18 by KO) in France and handed him his first and only loss, albeit by a close split decision.

This was to be Kobazev’s last fight as shortly after he was murdered by Russian mobsters Alexander Nosov, Vasiliy Ermichine and Natan Gozman. Kobozev, who had worked as a part-time security guard at a Brooklyn restaurant, had ejected Nosov after a fight with a musician. Several days after the fight, the gang unexpectedly encountered Kobozev at a car repair workshop, where they confronted him before Nosov shot him. Kobozev, who was still alive, was then put in a jeep and driven to the New Jersey home of a high-ranking member of the crime syndicate, where his neck was broken by Ermichine after Kobozev asked to be taken to a hospital.

Dominguez again traveled to France, this time to face former European champion, Patrice Aouissi and in doing so secured the championship belt after Aouissi retired in the corner after the ten frantic rounds.

His first full defense of his new crown, in Argentina on 6th December 1996, was against Brazilian southpaw Jose Arimatea Da Silva whom he stopped in the 8th round.

Another flight across the Atlantic for Domiguez followed, this time to face Akim Tafer in his own back yard. After 12 grueling rounds Dominguez was victorious, by unanimous decision.

Dominguez’s reign came to an end on 21st February 1998 when he faced German based Cuban Juan Carlos “Black Panther” Gomez. A rematch followed just over a year later with the same result.

In 2001 Dominguez was able to land a shot against WBO Cruiserweight champion, Yorkshire’s own Johnny “The Entertainer” Nelson, in England. Nelson dominated the fight to retain his title by a clear margin.

In 2006 Dominguez, who had moved to the heavyweight division for a number of years, secured a shot for the WBO Cruiserweight Interim Title against the Welsh wizard Enzo “Big Macc” Maccarinelli in Cardiff. His return to the cruiserweight class was short lived as Maccarinelli stopped him in the ninth round.

Adolpho Washington - IBF
31st August 1996 - 21st June 1997

On 31st August 1996, IBO champ Kentucky’s Adolpho Washington, who previously challenged WBC champion Anaclet Wamba and WBA champ Orlin Norris for their crowns, both unsuccessfully, finally won a major title when he upset undefeated former Olympic Gold medalist Torsten May for the vacant IBF Cruiserweight at the Coliseo Balear in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

His reign was short lived as he lost the title to Jamaican Uriah “Bossman” Grant in his first defense at the Sun Dome in Tampa, Florida on 21st June 1997.

Uriah Grant - IBF

21st June 1997 - 8th November 1997

In 1993 Uraiah “The Bossman” Grant unsuccessfully challenged IBF cruiserweight title holder Alfred Cole. Two years later Grant landed a rematch with Cole and lost again by decision.

“The Bossman” finally secured the major title he craved when he beat Adolpho Washington to lift the IBF belt on the 21st June 1997.

Grant’s success was short lived as Imamu Mayfield of New Jersey relieved him of his belt, with a unanimous decision victory on the 8th November 1997.

Grant had a resurgence in 2000 when he shockingly stopped the legendary Thomas “Hitman” Hearns in the second round to take the IBO title. It was equally short lived as Britain’s Carl “The Cat” Thompson beat him into submission in just five rounds on the 3rd February 2001. In 2002 Grant stepped up to heavyweight

Carl Thompson - WBO
4th October 1997 - 27th March 1999

Carl “The Cat” Thompson, who in 1995 had failed in a bid for the WBO title against Ralf “Rocky II” Rocchigiani when he was forced to quit due to injury, eventually won the WBO title by split decision over Rocchigiani in the rematch on the 4th October 1997.

“The Cat” defended the belt twice in 1998, both times beating fellow Brit, former middleweight and super middleweight world champion, Chris “Simply The Best” Eubank, the first by unanimous decision on the 18th April 1998 and three months later by tenth round stoppage.

I managed to find video of Thompson vs. Eubank II during my research - being a Brit it was great to reacquaint myself with fighters I used to watch and support back in the day - and to watch “The Cat” tame one of the greatest British boxers of his generation again, was quite frankly awesome!

Thompson finally lost the WBO crown to another fellow countryman Johnny “The Entertainer” Nelson on the 27th March 1999 after being stopped in the fifth round.

However, that was not the end of championship victories for the gritty Yorkshire man as he took the IBO crown from Uriah “Bossman” Grant in February 2001, only to lose it 9 months later in what can only be described as a battle of magnificent proportions which saw Thompson on the canvas no less than 4 times, the last finishing him off, and eventual victor Floridian Ezra Sellers down twice in just four rounds.

“The Cat” won the IBO belt again in February 2004 after stopping Sebastiaan Rothmann, in another fast and furious battle that saw both protagonists hitting the canvas, Thompson once and Rothmann twice. Seven months later Thompson faced the up and coming unbeaten star of British boxing, David “The Hayemaker” Haye, at the Wembley Arena. Many observers thought that Thompson would be Haye’s next victim. However things didn’t go to plan as “The Cat” stopped British boxing’s new pin-up boy in the fifth round of the tumultuous and punishing contest.

Imamu Mayfield - IBF
8th November 1997- 30th October 1998

On the 8th November 1997 New Jersey’s Imamu Mayfield, surprisingly to many, beat Uriah “Bossman” Grant for the IBF crown.

Mayfield successfully defended his title at the K.C. Sports Arena in Hull, Yorkshire. on the 28th March 1998 by knocking out British challenger Terry Dunstan in the eleventh round.

His second defense, on the 30th October 1998, did not well for Mayfield as he was stopped in the ninth by Florida’s own knight of the square ring “King” Arthur Williams.

In May 2000 Mayfield again challenged for a title, this time the WBC version, against Juan Carlos Gomez. The challenge didn’t last long as Gomez knocked him out in the third round.

Mayfield unsuccessfully challenged for championship titles twice more. The first, for the IBA continental belt in July 2004, against Lawrence Clay Bey and in March 2006 against Poland’s Krzysztof “Diablo” Wlodarczyk for the vacant IBC crown.

Fabrice Tiozzo - WBA
8th November 1997 - 9th December 2000

Former WBC light heavyweight champion Fabrice “The Bear” Tiozzo, who in November 1997 beat Nate “Mister” Miller to lift the WBA cruiserweight belt, successfully defended his new title by stopping Indiana’s Terry Ray in just one minute of the first round when they met at the Villeurbanne in France on the 2nd May 1998.

6 months later, on the 14th November, he stopped former WBB (World Boxing Board) champion Ezequiel Paixao from Brazil, this time in the second round.

“The Bear” flew across the Atlantic to America one year later and faced Ken Murphy from Chicago, Illinois. Murphy, who lasted longer than his two predecessors, suffered the same fate when referee, Joe Cortez, stops the bout in round seven on advice of the ringside physician.

Back home in France Tiozzo’s next victim, on the 8th April 2000, was Valery Vikhor from Ukraine. Like the others before him Vikhor was stopped in his tracks. The Ukrainian had tasted the canvas twice, in the first and sixth round, the later being enough for the referee, Joe Cortez, to step in and stop the fight.

Tiozzo’s reign came to an abrupt end, on the 9th December 2000, with a complete reversal of his four previous results, after he was stopped in the sixth after being knocked down three times by Virgil “Quicksilver” Hill.

Juan Carlos Gomez - WBC
21st February 1998 - 19th February 2002

On February 21, 1998, in Mar Del Plata, Argentina, Juan Carlos “Black Panther” Gomez wrestled the WBC Cruiserweight crown from Marcelo Fabian Dominguez’s grip by unanimous decision. Gomez then went on to dominate the WBC cruiserweight championship for three years, successfully defending his title twelve times.

The Cuban’s first victim, on the 5th June 1998, was former WBA & WBF light heavyweight champion Australia’s Guy “Arc Angel” Waters who had traveled thousands of miles to Germany only to be stopped by the “Black Panther” in the sixth.

Just four months later, on the 3rd October 1998, at the Prinz-Garden Halle in Augsburg, Germany. Gomez dispatched Russia’s Alexei Illin in just two rounds.

The same fate was to befall Greenville, Mississippi’s Rodney Gordon when, two months later, he too was stopped in the second round by the “Black Panther” at the Ballsporthalle in Frankfurt.

A rematch with Marcelo Fabian Dominguez followed on the 13th March 1999 at the Hansehall in Luebeck, Germany ended with the same result as on their first meeting, an unanimous decision victory for Gomez.

On the 17th July 1999 at the Philips Halle in Düsseldorf, Germany Gomez stopped British and Commonwealth champion Bruce “Lionheart” Scott of Jamaica with a barrage of punches in the sixth round to retain his title.

Bruce Scott later went on to secure the vacant WBU title in 2001 when he beat Rene Janvier by unanimous decision, before losing the title to Enzo “Big Mac” Maccarinelli in 2003 after a magnificent battle that saw Maccarinelli down in the first and Scott down in the fourth.

Five months later on the 11th December 1999 Ghana’s Napoleon Tagoe flew to Germany and lasted one minute and 25 seconds into the ninth round before being knocked out by the heavy handed Cuban.

The new millennium dawned and Gomez continued his winning ways first up for “Black Panther”, on the 11th March, was European light heavyweight champ Mohamed “Jose” Siluvangi. The Congolese hardman’s challenge lasted just two rounds before he was stopped by the impressive Gomez.

Then just two months later on the 6th April Gomez knocked out the former IBF champ New Jersey’s Imamu Mayfield in just 50 seconds of the third round.

On the 16th December 2000 Gomez faced Argentinean Jorge Fernando "Locomotora" Castro. Many observers thought that Castro was in way over his head against “Black Panther”, who looked very strong, as "Locomotora" took a bad beating throughout the fight. With a huge heart he kept on going until he was finally stopped in the tenth round.

It was almost a full year before the “Black Panther” defended his title again. His final cruiserweight victim was Italian hard man Pietro “The Killer” Aurino who was stopped in the sixth round on the 3rd November 2001 by this magnificent champion.

Juan Carlos Gomez vacated his WBC cruiserweight title in February 2002 to move to the heavyweight ranks, where on 19th October 2007 he became the WBC International heavyweight champion.

Arthur Williams - IBF
30th October 1998 - 5th June 1999

In 1998 USBA champ “King” Arthur Williams, who challenged and was beaten twice in his quest for a major title by the WBA champion Orlin Norris in 1994, got another shot at a major title belt when he faced and beat Imamu Mayfield to secure the IBF crown.

Williams reign was destined to be short as on the 5th June 1999 his first defense was against Kazakhstan’s unbeaten sensation Vassiliy “The Tiger” Jirov. Williams was unable to slow the juggernaut that was “The Tiger” and took a battering before finally succumbing to the onslaught after one minute and 59 seconds of the seventh rounds.

Johnny Nelson - WBO
27th March 1999 - 22nd September 2006

WBU & WBF cruiserweight champion, Johnny “The Entertainer” Nelson, vacated the titles in order to campaign for the WBO title. His chance arrived on the 27th March 1999 when he faced, and stopped Carl “The Cat” Thompson to lift the belt and begin a six year domination on the WBO championship.

It was a mere two months after his stunning victory in Derby before Nelson faced London based Jamaican bruiser Bruce “Lionheart” Scott. After twelve rounds it was clear that there could only be one choice for the winner and “The Entertainer” took that by unanimous decision.

Three months later he was back in the ring, this time facing Canadian Willard “Red Thunder Rock” Lewis, who had made the long trek to Dagenham, Essex for twelve minutes of serious punishment, at the end of the fourth Lewis’ corner said enough is enough.

42 days later, on the 18th September 1999, entered the arena again, this time in Las Vegas, to face Las Vegas resident Sione Asipeli. The fight went the full twelve rounds but again there was only one winner, Nelson.

Less than two months passed and he was back in the UK facing the French champion Christophe Girard who lasted just over eleven minutes before being knockout.

In his first fight of the new millennium, on the 8th April 2000, Nelson faced Italian national cruiserweight champion Pietro “The Killer” Aurino at London’s famous York Hall in a real cracker of a fight. The punch fest lasted just seven rounds before the unbeaten Aurino quit after a banging of heads.

In his only other fight of the year, on the 7th October, “The Entertainer” faced Australian Ultimate Fighter veteran Adam Watt. Nelson retained his title after a short right uppercut connected flush on Watt's nose, knocking the Australian out cold, in round five.

Just one week into 2001 Nelson was back in the ring against former WBA Fedalatin and Brazilian national heavyweight champion George Arias who had recently changed division affiliation. The fight, that went the full twelve rounds, was totally dominated by Nelson as shown by the judges scores of 120-108, 120-110 & 119-110.

In his second fight of the year, on the 21st July 2001, Nelson was pitted against former WBC world champion, Marcelo Fabian Dominguez, in what was expected to be a close fight. Just as in his previous fight of the year “The Entertainer” entertained the crowd with a dominating performance to retain his belt.

His final fight of the year was for the vacant World Boxing Union heavyweight title against Alexander Vasiliev, which he won, after his WBO Cruiserweight title challenger Napoleon Tagoe failed his pre-fight physical.

On the 6th April 2002 Nelson traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to face Pensacola, Florida’s Ezra Sellers. In one of the most exciting fights of the new century, in which Nelson was knocked down, in the fourth round, for only the second time in his career, the two traded power punch after power punch until Nelson knocked Sellers out after two minutes and 39 seconds of the eighth round.

Another seriously great battle ensued in Nelson’s only other fight that year, on the 23rd November, with the former WBA light middleweight champion, Panamanian Guillermo “El Felino” Jones. At the end of twelve action filled rounds many ringside and throughout the press ranks thought Nelson’s reign was over, however, the judges saw it different and declared the fight a draw and Nelson kept a grip on his belt.

Due to a kidnap threat, that forced him to spend four months under police protection, Nelson did not fight again until the 15th November 2003 when he faced the WBC international cruiserweight champion, Germany’s Alexander Petkovic, in his back yard. Nelson dominated the proceedings and won easily. However, he was clearly surprised, as were the press corps, when the judges scored it a close 115-113, 115-113 & 114-114

It was back to Germany, on the 14th September 2004, for his only fight that year. This time his opponent was current EBU European champion Ruediger May. This proved to be a difficult fight for Nelson as he and May had sparred on many occasions and as such May was able to counter him easily. Things changed in the seventh round though as Nelson sent his challenger to the canvas with a right hook and then, after the German had got to his feet, repeated the move and was promptly announced the winner.

On the 26th November 2005, Nelson again traveled to mainland Europe, this time to Rome in Italy, to defend his crown against former EBU European champion Vincenzo Cantatore. For the most it was rather one sided affair, which saw Nelson clowning around trying to draw his opponent in, until the ninth, when Nelson threw a heavy right hand, missed, lost his balance and went down. Surprisingly he didn’t protest when the referee made the mistake of counting. After this Cantatore became more confident and decided to make a true fight of it. What seemed like an easy win for Nelson suddenly looked the opposite as Cantatore rocked him often in the later rounds. The score cards were 116-111, 115-112 and a strange 112-115.

Nelson’s next fight was scheduled to be against Welsh prospect Enzo “Big Mac” Maccarinelli on the under card of the Joe Calzaghe vs. Jeff Lacy WBO/IBF unification bout. However due to an injury to Nelson the fight was canceled and Nelson never fought again.

Vassiliy Jirov - IBF
5th June 1999 - 26th April 2003

In 1999, Scottsdale, Arizona based Kazakhstani Vassiliy “The Tiger” Jirov became IBF world cruiserweight champion by knocking out defending champ “King” Arthur Williams in the seventh round.

Jirov’s first defense was against Canadian Dale “Cowboy” Brown was on the 18th September 1999 as the main support fight of Felix Trinidad vs. Oscar De La Hoya. retained his crown with a tenth round knockout.

On the 12th February 2000, Jirov took on the IBA champion, Mexico’s Saul “La Cobra” Montana, in Boise, Idaho. Jirov retained his title after stopping Montana in two minutes and 55 seconds of the ninth round.

Jirov’s next defense was in his home country of Kazakhstan on the 6th February 2001 against Puerto Rico’s Alex Gonzalez. It was a short lived affair as just one minute and 35 seconds into the fight Gonzalez was knocked out by the heavy hitting Jirov.

His next defense, just over a month later on the 24th March, against Chicago’s WBO NABO champion Terry McGroom was even shorter as “The Tiger” dispatched his opponent in just one minute and 22 seconds.

Jirov’s last championship fight of 2001, on the 8th September, was against Julian “Mr KO” Letterlough, a light heavyweight from Reading, Pennsylvania who had recently moved to the cruiserweight division. The rather one-sided affair ended in a stoppage just 1 minute and 24 seconds into the eighth round

Side note: Julian Letterlough was shot and killed, on the 8th July 2005, at a tavern in Reading PA, where he was socializing with his wife and a friend. The shooting was witnessed by a police officer who chased and arrested Kenneth Blunt. After two mistrials Blunt pleaded guilty to criminal attempt to commit homicide and related charges. Prosecutors accepted the plea instead of heading to trial for the third time. Blunt was sentenced to 12 to 20 years in prison.

Jirov only defended his title once in 2002. On February 1st he beat former world middleweight champion Jorge Fernando Castro of Argentina by a twelfth round decision.

On the 26th April 2006 Jirov faced the talented multi-weight champion James “Lights Out” Toney in one of the most spectacular fights of the division. At the end of the all out war between two of the sports true champions Toney was declared the new IBF champion (see Toney section for fight report).

Controversy surrounded the judges scorecards, 109-117, 110-116 & 109-117. The official decision that stands was the right one and Toney was rightly crowned champion but even taking into account that Jirov was penalized one point for a low blow in 8th and down in twelfth the fight was much closer than the judges recorded.

About Gianluca Rio Di Caro

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