Showtime match revives cruisers

Mar 29, 2005 10:33 AM

Back when "King Con" had talked Sonny Werblin, then boss of Madison Square Garden, into kicking aside Teddy Brenner and turning over the then famous boxing program to the self- anointed world’s greatest promoter, one of the Donald’s biggest draws in New York figured to be the Puerto Rican icon, Wilfredo Gomez.

This gave Werblin, the man who made the American Football League, the straight line for his greatest quote in boxing. Said Werblin, "What the hell is a superbantamweight?"

The proliferation of weight divisions and sanctioning bodies was in its early stages. Jose Sulaiman, the lifetime president of the WBC (my lifetime, anyway), must have had a piece of Gomez because he created a weight division for him. Gomez, who had trouble making 118, was given four extra pounds with which to play. He needed it.

When he finally moved up to featherweight, another four pounds, to challenge the great Salvador Sanchez, he didn’t come close to making weight. Thus, the official scales were swiped and brought to his room at Caesars Palace. The casino brought in one of the large scales it used for checking on its giant meat shipments. Gomez was five pounds over and had to spend the morning running in the desert to make weight before he got knocked out that night.

Which brings us directly to the current fight of the week, and any followers desperate to get even after being bloodied by Erik Morales, should not now be asking what a cruiserweight is, but who will win April 2 between two such champions, Wayne Braithwaite of Guyana and Jean-Marc Mormeck of France.

It’s the classic matchup, Who? Vs. Whom?

This figures to be one of the best fights in the short, unstoried history of the division. Cruiserweights were created 25 years ago, seemingly as a resting place for fat or lazy light-heavyweights before they go after the big money at heavyweight. The very term "cruiser," in fact, was British for light-heavyweight.

Braithwaite, 29, originally from Guyana figures to be the chalk. He’s undefeated in 21 pro fights with 17 knockouts. He calls himself "Big Truck" and is a tall, left-handed counterpuncher with some real pop.

Mormeck, 32, acknowledging Braithwaite’s nickname, said he was a "train" who was going to reduce "Big Truck" to mini-van. He’s no train. He’s a tank, a powerful, straight-ahead plodder with a 30-2 record with 21 KOs. Both losses, he says, were hometown decisions in the other guy’s hometown.

Yes, it is a classic matchup and it figures to produce the best cruiserweight bout since the first Evander Holyfield-Dwight Qawi shindig during which the Real Deal said he had some serious second thoughts about his choice of careers.

This includes the 2003 ding-dong where James Toney outlasted Vasilliy Jirov. That’s how much I respect Braithwaite and Mormeck. And I may respect Mormeck a little more since I have seen his rival champion wobbled a few times. If you can find a line on this fight, I suggest the underdog. Or just watch it because it will be much fun.

Both guys were cruiserweights before the division expanded its 190-pound limit to 200 about a year ago. It should have been 200 all along. Frankly, outside of Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe, I haven ”˜t seen any so-called "giant" heavyweights that would have worried many of the great champions of yesteryear who could have fit into the cruiserweight division pending a final decision on Vitali Klitschko.

Joe Louis could have made cruiserweight at 200. At 190, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Ezzard Charles, Gene Tunney and Jersey Joe Walcott could have competed with anyone. You can see how rich the cruiserweight history could be. The division started out seemingly with Marvin Camel and/or Mate Parlov involved in all its matches. Holyfield gave it some panache by becoming its first, and to date, only unifier. But, Evander did much better for himself as a heavyweight.

I have no great qualms with the idea that every bite of a Sara Lee cheesecake moves the consumer to a higher weight division.

Expansion is fine, though having entirely new divisions for 105, 108, 112, 115, 118 and 122 pounds may be a bit much.

Meanwhile, what the heck is a superbantamweight? A junior featherweight by another name, I say, which of course just makes it more confusing for the casual boxing fan.