March 17 -- Palais des Sports Marcel Cerdan, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Winner: Jean-Marc Mormeck UD-12
Like the little guys, the cruisers just don't get enough respect. Bell-Mormeck II was a hell of a fight, as was their first encounter. They came in for the rematch widely considered to still be the two best cruiserweights in the sport, and both were known as entertaining fighters. Their first fight resulted in a 10th round TKO for Bell, which was considered quite an upset, particularly for a unification bout, and it came on the same bill as Carlos Baldomir's stunning victory over Zab Judah. Had Baldomir not dethroned Judah as welterweight king that night, Bell's win over Mormeck would have been rightly remembered as more of an upset than it was 14 months later, when the two met again.
Many still considered France's Mormeck the superior fighter, and had him as the favorite in the rematch, particularly since it would be taking place in his home country. Bell should be given kudos for agreeing to travel to France to fight a rematch with a man he'd already beaten in the States, since that was the place the two could make the most money.
Since the rematch to an outstanding title fight a year prior wasn't considered anything worth picking up by any of the major American networks (to be fair, HBO was running Barrera-Marquez that night), the fight was only seen in the States via tape delay on the MSG Network, or on youtube. But the rematch was nothing short of superb, another crash-and-bang power punching spectacle from two guys that come to fight, and can do so with skill.
So many analysts and broadcasters and other insider-types have gone so far as to almost plead with the public to give the cruiserweight division a fair shake, and to just forget the heavyweights. While we randomly get a Brewster-Liakhovich in the heavyweight division, the cruiserweights simply offer more bang for the buck. They are generally in better shape, in this age of super heavy heavyweights that make my girlfriend remark, fight hard for the entirety of their bouts, and should be plenty big enough to silence those that claim they don't like the lower weight divisions because the fighters aren't big enough.
If you know someone like that, find the Bell-Mormeck fights for them. Find Darnell Wilson's current streak of knockouts. Find Vadim Tokarev, new cruiser champ David Haye, or any of the other entertaining, skilled fighters this overlooked division has to offer. It really is one of the deepest in the sport, and very, very competitive.
But enough of my cruiserweight pimpage. I don't want to cram pimpage. Let's talk Bell-Mormeck II.
Many would rank this fight higher, in their top ten or even top five. But there were so many other fights that I'm biased toward that this slips in at "just" No. 13 for my year. Part of that is that I didn't see it live, which really does help any fight. We all know that tape delay, youtube, video, or whatever, just isn't the same as that live experience, even if the experience is just on your own personal sofa. I knew the winner going in because I caught a glimpse at a headline, but I didn't search out any analysis, and I didn't know if it was decision, KO, DQ, or what. I was excited to see the fight, given how good their first encounter was.
I thought this one was going to end in the first, when Mormeck caught Bell with a rocket right hand, a beautiful cross over the top of Bell's jab that landed as squarely as any punch could. But Bell is nothing if not supremely tough, and even though he was clearly hurt, he stayed up and fought on.
Then I thought it was going to end in the second, when Mormeck smashed Bell with an uppercut, and later an overhand right that would've made Larry Holmes proud. Again, Bell stayed up.
The third round would see Bell shift the momentum with punishing body shots and then, of course, the vaunted low blow. One big punch to the nuts, and Mormeck is on the mat in pain. He took just one of his five minutes to recover, but Bell had him reeling again in the fourth round, and, once again, I thought the fight was moments from ending, only this time, with Bell as the TKO winner.
That fourth round was where I knew, without any doubt, this was another special fight for the division, for these two guys, and for the sport of boxing. Mormeck suddenly stormed back with several bombs, the French crowd going ballistic cheering on their man, and Bell stayed standing again, trading shots with Mormeck until fatigue got the best of them and the punches stopped coming at such a staggering pace.
Let's put it this way: Mormeck and Bell were making every heavyweight of the entire year look like your average John Ruiz bout.
Bell was hurt badly again in both the fifth and sixth rounds. And, yes, stayed on his feet. In the seventh, I thought surely it was over as Mormeck pummeled Bell near the ropes. He hurt him again in the eighth. How did O'Neil Bell stay up?
The truth is, I thought by this point that Bell had won two rounds. I didn't have it all that competitive, and from what I could tell, both guys were slowing down and this one was a war of attrition. Things looked good for Jean-Marc Mormeck, leading six rounds to two on my card.
I didn't know how tired Mormeck was, because in the last four rounds, he was almost out just from exhaustion. Had Bell had more left in the tank, he would have knocked Mormeck out for the second time, and I am very confident in that. It also says something about Bell, who had long held the reputation of getting stronger as a fight wore on due to superb conditioning. Even if Bell was behind, badly, you knew he had a shot at a late knockout.
Mormeck, on spaghetti legs, kept fighting Bell. I gave him the ninth, which all but sealed a decision victory if he could stay on his feet, at least on my meaningless card. Staying on his feet was about all Mormeck managed to do in the championship rounds, as Bell kept looking for that one shot that would end it. He had to have known he was going to be behind on the cards in France, and he deserved to be no matter where the fight was held. Mormeck simply beat him for the majority of the fight.
I gave all three final rounds to Bell, making it a 7-5 card for me. I feared ugly scorecards given the home field advantage, but it didn't happen: 115-13, 115-113, 116-112, all for Mormeck, once again the true cruiserweight champion of the world.
Mormeck's reign wouldn't last long, as he was outbombed in November by England's David Haye in another action-packed fight, once again largely ignored around the world thanks to it taking place the same night as Cotto-Mosley. And though it currently seems unlikely that Mormeck-Bell III will ever take place (Bell has been inactive since the loss and reportedly wants to move up to heavyweight), I'll always fondly remember the two fights between Mormeck and Bell as landmark-type bouts for the cruiserweight division. Though it had long been good, it hadn't been given proper attention since the rise of Evander Holyfield in the late 1980s. To some, at least, Mormeck and Bell helped put the division back on the map, if only for a moment at a time.