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Andrade wouldn’t be first to provide last-second drama

22
Nov

Conventional wisdom, such as it is, holds that if Librado Andrade beats Lucian Bute in their rematch Saturday in Montreal, he will do it by knocking Bute senseless very late in the fight.

It is further presumed that since Andrade practices defense like Gus Johnson practices understatement, he will be behind on points. Way behind. A guy who gets hit as much as Andrade does walks into the ring three or four points behind.

That’s the way it should be when your strategy is to break your opponent’s hands, or to wear him down by letting him punch the bejesus out of you. What fighter could pace himself in front of such a target?

At any rate, Andrade must rest his hopes entirely on the possibility that Bute will tire late and that Andrade’s great lungs and chin will sustain him through what will almost certainly be an early and middle-rounds beating.

All of this is based, of course, on what happened during the first meeting between these two, which Bute won by decision after surviving a near-disastrous last round during which Andrade, redefining the term “slow starter,” very nearly punched him into oblivion.

There will likely be many times during the course of Saturday’s match when Andrade’s supporters, which include Jack-in-the-Box patrons and employees the world over (not to mention fellow procrastinator Rocky Juarez) will despair of their man’s chances.

They would do well to remember the fight game’s long history of late-round, come-from-behind knockout wins. Here are five of the better ones.

Jake LaMotta KO 15 Laurent Dauthille
Olympia Stadium, Detroit, Mich.
Sept. 13, 1950

Making the second defense of the world middleweight title he’d won against French hero Marcel Cerdan, LaMotta quickly fell behind on points and was oddly passive against his smooth-boxing challenger. So submissive was the champion that referee Lou Handler admonished him in the seventh and eighth rounds to start fighting.

Dauthille displayed no such inhibitions, peppering LaMotta with jabs and closing his left eye. After 14 rounds Dauthille led by scores of 72-68, 74-66 and 73-67 and appeared to be on his way to a repeat of the non-title decision win he’d scored over LaMotta a year earlier in Montreal.

With less than a minute to go, LaMotta suckered Dauthille into standing in front of him right in LaMotta’s corner, then exploded. He pummeled Dauthille across the ring and to the canvas, from where Dauthille was counted out with 13 seconds left in the fight.

Afterward, LaMotta said, “When he dropped his hands in my corner, I knew I had him.”

Mike Weaver KO 15 John Tate
Stokely Athletic Center, Knoxville, Tenn.
March 31, 1980

Big John Tate was most things people wanted in a heavyweight champion, or at least in a WBA titleholder. He was big, athletic, undefeated and had beaten Gerrie Coetzee in front of 86,000 horrified onlookers in Pretoria, South Africa. So you knew he had guts.

His first title defense was supposed to be a homecoming, and Weaver, who had comported himself well in a loss to champion Larry Holmes the year before, should have been a perfect opponent.

For most of 15 rounds, Weaver stuck to the script. He didn’t push Tate, he happily ate dozens of jabs and right hands and, except for a moment in the 12th when he forgot himself and staggered Tate with a left hook, he was as compliant as a kitten.

After the 14th round Tate led by scores of 137-134, 136-133, and 138-133. Before the start of the 15th, Weaver’s manager, Don Manuel, told him, “Go out there and knock him out. If you don't, don't come back.”

With 55 seconds left, Weaver landed a right to the body and a left hook to the chin. Tate fell face forward and was counted out by referee Ernesto Magana. As Weaver celebrated in the ring, he thought, “”My God, I'm Rocky.”

Jeff Harding KO 12 Dennis Andries
Convention Center, Atlantic City, N.J.
June 24, 1989

Andries was nothing great; he knew that as well as anybody. But he had the WBC light heavyweight title and had been preparing to defend it against Don Lalonde when Lalonde retired. Harding, from Australia, took the fight on five weeks notice.

It looked like he needed more. While he concentrated on Andries’ 35 year-old ribcage, Andries floored Harding in the fifth, cut him over both eyes, and in the 10th, broke his nose. But Harding’s body attack had slowed Andries down.

Going into the 12th, Andries led by scores of 107-105, 104-103, and 106-103. He just couldn’t hold on.

Sensing his moment had arrived, Harding started punching at the bell and didn’t stop until he dropped Andries twice, prompting Joe Cortez to stop it 1:23 of the round.

Asked what made him so tough, Harding told the press, “biting the heads off crocodiles.”

Julio Cesar Chavez KO 12 Meldrick Taylor
Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
March 17, 1990

If Richard Steele were still refereeing, he’d still get booed by most crowds. And it would be because almost 20 years later, they still remember him stopping this fight with two seconds on the clock.

Nearly forgotten by now is what a brilliant fight it was — Taylor’s speed and tenacity and eyes swollen nearly shut, blood flowing from his mouth. Chavez unmarked and undaunted, still pressing on, but afterward he admitted what everyone else already knew.

“He was faster than I was,” he said. “He was stronger.”

Chavez was also on his way to the first loss in his long career; two of the three judges had Taylor up by a large margin going into the last round.

Fortunately for Chavez, Lou Duva inexplicably told Taylor after the 11th to go after Chavez. He did and Chavez hurt him with a right. With 16 seconds left on the clock, Chavez dropped Taylor. Taylor got up at six.

Chavez wouldn’t have touched him again. There was no time. Steele, unconcerned with how much time was left, stopped it.

“I was not going to let him take another punch,” he said.

George Foreman KO 10 Michael Moorer
MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada
Nov. 5, 1994

All Michael Moorer had to do was listen to trainer Teddy Atlas, who kept telling him to move to his right to stay away from Foreman’s right hand. He had done it sufficiently well for most of the night so that two of the judges had given him seven of the preceding nine rounds. But in the end he couldn’t keep it up.

“It was effective in the gym,” Moorer said afterward. “Totally different story tonight. Just couldn’t do it.”

He came close. In the 10th, Foreman’s eyes were puffy. The old man was breathing heavily and lumbering even more than usual. But he was doing everything he could do to get Moorer to move to his left so he would be in line for a right. At one point he threw a series of wide left hooks, just to get Moorer to step over.

Late in the 10th, a one-two landed squarely on Moorer’s forehead. Foreman shot the same combination but aimed a little lower and when the right landed, Moorer went to sleep for the 10 seconds it took for Joe Cortez to count him out and make Foreman, at 45 years old, the oldest heavyweight champion ever.

“Now,” Foreman said afterward, “I won’t have to be introduced as the former heavyweight champion of the world any longer.”

Some random observations from last week:

If you’re a Mikkel Kessler fan, there’s good news and bad news about his loss to Andre Ward Saturday night.

The good news: Kessler was more or less right when he said afterward that referee Jack Reiss allowed Ward to get away with all kinds of stuff inside that many referees do not permit. The bad news: The best fighters find a way to adjust and win when things are not going their way. Kessler could not. 

It already was apparent that Gus Johnson and Steve Albert share voice coaches and a passion for overstatement. We found out Saturday they also shop at the same LensCrafters. 

At one point Johnson’s hyperbole almost drove me to the mute button. I’m glad I resisted. If I hadn’t, I would have missed the most astute analysis made all night by Showtime’s broadcast team, which was Antonio Tarver’s pithy observation about Kessler’s troubles: “If you can’t hit a man with a jab, you can’t hit him with a right hand.” That’s good stuff. ÔǪ

Did Ward really call Jim Gray a legend? 

Assuming he gets out of prison on schedule in January, Johnny Tapia, who is 42 years old, will reportedly fight in March. This is what is called The Final Act. 

There were about 140 alphabet title fights over the weekend, including Zsolt Erdei’s win over Giacobbe Fragomeni for a cruiserweight belt, which I guess is important to someone somewhere.

Bill Dettloff can be reached at [email protected]

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