Funny, the boxing world figured it would be Nicolay Valuev who fall down and go boom because of some weird bodily collapse. Maybe a bone in his foot exploding under his seven-plus-feet and 325 pounds.
But, no, it was Jameel McCline who hit the mat Saturday in his bid for Valuev’s WBA heavyweight title belt — due to a bum knee that decided to give way in the third round.
Isn’t it a coincidence that “Big Time’s” days as a contender ended just as they began — by a bizarre TKO? It was 2001 when McCline, then an unknown, registered a first-round knockout of top contender Michael Grant — because of a grotesque ankle injury suffered by Grant.
As you can see, strange endings are nothing new to sweet scientists. Here are a few memorable incidents.
• Duane Thomas TKO 3 John Mugabi, Dec. 5, 1986: Coming off his impressive middleweight challenge of Marvin Hagler, “The Beast” was a virtual lock to win the vacant WBC junior middleweight title against the little-known Thomas. Going into the Hagler fight, he had developed a fearsome reputation in building a record of 25-0 with 25 knockouts. Any doubts about his abilities were put to rest in the war with Marvelous Marvin, one of the greatest 160-pounders in boxing history, who struggled with the Beast before registering an 11th-round knockout on March 10, 1986. Mugabi had reportedly trained for the Thomas fight with renewed intensity, and things looked promising early when he rocked him. But the savvy underdog survived and, in the third round, landed an awkward punch to Mugabi’s face that paralyzed the Beast for an instant. Thomas sensed his chance and attacked Mugabi, whose only response was to turn his back on his opponent and field punches. The fight was immediately stopped, and it was later discovered that Mugabi suffered a severe eye injury. Things were never the same for the hard-punching Ugandan, who was unfairly criticized for quitting. But he did win a world title two years later, also via a strange ending. Which brings us to....
• John Mugabi TKO 1 Rene Jacquot, July 8, 1989: Mugabi went on an eight-fight win streak to earn his third world title opportunity, against new champ Jacquot. The Frenchman had shocked Donald Curry by decision the previous February to win the WBC junior middleweight title, but he was an underdog against the hard-punching Mugabi. The Beast had lost a step since his challenge of Marvin Hagler three years earlier. But Jacquot was an extremely limited champion who most people considered lucky to beat an aging Curry. As it turned out, Jacquot didn’t last long enough to prove people wrong. After being hit with a Mugabi left hook, Jacquot landed weirdly on his descent toward the canvas. He courageously got up, but it soon became obvious, as he hopped around on an injured ankle, that his day was over. He was knocked down again, not so much from a Mugabi punch, but from his inability to balance himself. Thankfully, the fight was stopped before Jacquot sustained a more serious injury, and Mugabi was finally a champ.
• Pat Lawlor TKO 6 Roberto Duran, March 18, 1991: Most people were bored of Duran’s career by this time — more than a year after he lost to Sugar Ray Leonard for the third time in a most uninspired performance. Why he and club fighter Lawlor were paired on the Mike Tyson-Razor Ruddock I undercard at The Mirage in Las Vegas, no one will ever know. And the fight pretty much met the ankle-level expectations through the first five rounds — Lawlor throwing light, harmless punches and Duran throwing no punches. At 39 years old, “Manos de Piedra” was a shell of his former self, typically out-of-shape, and going through the motions. In the sixth round, a punch caught him awkwardly on the arm, and he suddenly grabbed his wounded wing, grimaced in pain, and retreated. Duran, whose "No Mas" quit job against Leonard 11 years earlier is stuff of legend, was obviously in a world of hurt, and the fight was stopped. The limited pug Lawlor was awarded a victory over an all-time great, and everyone figured that, yes, this was the end of Duran. But he’d fool the experts one more time — winning seven in a row before dropping a tight decision to Vinny Pazienza in 1995.
• Evander Holyfield TKO 3 Mike Tyson, June 27, 1997: Is there really any reason to comment on this, perhaps the best-known bizarre ending in boxing history? For those of you living in a cave, here's a synopsis: Holyfield, coming off an 11th-round knockout of Tyson seven months earlier in the upset special of the decade, is having his way with Tyson again in the rematch. A big left hook stuns Tyson in the first round, and it appears that the “Real Deal’s” blows are having quite the effect on “Iron Mike.” Tyson is having a better round three when he suddenly snaps, chomping off a bit of Holyfield’s ear during a clinch. Holyfield recoils in disbelief/despair, and Tyson cowardly attacks him from behind. Somehow, the fight is allowed to continue, and Tyson bites Holyfield’s other ear. This time, a halt is called, and Tyson goes berserk. A riot ensues inside the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino as a result of Tyson going bonkers, and the former "Baddest Man on the Planet" is suspended for a year. This fight remains the benchmark for weird, unsatisfying endings.
• Lamon Brewster TKO 5 Wladimir Klitschko, April 10, 2004: Klitschko, looking to rebound from his disastrous knockout loss to Corrie Sanders a year earlier, picks the hard-punching Brewster as his opponent. For three rounds, Klitschko takes target practice at the slower, smaller Brewster. Whatever the Klitschko punch, it lands, and onlookers wonder how much abuse poor Brewster can absorb. Right hands, left hooks, uppercuts, body shots — Klitschko puts on a clinic, and is assumed to be the easy winner. Then, suddenly, mysteriously, he begins to fade. Brewster somehow finds the energy to attack, and by the end of the fourth, Klitschko can barely make it back his stool. He has no chance in the fifth, as Brewster batters a worn-out Klitschko from ringpost to ringpost. Klitschko finally falls from exhaustion. He tries to rise on instinct, but he is completely out of it, and the fight is stopped. Later, Klitschko wonders whether somebody poisoned him. Which, given his sudden, surprising demise, sure seemed like a possibility.