The element of surprise is a dangerous weapon that one can bring to a fight, and Oliver McCall and “uncertainty” go hand-in-hand . . . for better or for worse.
It was back in September 1994 that “The Atomic Bull” Oliver McCall surprised us all when he defeated champion Lennox Lewis by TKO in the second round to claim the WBC Heavyweight title.
Just as shocking was the rematch three years later as the two battled for the same title, which was vacant at the time, and McCall mentally collapsed and cried his way to a fifth round TKO loss.
When Oliver McCall enters the ring he always has a look of angst or discomfort on his face, as if he is about to cry . . . and we learned that sometimes he does. But, McCall also carries into the ring the kind of one-punch knockout power that can shave a few points off the IQ. He is as heavy-handed as they come and more than once has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. My most vivid memory of this was his bout against Henry Akinwande in 2001. With Akinwande dominating the bout by using his height and reach advantage to jab his way to a comfortable lead on the scorecards, “The Atomic Bull” let loose with a devastating overhand right that shook Henry's molars, rattled his cranium, and dropped him for good. That bomb exploded on Akinwande in the tenth and final round in a bout that McCall had been outboxed for its entirety. Power, it is what punchers use to bridge the gap against boxers.
Now a 41-year-old fighter with time not on his side, there is one last shot, one big punch that Oliver McCall still wants to land. His most recent bout, a four round beating of similarly aged and hard-hitting Darroll Wilson, proved that McCall hasn't quite slipped to journeyman status and kept him on the heavyweight radar. Wilson never had much of a chance against McCall as the “Bull” dropped Wilson in the second and had him out on his feet before the bout was stopped. In dominating an opponent he was expect to defeat, McCall claimed the vacant WBC Fecarbox Heavyweight title, but more importantly he stayed busy and extended his current winning streak to seven. Officially he has a No Contest during that streak when Juan Carlos Gomez won a lopsided ten-round decision against McCall in Germany; but Gomez failed his post-fight drug test which changed the outcome from a McCall loss on points to a No Contest.
As his eight career losses suggest, McCall can be beaten, and usually it is by a tough fighter who can jab and box well over the entire course of a bout, or be fortunate enough to catch McCall on an off night. McCall too seems to have moments where he loses focus and let's fights slip away, but also can wake up in time to save a bout that may be slipping out of reach. Among his 48 victories is a first round TKO over newly crowned WBA champion Oleg Maskaev. Although that bout was back in 1996 and came in Maskaev’s seventh pro fight, McCall won, and Maskaev is now a heavyweight champion. According to that result, McCall may not be all that shy of the top of the heap as the cream of the crop has slowly eased its way back to the rest of the division.
It seems that everyone in the heavyweight division has a victory over a current champion, or a win over a fighter who beat a current titleholder. McCall has his victory over Maskaev, WBO champion Sergei Lyakhovich was knocked out by Maurice Harris, and Harris has been beaten by everyone, most recently by Tye Fields, who himself was knocked out by 4-8-0 Jeff Ford. We all know the rocky past of IBF representative Wladimir Klitschko and his struggles to catch his breath and find a chin. Lamon Brewster was the last fighter to beat Klitschko, and of course Brewster lost to “White Wolf” Lyakhovich. That leaves the “Beast from the East” Nicolay Valuev to boast an unblemished record after 45 fights, with Calvin Brock having a clean slate (29-0-0) as well. Both still have much to prove against better opposition before we really know what they are all about.
Currently the WBC #6-ranked heavyweight contender for a shot at Maskaev’s title, McCall can only wait and win in hopes that he gets to repeat his performance against Maskaev. For his part, Maskaev appears to be headed for a bout with Peter Okhello in his first defense. Despite his 34 years, Okhello is a relative unknown in boxing circles, and being a Ugandan-born heavyweight living in Japan tends to lead to that obscurity. He is a four-time loser, with Sinan Samil Sam, Imamu Mayfield, Kali Meehan and Toakipa Tasefa all blemishing his record despite 18 victories. Okhello’s most recent victory was his second career win over journeyman Bob Mirovic. Something seems a tad rotten on the state of the WBC for this bout to be considered worthy of a title defense.
“The Atomic Bull” Oliver McCall can be an explosive fighter able to turn a lackluster bout into a fireworks show. McCall isn’t a potential savior in the wide-open current heavyweight division but he certainly could bring some excitement to the staggering division. If only he gets another chance.