Three Punch Combo: Remembering the Morrison-Tomashek Fiasco and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO — In the hours leading up to last week’s heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz, there were rumors that Ortiz’s status was in question. As a matter of fact, Charles Martin was reportedly brought in as a standby in case Ortiz was ruled unfit to fight.

Unusual occurrences happen quite a bit in boxing. But has a literal last second change of opponents for a significant fight ever happened? The answer is yes. On August 30th, 1993 Tommy Morrison defended his WBO heavyweight title in an ESPN televised bout against literal last second opponent Tim Tomashek.

The story behind Morrison-Tomashek is a fascinating one. Morrison’s original opponent was Mike Williams.  Once a top-rated prospect, Williams had lost whenever he stepped up in class including being stopped by James “Buster” Douglas and Alex Garcia. Morrison, who was coming off a mammoth win against George Foreman, was looking to keep momentum going in his career by facing a name opponent, but one that he figured to handle impressively.

Top Rank, the event’s promoter, became concerned about Williams’s status for this fight when Williams missed several pre-fight events. With ticket sales hot and an ESPN date on the table, Top Rank did not want to jeopardize this event. So as insurance they brought in a journeyman heavyweight named Tim Tomashek to be on standby in case something occurred with Williams.

Well, Tomashek took his seat as the undercard began and was probably satisfied with earning a few bucks from Top Rank for being the insurance policy, never expecting to get in the ring. But Williams refused to take a pre-fight drug test and Tomashek was summoned from the crowd. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum offered any fans who wished to leave a full refund but as Tomashek walked to the ring there did not appear to be many empty seats in the arena.

As for the fight itself, Tomashek gave a good account of himself but was outgunned. Tomashek tried to box at times and even landed a few jabs but consistently ate hard punches. In round four, Morrison began pouring it on and toward the end of the round dropped Tomashek with a barrage of hard left hooks. Tomashek was game and got up to survive the remainder of the round, but between rounds, despite the pleading from Tomashek, the ringside doctor stopped the fight citing the Tomashek’s badly swelling eyes.

The unlikely story of how journeyman Tim Tomashek once fought for a heavyweight title belt is something that can only happen in boxing. But as we nearly saw last week, it would not be entirely shocking to see such a scenario someday play itself out again.

Rematches of Big Upsets

In December, Caleb Truax shocked the boxing world when he scored a majority decision win against James DeGale to capture DeGale’s 168-pound title belt. Going into the contest, few in the boxing community gave Truax any shot of being remotely competitive, let alone defeating DeGale, and the win by Truax was considered by many online boxing magazines, including TSS, as the upset of the year. A rematch has now been formally set for April 7th.

Rematches of major upsets are relatively common in boxing. Sometimes the rematches occur immediately and sometimes they occur a little further down the road. Here are some major upsets that had rematches in fights of similar magnitude to Truax-DeGale in the last 25 years.

Junior Jones vs. Marco Antonio Barrera

Marco Antonio Barrera was in the midst of a breakout year in 1996 when he stepped in the ring with Junior Jones in November in what was supposed to be a mere showcase for him. Barrera, who was undefeated in 43 fights and held a 122-pound title belt, had already enjoyed four impressive knockout wins in 1996 and was thought to be the surefire heir apparent in Mexico to Julio Cesar Chavez.

Jones had two suspect knockout losses on his record, including one to journeyman Darryl Pinckney. Expected to be mere cannon fodder for Barrera, he pulled off an improbable upset. He out boxed Barrera early and floored him with a hard right in round five. During the subsequent follow up from Jones in which he had Barrera out on his feet, the corner of Barrera jumped in the ring early and thus the official result went in as a win by disqualification for Jones though Barrera was essentially knocked out. The rematch took place a few months later in April of 1997 and this time Jones used his boxing skill, featuring a solid well timed left jab, to outbox Barrera. In winning a 12-round unanimous decision, Jones proved the first win was no fluke.

Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Willy Wise

Julio Cesar Chavez was presented with what was supposed to be an easy tune-up bout in his return to Showtime in October of 1999 against the light hitting journeyman Willy Wise. The hope was to showcase Chavez for something bigger the following year. But Wise didn’t get the memo and not only beat the legendary Mexican, but beat him convincingly in route to a winning a wide unanimous decision.

It was a stunning defeat for Chavez and one so bad that a rematch did not take place right away. Instead, Chavez fought two months later in Mexico and beat the much overmatched Buck Smith to get back in the win column to set him up for bigger opportunities. It was not until 2003 that a rematch with Wise would finally take place. Wise came into the rematch on a three-fight losing streak and this time was easily dispatched of by Chavez who put him away in two rounds.

Orlando Salido vs. Juan Manuel Lopez

Remember when Top Rank was marinating a super showdown between Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa? Well, Gamboa had out-boxed the tough veteran Salido in September of 2010 in route to a unanimous decision win and in April of 2011 it was now Juan Manuel Lopez’s turn to show what he could do against Salido. It was not a question of if Lopez would win, but how he would look in doing it. But Salido exposed Lopez’s defensive issues and stopped the budding star in round eight in an absolute stunner.

The rematch would take place 11 months later with the result being similar. In a war in which he would have to get up off the canvas, Salido would hammer Lopez with power shots all night and eventually stop Lopez in round 10 proving the result of the first fight was absolutely no fluke.

Weight Issues

Once again this past week, we had a high profile event in which one of the participants missed weight. Scott Quigg came in more than two pounds over the 126-pound limit for his scheduled title fight with Oscar Valdez on Saturday night. This raised eyebrows as Quigg had only recently moved up to the 126-pound class from the 122-pound division. On the surface, it appeared that this may been intentional with Quigg hoping to gain a strategic advantage over the favored Valdez.

Whether or not it is intentional, missing weight is unprofessional and can give an unfair advantage to a fighter. Not only is the fighter that missed weight bigger, but he also did not have to strain as much to squeeze off the excess weight as did his opponent. As such, the fighter missing weight in theory could be fresher and have more energy.

Some will say that in this instance Oscar Valdez could have pulled out of the fight. He had the right to do so, but probably felt pressure to perform from a variety of sources. He also went through a camp that cost money and surely wanted to be compensated for that time. Quigg certainly knew all this and knew the probability that Valdez would withdraw was low so may have figured why not gain an advantage. Quigg would not be the first fighter to employ this tactic.

I have suggested this before but it bears repeating. The way to solve this issue is to severely financially penalize fighters who miss weight. My suggestion has been a 75 percent fine….and trust me; this would make a fighter think twice about not squeezing down to make weight. Boxing commissions and/or sanctioning bodies can easily enact such a measure. This is an issue of fighter safety and professionalism. It needs to be addressed and sooner rather than later.

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