Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boxing [Print without images]

Saturday, January 7, 2006
Bell knocks out Mormeck to unify cruiser title

By Thomas Gerbasi
MaxBoxing.com

Although he now likes to be known as "The Supernova", O'Neil Bell once carried the moniker "Give 'Em Hell." Saturday night at Madison Square Garden's Theater, the Atlanta-based Jamaican walked through fire to finally get to Jean-Marc Mormeck, and in the 10th round he got him, knocking out the highly regarded Frenchman in an action-packed bout to unify the cruiserweight title for the first time since Evander Holyfield did it in 1988.

Bell, the IBF champion, adds Mormeck's WBC and WBA titles to his trophy case. The victory lifts his record to 26-1-1 with 24 KOs. Mormeck is 31-3 with 21 KOs.

"I can't take anything away from him," Bell said. "He's got a lot of power and was a great champion. A lesser fighter would have been stopped by his blows, but I was able to sustain his best shots, which broke his spirit. I knew then I had won."

Bell opened the fight with a busy attack, while Mormeck waited for his time to fire back, not the wisest course of action against a fighter with the power of the IBF champion. But while Bell was throwing a lot of punches, none were having much effect on Mormeck, who finally opened up in the final 30 seconds of the round with a two-fisted flurry that brought a rise from the crowd and simply a smile from Bell.

Mormeck again ignited the crowd early in the second with a stiff jabs and later a thudding left hook. At the one-minute mark, Mormeck sent Bell's mouthpiece flying out with a right hand, and the fighter newly christened by Showtime viewers in an online contest as "The Marksman" was right on target. Bell wouldn't be deterred though, and he stayed busy as Mormeck charged forward. Things would inevitably go bad for Bell whenever he got pinned on the ropes though, which was often.

Doing his best to box more against Mormeck in the third, Bell peppered his foe with slapping shots for the first half of the round, but in the latter half he moved right back into Mormeck's firing zone, where he absorbed a series of heavy shots with both hands, earning the WBC/WBA king another round.

The pattern continued throughout round 4, with Bell throwing a lot of leather and looking good in spurts, but Mormeck's more selective shots doing more and more damage. Through a series of showboating tactics though, Bell was able to trick Mormeck into believing he wasn't really shook by some hard left hooks.

Mormeck's forward march got a little faster in round five, and only some well-timed clinches and a hard low blow from Bell earned him a brief respite from the attack. But after a brief pause for Mormeck to recover from the below-the-belt punch, Bell fought effectively off the ropes, eluding Mormeck's rushes and landing some quick shots in the process.

Taking the role of aggressor in round 6, Bell dug to Mormeck's body with both hands and pinned him in his own corner for a brief spell. Mormeck roared back with some heavy return fire of his own, but Bell absorbed the leather well.

The pace of round 7 slowed a bit, but with under two minutes left in the round, Bell shook Mormeck with a series of overhand rights and the crowd erupted. And though Mormeck ate a copious amount of punches for the rest of the round, he remained upright and even came back with power punches of his own as the round closed.

Bell jumped on Mormeck to begin the eighth, looking to capitalize on his good fortune from the previous stanza, and he scored well early, though he wasn't able to jar his foe again, and by the second half of the round, Mormeck was trudging forward and throwing punches as if it were the first round all over again.

The trading continued in the ninth round, with both fighters doing excellent work to the body, and Mormeck holding a decided edge with clean blows upstairs.

Most of the 10th round was fought in the trenches, with Mormeck and Bell both impressing with various modes of operation -- Bell with body work and volume punching, and Mormeck with quick spurts of accurate shots as well as some good fighting off the ropes. But when Bell connected with one too many right hands late in the round, the die was cast, and suddenly the seemingly indestructible Mormeck was hurt and in serious trouble.

Bell wasted no time in pouncing on his foe, and after an array of power punches exploded off his head, Mormeck finally fell, with referee Wayne Kelly waving off the count just seconds into it. The end came at 2:50 of the 10th.

At the time of the knockout, Bell led on two scorecards, 86-84 and 87-84, and trailed 86-85 on a third. The ex-champ was gracious in defeat.

"I lost one battle, but not the war," Mormeck said. "I don't know what changed things, but at a certain point I realized that he was a great champion and that he was winning. Since he is the champion, he can make the decision about a rematch, but I would love to have a rematch."