On this day… January 25… Mayorga burns Forrest

2003 – Sometimes a fighter just has someone’s number, and as good as Vernon Forrest was, he had nightmares with wild Nicaraguan Ricardo Mayorga. 

Mayorga was a significant underdog against Forrest, who was fresh off two big wins over Shane Mosley, but Forrest seemed unsettled by Mayorga’s antics out of the ring and his unconventional style inside it. 

Forrest, trained by Ronnie Shields, looked sharp early on, but he also appeared wary about the man in front of him, and he was right to do so. 

Mayorga, for some as much as a 10-1 outsider during fight week, swung a wide left hook that caught Forrest near the end of the opening round and a shorter left hook to follow up, which sent Forrest to the canvas. Forrest proclaimed it was a slip, but it was not. 

“This was not the fight that Vernon Forrest wanted,” screamed Jim Lampley, on call for HBO, as the fighters started engaging in the second round.

Forrest stood his ground and teed off with a sumptuous right uppercut and Mayorga then walked onto a crunching right hand, but he kept on walking forwards. He was undeterred. 

Forrest was being too macho for his own good and fighting Mayorga’s fight. He was trying to earn Mayorga’s respect but actually falling into Mayorga’s traps.

Lampley talked about Mayorga bringing out “the tiger” in Mayorga, but Forrest’s tactics were all wrong in this, the first of a six-fight deal with HBO.

In between the second and third rounds, Larry Merchant said: “This is like a street fight, in which one fighter has skills and the other fighter is just wading in and the guy with skills is trying to figure out, how do you fight this guy?”

Shields told his man to stay in the centre of the ring with Mayorga, to hit him with the jab, but Forrest looked concerned, and he was hurt by a right hand in the early moments of the third round. Forrest tried so hard to stay with Mayorga – who marched through some bombs – in a shootout, but with his back to the ropes, Forrest was drilled by a right hand and dropped again, clutching onto the top rope with his left glove to try and haul himself back up.

Forrest made it to a standing position, but wobbled, and referee Marty Denkin took a close look, did not like what he saw, and waved it off. 

Merchant talked about Forrest’s ring entrance straight away and said: “Let’s see Vernon Forrest come in to the ring rapping the next time. He was celebrating his championship before he had a serious chance to defend it.” 

“I wanted to fight this guy, step up to the plate and show that he can’t outmuscle me and bully me, but I got away from the gameplan,” lamented Forrest. “When you’re fighting a guy that is kind of wild and unpredictable, you have to let it be known that you need some respect in the ring and I went out there to establish some respect and show him he was in with a world class fighter…. He caught me with a good shot, I got up, I don’t think it should have been stopped but I’m not the referee, I’m a fighter.” 

The late Dan Goossen promoted the show and on the undercard, Cuban Joel Casamayor defeated previously-unbeaten Nate Campbell on points over 10 rounds.

Also on this day… in 1939

A 25-year-old heavyweight Joe Louis stops a light-heavyweight star in John Henry Lewis in just one round. It was the only time Lewis was stopped in 117 fights and he never fought again.

… in 1894

Heavyweight champion James J Corbett knocked out British challenger Charlie Mitchell in three rounds. Despite rumours of Corbett’s demise, due to his enjoyment of a drink, he dropped Mitchell in round two before stopping him a round later.