Moorer faces trial before challengers


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- It was a cleansing by blood, four rounds and change of the violence that uplifts boxing every now and then, that purifies the alphabets and closes the doors on the back rooms. For four rounds and change Friday night, Michael Moorer and Bert Cooper could make you forget Don King and fighters being ripped off, it was that exhilarating.

If you didn't like this fight, you don't think boxing is about blood and guts, that there is something socially redeeming about two young men refusing to quit.

And then it was over. Four knockdowns -- two each, one each in a wild first round -- and Moorer, in better condition, landed a right hand that hurt Cooper. Then there was this right uppercut that closed Cooper's eyes and teed up his head for the closing left cross. Moorer, undefeated (29-0 with 27 knockouts) and new WBO heavyweight champion of the world, said he would "see you in a couple of months" after enjoying the summer.

His summer could include a big fall. In July, Moorer faces trial in his Monessen, Pa., home on charges including first-degree felonious assault for breaking a policeman's jaw.

Still, TVKO executives were plotting what was next for the brooding right-hander who fights from a southpaw stance. Lou DiBella, vice president of Time Warner's pay-per-view division, said he would like a September doubleheader of Moorer vs. Ray Mercer, who vacated the meaningless WBO title to lose to Larry Holmes in February. The other half would be Tommy Morrison vs. "a risk opponent." DiBella mentioned someone like Alex Stewart or Cooper.

Promoter Dan Duva, who has options on Moorer for another year, said the new WBO champion could make his first defense against George Foreman. Foreman, of course, is waiting for Holmes to upset Evander Holyfield next month for the only heavyweight title that counts.

There is no questioning Moorer's power, or hand speed. He was in shape for a change at 217 pounds. Tony Ayala Sr. has taken over in the gym from nominal trainer Emanuel Steward and has taught Moorer how to counterpunch off the ropes. Moorer is a dangerous and menacing figure even if his chin still is questionable. He was wobbled early and often.

"This is boxing," he glowered at a reporter who questioned whether he had answered skeptics. "Boxers do get hit. Boxers do get hurt. I think it's a little silly to ask that question."

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