Posted: Thursday August 25, 2005 5:58PM; Updated: Thursday August 25, 2005 5:58PM
Coincidentally, the only other fighter to defeat Lewis was on the undercard last Saturday. Oliver McCall flattened Lewis in two rounds to win the WBC heavyweight title way back in 1994. What most people remember about McCall, however (if they remember anything), is his meltdown in the ring during the rematch against Lewis -- truly one of the more bizarre moments in heavyweight championship history. Overcome by emotion, McCall experienced a nervous breakdown of sorts and wound up standing in the center of the ring in Las Vegas, arms at his side and weeping uncontrollably while a flummoxed Lewis threw ineffectual punches until referee Mills Lane stopped the bout.
Since then, McCall, known as the Atomic Bull, had won 16 of 18 bouts against largely mediocre competition while struggling with personal problems outside the ring. As Larry King would put it, "You look up 'under the radar' in the dictionary and you get a picture of Oliver McCall."
At age 40, McCall was in Chicago as a last-minute fill-in for Andrew Golota against Polish heavyweight Przemyslaw Saleta. Most of the red-and-white flag-waving Polska fans in the United Center must have been expecting a good showing by their man, a former European champion who brought a record of 42-6 into the bout and, at 6-foot-4 and a hard 247 pounds, certainly looked like a serious heavyweight.
But from the opening bell, you could see McCall -- less imposing, but clearly in shape at 235 (barely three pounds more than what he was when he beat Lewis) -- going to work. He weathered some stiff jabs and hard body shots from Saleta, but all the while he was throwing jabs of his own, pressuring the bigger man and setting him up for right hands.
McCall began landing his right in the third and then, in the fourth, he found the range, backing Saleta to the ropes and stunning him with a big right uppercut. Eyes wide, McCall, always an excellent finisher, bored in with more rights then closed the deal with a quick left uppercut and a final straight right that dropped Saleta to his knees. Saleta beat the count, but just barely, and referee Geno Rodriguez waved the fight over.
Is McCall the Real McCoy in the heavyweight division? Of course not. But until the next Ali or even -- God help us -- the next Tyson comes along, there is a real pleasure in watching a couple of tough, experienced, smart and resourceful pros go about their business. And that's no bull.
Don't cry for me, Poland: Saleta may have been KO'd by McCall, but he still has his girlfriend, Polish Playmate of the Month Kasia Kraszewska, in his corner. ... How about a pay-per-view showdown between ring announcers Michael "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" Buffer and "the classy" Jimmy Lennon Jr.? ... Ricardo Mayorga of Nicaragua claimed the vacant WBC light middleweight championship with a unanimous decision over smooth-boxing-but-outgunned Michele Piccirillo of Italy last Saturday. In the process, Mayorga retained his title as most obnoxious boxer in the sport with his mugging and showboating. ... DON'T MISS: This Saturday's HBO doubleheader, featuring the return of Fernando Vargas in a junior middleweight match against tough veteran Javier Castillejo and the exciting undefeated 126-pounder Rocky Juarez against Humberto Soto.
Click below to go to Rich O'Brien's heavyweight Power Rankings.