Boxing is hardly ever a pretty thing, and the latest championship turnover does not seem likely to improve the sport's standing among the God-fearing and law-abiding—that is to say, the kind of good people who can afford pay-per-view. Evander Holyfield, who likes to sign chapter and verse after his autograph, was belted back to his Bible after 12 rounds of heavyweight fighting last Friday night in Las Vegas, leaving him without title or much moral influence, not to mention earning power. Installed in his place as the new WBA and IBF champion was Michael Moorer, a man whose idea of Sunday-go-to-meeting wear seems to be a black T-shirt with the inscription U HAVE THE RIGHT 2 REMAIN VIOLENT, and whose arrest record for assault has been slightly more convincing than any charity work he has done.
And so boxing seems—seems—once more to descend to thuggery, its majority heavyweight championship now held by a man who was promoted as "Nasty"; a man whose entourage announced his appearance at a press conference by overturning trays of dishes; a man who once told an interviewer, "I want to break a cheekbone to see what it looks like pushed in"; a man who, in his formative years, started a brawl at a high school football game by pounding another kid in the head. The kid's father swore Moorer used a hammer, but no charges were pressed, and Moorer may have employed only his right jab, the same one a surprised Holyfield ate for most of 12 rounds.
Boxing is dangerous again, and the world, after Holyfield's off-and-on reign of decency, is no longer safe for women, children, high school football players or any heavyweight fighter foolish enough to think he'll be the first to solve a lefty. We are all, so it would seem, at risk.
So it would seem. Two days after his title fight, an upset that was scored closely and controversially, Moorer gathers his posse of punks, bad boys and tray-turner-overers at the Original House of Pancakes in suburban Detroit. They spread out over several tables and become a virtual panel of malevolence; looking upon them you guess that civilization is going to be up against it for as long as there are buttermilk pancakes to stoke their fury. Moorer seems to glower behind his bug-eye sunglasses. And taking that cue, none among the posse dares smile at the good fortune that has befallen them all.
It is up to Moorer, as it always is, to break the silence. "I can't wait any longer," he finally says, "to see my son." The posse, which upon inspection reveals a cadre of older men, all of whom are now or have once been in law enforcement—they're all cops!—recognize this as a cue for a road trip. They fold napkins, settle bills and pile into Moorer's Land Cruiser for the ritual homecoming. Soon they have collected Michael Moorer Jr. from the boy's mother, Bobbie, landed at the Northland Mall and stripped the shelves of almost anything that will fit a 20-month-old boy. The tray-turner-overers double, in a pinch, as carriers of playsuits.
Moorer walks through the mall, recognized by some as the new champion but conspicuous mostly by the attention he lavishes on the boy. Moorer, who grew up without a father and who has often sought authority figures among his boxing elders, is nearly ridiculous in his own opportunity for fatherhood. He cradles his boy, hugs him, kisses him, leads him by the hand, carries him on his shoulders. He hasn't spent time with him for 7½ weeks, although he phoned him as many as six times a day when Bobbie—she and the new champion are in the process of divorce—allowed his calls.
"What's your name?" the father asks the son.
"MikeyMoorer," the boy says rapid-fire.
"How old are you?"