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It would be nearly impossible to come by a more unlikely heavyweight champion. The WBA's latest, Michael Dwayne Weaver, 27, is an ex-Marine separated from the rest of the world by a thick drop cloth of shyness. His family and closest friends say he is boring, which he chooses not to dispute, and by his own assessment he isn't mean enough to be an outstanding fighter. "All my fights are the same," says Weaver. "If nobody hits me, then I'm going to hit nobody."
As a fighter he'd rather be an artist. His Los Angeles apartment is jammed with his pencil sketches and oil paintings, mostly portraits. He neither drinks nor smokes and would rather pray than cuss. His idea of a good time is seeing Rocky for the 17th time. Or going for a long drive alone in one of his three cars. Or taking his three daughters (he is separated from his wife) to Disneyland.
No one has ever disputed that Weaver has the skills to be a world champion. Born in Gatesville, Texas, he was two when his late father. Ordain, an auto mechanic, moved the family to Southern California. His mother, Juanita, says Mike never lacked for competition: he has eight brothers and four sisters. At Ganesha High in Pomona he ran the 100 in 9.8, long-jumped 25 feet and was an outstanding fullback. At 17 he was offered a football scholarship to Mount San Antonio College. But the Marine Corps made him an offer he couldn't refuse. "Two recruiters came to the school and showed some films," he says. "Then they told us they only took the toughest, and only a few of those. I always did like a challenge."
He enlisted in 1968 and volunteered for Vietnam. "At the time it seemed like the thing to do," he says. He saw combat but skirts the subject with a shrug. It was after Vietnam, while based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., that he had a fight he will talk about.
It happened in an NCO club. Weaver and another Marine arrived at the jukebox simultaneously, and there was a dispute over who would hear his song first. "He threw a punch and missed. I threw a hook and knocked him out," Weaver says. "I found out he was the camp's heavyweight champion. The next day the boxing coach looked me up."
Leaving the corps in 1971, Weaver fought briefly as an amateur. In 1972 he turned pro. He was less than a sensation, losing three of his first four fights, twice by knockout. His problem was that he believed he could knock out anyone by the third round.
He blames only himself. "In the morning, if I ran at all, I'd go one block and quit," he says. "If a fight went more than three rounds I was in trouble."
Sometimes he worked as ex-heavyweight champion Ken Norton's sparring partner. It was Norton who, after one look at Weaver's bulging muscles, nicknamed him Hercules, a name Weaver has come to hate. "Hercules was a myth," he says. "I'm not."
Three times he quit the ring and three times Norton talked him into returning. "The only guy you can't beat is yourself," Norton told him. "The power and the potential of a world champion are there. You just won't train."
Weaver was sparring at the Hoover Street Gym in Los Angeles in 1976 when his manager, Don Manuel, first heard his name. "Some guy at the gym called me up and said I'd better get there quick," Manuel says. "He said a guy named Mike Weaver had just knocked out my fighter, Bossman Jones. I said, 'Who's Mike Weaver?' "