Scar Tissue Part 8: A hook for the books
By Jess E. Trail (March 24, 2005) 
Mike Weaver
It was one punch. It traveled less than two feet in the air. And it didn’t happen in Madison Square Garden, Caesar’s Palace or anywhere in Nevada, New Jersey, New York, California or any of the boxing capitals. However, the results of this one left hook changed everything. It transformed a club fighter into a champion and a champion into a club fighter. It transformed a loser into a winner and a winner into a loser. It stripped a southern town of an icon and a spot on the boxing map, and completely swept away a logical heavyweight order like a pretty puzzle picture slapped off the easel by a rampaging toddler, having just gone boom-boom in his diaper.

When Big John Tate defended his title against Mike ‘Hercules’ Weaver in the adoring town of Knoxville Tennessee on March 31, 1980, he enjoyed the ease everyone expected Larry Holmes to experience. Weaver was a virtual unknown when he gave Holmes some serious difficulty for 11 rounds. But Holmes had taken him very lightly along with the rest of the boxing world and had stopped him in twelve after all. For 14-2/3 rounds, John Tate boxed Weaver’s ears off. Watching, there was cause for concern in the Holmes camp. Tate boxed beautifully and Weaver appeared to be palpably afraid of Tate’s offensive arsenal. With 45 seconds left, Weaver accomplished the only thing whereby winning was possible. He knocked Tate stiff. The knockout itself punctuated the multi-faceted drama explained above. There has never been a more dramatic effect from a single punch.

With Tate’s back against the ropes, Weaver threw a short, sharp, powerful hook. As soon as the punch landed, a front view wasn’t necessary to see that Tate was out. His body stiffened. As Weaver’s body shifted to throw a right, the obstruction keeping Big John from falling was removed. The canvas shook as he landed face first and he was out for several frightening minutes. Weaver hit the canvas in joyous disbelief after the ten-count and ringsiders entered the ring and stepped over the former king as if he were merely some napping street bum after a lunch of dumpster salad. The thin line between love and disdain had been crossed and visually displayed as quickly as any object lesson has ever been taught.

The evidence was there to see that Tate’s foundation was fragile. All boxing experts knew that Tate’s dynasty was as fragile as his chin. In the 1976 Olympics, Tate had been knocked out by a single right cross thrown by the overrated Cuban superstar, Teofilo Stevenson. Ace Miller had turned Tate into a large machine with shiny buttons, knobs and levers. His offensive and defensive capabilities had accentuated his size and completely masked his Achilles Heel. Within the Weaver fight itself was early evidence as well. He was shaken badly by a left hook in round twelve, but Weaver missed on his follow up. If it had been nearly anyone else but Weaver, everyone would have paid attention and realized that he had a real puncher’s chance of scoring a knockout.

But, alas, Mike Weaver wasn’t taken seriously. Even after the knockout, he was called a fluke champion. He had nine losses on his resume and was portrayed as an undeserving imposter. It was as if Carrot Top had somehow been elected President. Weaver’s crowning achievement in the ring was the title-defending dismantling of the dangerous Gerrie Coetzee, who later relieved Michael Dokes of the title by knockout. What Weaver became was close to the Rocky Balboa story. He was worthy of the crown.

What had actually taken place was that an underachiever had suddenly realized his potential in a manner that few ever do – upon arrival. And the curtain had been pulled back, exposing the Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a human being with a glaring weakness that is the cruelest of companions in the ring – the soft chin.

There was a loud bang in Knoxville on March 31, 1980. It violently ruptured the orderly heavyweight division and scattered a waiting pile of riches for Tate and Holmes to the winds. It cost Knoxville Tennessee a veritable sports franchise. It changed two lives as dramatically as any punch ever could. Weaver gained professional self-esteem and ultimately became a respected part of the boxing history books, and John Tate was never the same, inside or outside the ring

Also See: Scar Tissue Part 1: Louis vs. Ali
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 2: Holmes vs. Frazier
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 3: Liston vs. Foreman
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 4: Imposters unmasked
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 5: Going after Goliath
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 6: Marciano vs. Holyfield
Also See: Scar Tissue Part 7: Brutality borrowed
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2005