Shoulda Been a Cruiser - Roy Jones Jr, Michael Moorer, Chris Byrd and Michael Spinks
By Chris Strait, SocalFightFan (Feb 3, 2009)  
Now that fighters like David Haye, Jean-Marc Mormeck, and Tomasz Adamek have let us know there can be life on this planet, it leaves me wondering who could have let us know this fact a bit sooner. Evander Holyfield and Dwight Qawi did us the pleasure of stopping in this division to create some memories, and Lord knows Henry Tillman tried, but the list of fighters who skipped 190 (now 200) lbs entirely is long, and littered with Hall-of-Famers.

I'm not talking about those who couldn't cut the mustard at heavyweight. Let's instead look at some guys who did have heavyweight success, lest you think I am merely trying to resurrect a fallen career.

Michael Spinks

A big light heavy. A small heavy. Duh? Do I have to spell this out for you? Maybe that year he spent idle avoiding Tony Tucker and Mike Tyson (wisely) could have been spent tangling with Holyfield. Spinks would have easily beaten Carlos DeLeon, and picked up a belt at 190lbs. Plus watching "The Jinx" vie for yet another undisputed title would have put him in the history books in yet another category. I'm not saying Spinks would have beaten Holyfield. In fact, I'm almost certain he wouldn't have. However, it definitely would have been more competitive than watching a faded DeLeon take punishment for 8 rounds, before reminding everyone why "The Real Deal" was high-tailing it out of the cruiserweight division after that fight. Plus, if he had lost competitievly, like he deserved to against Holmes in their second bout, it wouldn't have taken much luster off of the eventual Tyson slaughter.

Michael Moorer

Again, it was likely the best division for his body. Always looked a bit soft and china-chinned at heavyweight, yet was on the grapefruit diet to make 175lbs. He beat Holyfield, so it was not a bad move moving straight up to heavyweight. However, suffering five knockdowns, including the loss to Foreman, should have convinced Moorer that he should end his heavyweight career. Name a cruiser who could have kept up with his power and jab in the mid 1990's. Orlin Norris? Maybe. Juan Carlos Gomez would have likely folded at the first sign of struggle. Anaclet Wamba did not have the firepower, and even needed corruption to beat Adolpho Washington. Czyz was too small and old by then, while Nate Miller and Al Cole would have likely lasted the distance, yet have been easily outworked. Vassily Jirov was the only one capable, and by then, Moorer would have been through anyway. They did eventually fight, if you remember, and it was a brutal knockout win for even a faded Moorer.

Chris Byrd

This is the only fighter on the list who should have gone to cruiser before going to heavy, and not have dropped back down afterwards. Ironically, he is the only one who did! He just dropped too far (175lbs), and did it too late (age 37). Byrd's weight progress that took place in his first 10 bouts (middleweight to heavyweight), should have been spread out over his first 30. He did not receive a legit title shot until he had been a pro nearly 10 years, and even then it was for a discarded belt. Those 10 years should have been spent winning belts at light heavy and cruiser, and having bigger fights with Virgil Hill, Roy Jones, and fellow Michigan native James Toney. Even if he had lost, it certainly would have been more glorious, competitive, and lucrative than his losses to Ike Ibeabuchi and Wladimir Klitschko. Byrd is likely the only one on this list that would have also made more money, had he waited to move up to heavyweight!

Roy Jones Jr.

I know. I know. He barely needed to move up to light heavyweight when he did. That is true, but when Jones finally did make the jump to heavyweight, he was essentially a cruiserweight anyway, and he performed very well. The lack of names at cruiser was no more dismal and depressing than the trail of inept challengers he left in his wake at 175lbs. At least the fact that Jones would have been cleaning out yet another division, and fighting bigger men, would have made it more interesting. After beating Reggie Johnson, instead of spending the next 4 years beating a list of alsos, he should have had one more fight at 175lbs.... doing whatever it takes to get Daruisz Michaelchewski into the ring, if for no other reason than closure. Then Jones should have moved up to clean house at cruiserweight. The anticipation for the eventual heavyweight jump would have lasted longer, been more lucrative, and likely tempted Mike Tyson to take the risk in the fall of 2003. A big fight with Chris Byrd might have even awaited him there, had both men followed this advice.

Chris Strait

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