Michael Moorer: Then and now
(Editor's note: Michael Moorer's historic boxing career which led him to become the first southpaw ever to win the heavyweight championship, began at the age of 10 as an amateur under the watchful eye of his grandfather, the late Henry Smith. He rose through the amateur ranks and fought as far away as Russia before turning professional. Moorer's pro career spanned 20 years (1988-2008) and his pro record was 52-4-1 (40 KOs). A three-time world champion, Moorer was always proud of his Monessen roots and over a year ago returned to the area to raise his family. While he no longer is a world-class professional boxer, the 45-year-old is still as opinionated as he has ever been.)
His overall look isn't as menacing as it was when he was a professional fighter. And he certainly laughs more in public than he did back in the day. Yet, Michael Moorer doesn't mind saying that his disposition as a moody, aloof individual as a fighter was no put-on.
It was a personality that served him well in the ring.
“Oh no, the way I was back then was how I was,” Moorer said. “It was real. In boxing, I had an attitude. I was cocky. I was arrogant. It made me who I was. I had an edge about me that I needed.
“I needed to be that way because I could carry that aggression in the ring and do what I had to do,” he said. “I had to be that way because everybody was gunning for me. I was mean, but it served me well. I couldn't be a low-key, soft kind of guy then and still be a heavyweight fighter. I was that way. That was me.
“I'm totally different now. Today, I'm a happy guy. I think I'm a friendly guy. I'm a low-key type of guy, but I'm a friendly guy. I stay under the radar.”
Staying in the fight game
While no longer a fighter, Moorer hasn't stayed away from the ring totally. He dabbles in the field of training fighters, both in boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA).
“I don't train many guys around here because there is nothing around here,” he said. “I go out of town mostly to St. Louis, L.A., I go all over.”
He does work with one local fighter, Bunola's Rod Salka, who trains out of Buzz Garnic's Round Two gym in Coal Center.
He also works with Ryan Coyne, who is a contender in the light-heavyweight division.
Moorer says he has a lot to offer in a second career in the fight game. He says he has learned a great deal from having been trained by some of boxing's greatest corner men, including Emmanuel Steward, Freddie Roach, Teddy Atlas, Lou Duva and George Benton.
“They've all taught me something,” he said. “For me to be able to pass that knowledge on to other up and coming fighters and to teach them is valuable. It's not about training; it's about teaching. I consider myself a pretty damn good teacher.”
Still, it's not his first love.
A past that ruined a future
Moorer says he had always wanted to be a police officer, even as a child. And that desire has never left him.
Over his career, he has done a great deal to help police departments financially in their fight against crime, including buying a police vehicle and two dogs for Monessen and weapons for Monessen and Rostraver Township police.
“I have been an advocate for police all over the world, wherever I go,” he said. “I've always wanted to be a cop and that was my plan after I got out of boxing.”
Unfortunately, an incident that took place about 20 years ago in Monessen with a police officer left him with a record that has made him unable to work in law enforcement.
“What was said that happened then never did happen and I wanted to fight it, but my people back then said it was better to just pay for it to go away then fight it in court. They felt I had too much to lose,” Moorer said. “I was getting ready to fight Bert Cooper for the heavyweight title and they didn't want anything to hold that up. However, had I known that by doing that it would still hold me back today, I never would have agreed to that.
“I have tried to get into law enforcement in several places, but I can't. I've scored high on the tests every time,” he said. “That bothers me because I would have been a good candidate to be a police officer. I would love more than anything to be a cop in Monessen. That whole thing ruined my life after boxing.”
Moorer says he plans on getting together with Gov. Tom Corbett in the near future in hopes of getting a pardon.
“If the governor asks me what happened, I will look him right in the eye and say, ‘No way did that ever happen.'”
How about a career in politics, like fighter Manny Pacquiao?
“I grew up with (Monessen Mayor) Mary Jo (Smith). I like Mary Jo,” he said. “She has done a lot of good things for the city. But I do wonder about some things that the city has spent money on, like $1.5 million on the library.
“Why not put that money into four more police officers to be able to patrol and keep the entire city more safe?”
Moorer says he never thought about a political career, but added that you never know what the future holds
“I'm very, very honest,” he said. “I don't cater to anybody. I'm always going to speak the truth and say how I feel. I would never allow myself to be in debt to anyone for favors.
“If I had a lot of people backing me saying they want me to run, I probably would. Why not?”
Moorer says he is saddened by the deteriorating condition of the Mon Valley since the days of his youth. It's something he says is noticeable wherever he goes.
“The area really has diminished since I was a kid,” he said. “When I was growing up, there were so many more people around here. A lot of people are moving out. I guess it's because they are afraid of things, plus there is no stimulation around here. It's sad. It really is. I still love this place and I wish other people felt the same way that I felt. I think things could be so much better.”
Moorer says the violence he sees locally simply did not exist when he was a kid.
“When I was growing up, if you had a dispute with somebody, you fought and then it was over,” he said. “You would be friends an hour later. It isn't like that now. It's a shame. I think most kids don't have the guidance they had when I grew up. These kids today, they have no respect for anyone.”
Moorer said in his hometown that while he was pleased with how money has been spent to spruce up some areas, he wonders about other areas which he claimed have been neglected.
“There isn't anything at Ninth Street Park and that was a great place to be when I was younger,” he said. “And Shawnee Park is in deplorable condition. It seems to me that all the money was put into City Park and I don't know why.”
Still, he is happy to be home. Like anywhere else, it isn't perfect, but it's home.
“People ask me why I came back here,” he said. “I love it here. Florida was too hot and I love the change of seasons. I always have loved it here. I could live wherever I want, but I'm here.”
The love of children
Moorer has always had a soft spot in his heart for children.
Whenever he has had the chance, he has reached out to the youth. Maybe it's because as a child he was raised by a single parent, his mother, Paulette.
Today, he is the proud father of four children, ages 20, 10, 8 and 17 months.
“That's why I do the things I do, for my children,” he said. “My kids are my life.
“I'm sure I'm not alone with how I feel about kids,” he added. “I'm sure there are a lot of people like that. You have a tender spot for kids and it never leaves you. For me, to be able to sit down and talk to someone young, someone less fortunate, and show them I care is a good feeling.”
He says it bothers him when he sees children not getting the care and guidance they need. He added that it also bothers him that the legal system at times handcuffs parents from using discipline.
“When I was a kid, if I got out of hand, my mom whipped my ass,” he said. “Now, they try to tell you that you can't do that to your children. But don't tell me how to raise my kids. Maybe that's why some kids are so bad these days. They don't get that old-fashioned discipline.
“That made us who we are today. Kids don't have respect for their parents and if you don't have respect for your parents, you won't have respect for anybody.”
Moorer admits that he misses the ring, the thrill of competition and being one of the greatest fighters in the world.
“I do miss it, yes,” he said. “I loved getting my body in shape. I used to go from 275 down to 219 for a fight. That's work and I loved seeing the transformation of my body.”
He says he is both pleased and lucky that 20 years of professional fighting didn't take a major toll on his body or his mind.
“I do feel sore every morning when I get up,” he said with a hearty laugh. “My body is sore as hell, but I have all my faculties. I've had 17 surgeries from fighting and some arthritis has set in. I can deal with that.
“But I've seen some guys who were in the business a long time and it is sad to see what their life is like now, the way they talk, the way they walk. I'm like, ‘Wow.' I don't like seeing that, especially when I can remember how they were during their career.
“I'm fortunate,” he said, smiling. “I guess knocking everybody out is a good thing ... or getting knocked out. Either way, you don't take as much physical punishment.”
He still goes to some fights.
“It will always be in my blood,” he said. “I guess I would have to say I enjoyed it all. I enjoyed my career. I loved my fans. I loved the parade I got (in Monessen) when I won the heavyweight championship. The support from my homeown fans is something I will never forget. I loved fighting on national TV in my hometown.
“Really, I had a blast. I'm very, very fortunate. In that respect, I have no regrets.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.