Written by Rob Scott
It All Began in AC
Atlantic City – The hard-hitting 1988 Olympic Gold medalist, who finished his amateur career with an 85-6 record, made his professional debut in 1989 here in AC at the then Convention Hall on the Roberto Duran vs. Iran Barkley under-card, scoring a third-round TKO.
Winning his first professional championship in March of 1990, Mercer won the vacant IBF Inter-continental heavyweight title after defeating Kimmuel Odum by unanimous decision.
In August of that very same year, the former US Army Sargent went on to win a tough 12 round UD against Bert Cooper at AC’s Convention Hall. After scoring a first-round knockdown in this war and ultimately receiving the victory, Mercer added Cooper’s NABF heavyweight title to his collection.
Conquering The World
Five months later, AC’s Mark Etess Arena was the venue where Mercer challenged the undefeated, Francesco Damiani, for his WBO World Title.
Trailing on all scorecards, the challenger dug deep and came back and landed a shot to Damiani’s nose that dropped him for the count. The shot reportedly shattered the nose of the Italian, Damiani, as blood began to pour profusely. The ninth round KO made Mercer the new WBO heavyweight champion.
Merciless vs. The Duke
In his first defense, Mercer took on the popular Tommy “The Duke” Morrison in what was a rematch from their amateur days where Mercer held a decision win.
Morrison who was well known for his appearance in the Rocky 5 movie, came in with a 28-0 (24KOs) ring record, of which 15 of those victories came in the first round.
In the first round of this bout, Morrison looked to make Mercer the 16th first round victim, tagging the defending champion. But Mercer, as in his showings against the likes of Bert Cooper and Francesco Damiani, showed a signature granite chin and a heart to match.
In round 4 the tide began to change as Mercer began to reach Morrison more and the challenger showed signs of wear. In the 5th round, Mercer caught Morrison with a barrage of shots that left him absolutely helpless on the ropes. It was indeed a scary moment as Morrison took more shots than many viewers felt were necessary, which caused quite a few people to question the referee, Tony Perez.
The victory is still one of the most devastating knockouts in the sport’s history.
Seeing more advantages, Mercer chose to face veteran and former long-time champion, Larry Holmes, instead of the WBO’s #1 contender, Michael Moorer, for his next bout after the Morrison victory. Mercer would be stripped of his crown.
Mercer and Holmes met just under four months after his victory over Morrison, again at Atlantic City’s Convention Hall, but this time, Mercer would be on the losing end. The veteran, Holmes, showed he still had what it took to win. Holmes outwitted the younger Mercer and walked away with a unanimous decision victory. The event was a highlight for some time to come.
AC Battle After Battle
In AC, Mercer went on to score wins over Tim Witherspoon, Jesse Ferguson, Darrol Wilson and a few others, but he also had his setbacks with a decision loss to fellow 2018 ACBHOF inductee, Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield, a draw with Marion Wilson and much later, a TKO loss to the younger Wladimir Klitschko for the Ukrain’s WBO strap.
Ultimately finishing with a professional record of 36-7-1 (26 KOs), Ray Mercer fought a total of sixteen times in an AC ring. A lot can be said, but win, lose or draw, Mercer’s presence in Atlantic City boxing always had people talking.
Hall of Fame Bound
Now it can be said he is a part of the Atlantic City Boxing Hall Of Fame. Alongside legendary names like Hector Camacho, Evander Holyfield, Bob Arum and a host of others, Mercer will be officially enshrined into the AC Hall this June in what will be a welcomed and deserved addition.
With a who’s who of boxing dignitaries scheduled to appear, be sure to come out for the Atlantic City Boxing Hall Of Fame’s three day event and induction ceremonies being held at the Claridge in Atlantic City on June 1-3, 2018. For ticket information and a listing of all the scheduled events, log into www.ACBHOF.com