Recently at a boxing event in the Chicagoland area, I ran into former WBC heavyweight champion Oliver McCall. It had been awhile since I thought of Oliver McCall. As I sat in my seat ringside, I started thinking back to all that McCall achieved throughout his career. He’s a boxer that I feel never got the respect that he deserved.
For those of you that don’t remember him, Oliver McCall was the first man to defeat Lennox Lewis. In 1994, McCall traveled to London to face Lewis on his home turf. No one thought that McCall had a chance, but he told several members of the media that he was going to drop Lewis with a short right hand. That’s exactly what he did.
In the second round McCall caught Lewis on the jaw with a short right that sent Lewis to the canvas in a daze. Lewis got up but was unsteady on his feet. The referee called the fight, and McCall was the WBC heavyweight champion of the world.
Too often, people remember the bad about Oliver McCall. He had substance abuse problems and a bizarre encounter with Lewis in their rematch in 1997, but there is a lot more to McCall than his low times.
He made his bones early on in the sport as Mike Tyson’s sparring partner. He was one of the few sparring partners that gave Mike Tyson a hard time in the ring.
McCall wasn’t a physical specimen. He is 6’2, and in his prime, weighed in around the upper 230s. He was solid, but not the biggest heavyweight on the block. He had decent boxing skills, but wasn’t what you would consider a master technician.
What made McCall special in the ring was his toughness. He had one of the best chins in boxing. During his 29-year career, he’s never been knocked out. Actually, he’s never been knocked down. He could certainly take a punch.
He lost his title in 1995 and would never regain it, but he stayed active in the ring. Every once in awhile he would show some of the magic he had against Lewis in their first fight. The media constantly wrote McCall off as washed up, but he would often prove them wrong with an upset.
He did it in 1996 against Oleg Maskaev, 2001 against Henry Akinwande, 2005 against Przemyslaw Saleta, 2007 against Sinan Samil Sam, and 2009 against Lance Whitaker.
I got up out of my seat to introduce myself to Oliver McCall and let him know how much I respected him as a boxer. He was incredibly gracious and kind. He flashed a big smile and talked boxing with me for a good 10 minutes. I could tell that he truly loves the sport. I just wish the sport would show him as much love as he shows it. He’s done more than enough to deserve it.