East Side Guru
Join Date: Apr 2007
Re: Ossie Ocasio?
Jaws Ocasio was something of a rarity when he first came to light; an undefeated Puerto Rican HW contender. After Jimmy Young's shattering decision loss to Norton, he showed up for his first bout with Ocasio looking like a balloon at 220 (far too heavy for Young). Ocasio capitalized on Young's poor conditioning to win an upset points verdict on the undercard of Holmes/Norton. (During their classic encounter, the commentators were still going on about how fat Jimmy was.)
Six months later, Ocasio decisioned Young again, proving that the first outcome wasn't a fluke. This vaulted Ossie into becoming the second challenger for Holmes. He gave a good solid accounting of himself over the first six rounds, but Larry was at an impressive athletic stage of his career (coming off a one punch kayo over Evangelista), and in the seventh round, Ocasio crumbled to the deck four times. The final blow which Holmes finished Jaws off with was a jab. (Liston and Louis may have had the potential to take out an opponent with their jabs, but against the 207 pound undefeated Ocasio, Larry actually did turn that trick in a title fight.)
Ocasio's next appearance on network television was when he took on undefeated 21 year old prospect Dokes, outdoors and at home in San Juan. It was a very hot day, and Dokes foolishly didn't give himself three weeks in Puerto Rico to get acclimated to the weather. (This was the same mistake that Foreman made against Young.) Using an unorthodox and confusing low crouch, Jaws dominated Dokes in sensational fashion, especially behind his left hook. At the end of the match, Ocasio finished strongly, and everybody knew that Dokes had suffered his first defeat. While waiting for the decision, the big story of the match seemed to be Dokes's ability to take a punch. He had stood up to several huge shots from Ocasio without crumbling to the deck, although he came dangerously close to succumbing from heat prostration.
Fortunately for Dokes, Dung King was his promoter, so he dragged himself away from PR with a gift draw, and started preparing himself for the rematch. This time, Dokes was in Puerto Rico for the requisite three weeks, came into the return five pounds lighter, and got Ocasio indoors, in an air conditioned arena. A very different outcome ensued. Early in the first round, Dokes dropped Ocasio with a shot. As soon as Jaws regained his feet, he charged Dokes like a bull, and raced directly into a flattening left hook. The three knockdown rule was in effect, and Michael quickly finished him off.
The next year, Ocasio came to London weighing over 215 for John L. Gardner, and the EBU HW Champion took him out in six. (In Gardner's very next bout, he became the victim of Dokes's peak performance.)
At this stage of Ocasio's career, the new cruiserweight division was just coming into being. Over the next eleven months, the 5'11" Ocasio shed over 27 pounds, to get comfortably under the original CW limit of 190 Lbs, and won the vacant WBA cruiserweight title to become their inaugural champion in that division. He completely reinvented his style as WBA CW Champ. Where he had previously been a low unorthodox crouching fighter, he now became a fast, mobile cutie, superbly conditioned, moving in to deliver excellent combinations of punches before gliding out of harm's way. In five consecutive CW matches, he went 15 rounds, winning the title by decision, defending it twice by decision, and for the final time in two years with a 15th round stoppage of undefeated John Odhiambho, before losing it on the road in a 15 round decision loss to Piet Crous in South Africa. The final major win of his career was a ten round UD over Qawi, which sent him into a CW Title challenge of Holyfield. Evander took Jaws out with an 11th round TKO in France.
After losing to Holyfield, he sort of let himself go, and his weight went all the way up from 190 to 238 for his decision loss to Pierre Coetzer in Johannesburg a year later. (A weight increase of nearly 50 pounds in a year's time is an awesome jump in bodyweight for a competing professional athlete.) A year later, he came in at 227, and lost a close eight round split decision to upcoming Ray Mercer. As his career wound down, he became the first opponent to last through the eight round distance against Bruce Seldon and Lennox Lewis (actually outweighing the 6'5" Lewis by five pounds.
The establishment of the cruiserweight division is what made Ocasio a champion. But to watch his performances against Young, Holmes, Dokes, as WBA CW Champion, and then at his highest weights after holding the title is a fascinating study of the effects of weight on boxing performance. Many have outgrown their original divisions over the years, but few have become champions by successfully reducing their weight. Two who succeeded were Ocasio and Murray Sutherland.
When I consider Ocasio's career as a champion, the way his endurance, speed, skill, energy and mobility improved, I can't help but wonder if somebody like James Toney might attain a new lease on his career by trying to follow the same path. When Ocasio lightened himself, he could seemingly float over the ring surface, and be tremendously fluid and active once the bell sounded, for as long as necessary. While I've never been a fan of the CW division, I have to admit that the creation of it cemented Ocasio's credentials in boxing.