For as long as he can remember, Merciless Ray Mercer has always been the “old man.” Already in his mid-20’s when he began his boxing career in the United States Army — Mercer defied the odds and went on to become an all Army Champion and 1988 Olympic gold medalist. According to raymercer.com, Mercer made his pro debut on Feb. 24, 1989, and after a rollercoaster ride of a career that saw Ray beat the likes Bert cooper, Tommy Morrison and Jessie Ferguson – Mercer went on to win the WBO Heavyweight title in 1991. “Merciless” Ray Mercer lost the title to Larry Holmes but stayed in the game with gutsy performances against Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.
Cut to the year 2007.
It’s 18 years later and now at age 46 — when most fighters of his era have transitioned into being “ex-fighters” — Ray Mercer is still out there swinging. His latest bout: a Caged Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC) match against “underground” bare knuckle street fighter Kimbo Slice to be held June 23 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
According to the CFFC website, the Cage Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC) brand of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is “…the hottest emerging promotion in the world’s fastest growing sport…”
Opponent Kimbo Slice — who has been propelled to almost rock star status thanks to the power of the Internet (checkout myspace.com and youtube.com) – which highlights a series of raw footage video clips that show him in bare-knuckle brawls, has a knockout style reminiscent of a young Mike Tyson — according to some — and has attracted fans from all over the world.
These days — with the heavyweight boxing division so fragmented and without any real talent to speak of — the public’s attention has gone from the “square” to the “octagon”. MMA/CFFC is considered by many to be the “next wave” in contact sports. And for a fringe-fighter like Ray Mercer (who is no longer in any of the top-ten rankings) CFFC isn’t just the next wave….it may just be the last wave.
In a Topix.net interview promoting the upcoming bout, Mercer commented that he was unconcerned about his age and didn’t feel his age was even an issue. “…When they [the critics] get to be 46, if they don’t feel like they don’t need to be doing anything, then good. I still feel young. I was the oldest guy on the Olympic Team. I’ve always been a late bloomer…”
For Mercer, this latest bout (he lost his last boxing-only match to Shannon Briggs in 2005) may be the last hurrah for a fighter doesn’t know how to do anything else besides fight. The “big-money” paydays are gone that’s for sure. For this CCFC bout, both Mercer and Slice will make $50,000 dollars each. But the potential for a $30,000 dollar “bonus” is on the table if either can score a knock out in the first round.
It’s hard not to feel sorry for Ray Mercer. But like a lot of over-the-age-of-40 boxers/fighters, the guy has a family to feed and bills to pay. Mercer has already competed in two MMA bouts — so he has some background in the sport. And honestly, what Mercer is doing is no less risky that what other fighters on the comeback trail are doing: similarly-aged Evander Holyfield fights again in June against fringe contender Lou Savarese (it will be the fourth bout in Holyfield’s current comeback bid). And other fighters like Joe Mesi and Tommy Morrison continue to fight and keep their fingers crossed for bigger paydays (check out the AC archives for more).
So “Merciless” Ray Mercer — former Heavyweight Champion and Olympic gold medalist — continues to lace up the gloves and wade deeper into the quagmire of contact sports entertainment that is the CCFC.
There are worse ways to make a buck…but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.