The spirit of the forgotten fade is finding that one fight that delivers above and beyond expectation where there are little to no expectations. As a bonus, the fight may sometime surpass every other fight on the card it’s on, including the main event. The fight that I am about to reminisce on is one of those that fit the above criteria. An unexpected war between then rising Heavyweight prospects/contenders. The fight I am referring to is Clifford Etienne vs Lawrence Clay Bey. This fight was scheduled on the undercard of Lennox Lewis defending the undisputed heavyweight championship against David Tua. Unfortunately, that fight is the opposite of a forgotten fade to put it lightly. That is where Etienne and Clay-Bey would come in.
Clifford Etienne would learn how to box in prison, where he was sent to serve a 40-year sentence for armed robbery. While in prison, he would win the boxing championship in there and keep an undefeated record. Paroled after serving 10 years, he would turn pro in 1998 and would jump out to an 18-0 record. The most notable of the wins was over then undefeated Lamon Brewster in a barnburner of a fight, which saw him beat the future WBO Heavyweight Champion by a comfortable unanimous decision. Lawrence Clay Bey is a name I knew for a while as he was from my home state of Connecticut. He was a big amateur star here. He made it on to the 1996 US Olympic boxing team and was its captain. Unfortunately, he did not medal. He would eventually lose a controversial decision to Wladimir Klitschko. Following the Olympics, he decided to turn pro at a relatively late age of 32 in 1997 to see how far he would go. He would go 12-0 shedding another 30 lbs along the way. The stage was set for the 2 undefeated heavyweight prospects.
I know most people only know Etienne for his fight with Tyson which admittedly he didn’t look like anything special. But this fight showed you why HBO had their eye on him back then. Etienne’s buzzsaw style of fighting was something to see when he got going. In this fight, it took only a minute in the first round for him let off a vicious assault to Clay Bey. In the second round it looked Etienne was going to have an early night as he trapped Clay Bey in the ropes and let off like a dozen body shots mixed with uppercuts that were breaking through his guard. The ref, Jay Nady, I was surprised to see that he didn’t step in to stop the fight. With about 12 secs left in that round, Clay-Bey exploded and rocked Etienne to his core that left him dazed and bleeding from the nose at the bell. Clay-Bey going into round 3 tried to employ a “Rope a Dope” strategy, where he would go to the ropes and let Etienne just wail on him and then try to steal the round by letting off combinations. When the fight was taken to the center of the ring, it was “Rock’em Sock’em Robots” where Clay-Bey got the best of it. So why Clay-Bey kept taking it to the ropes is beyond me. He did however make an adjustment seen in the 7th and 8th rounds. Clay-Bey would go to the ropes and then as Etienne would come in, he met him with right cross counters. Etienne was badly stunned by these shots. It was a miracle he did not go down. Clay-Bey continued habit on laying on the ropes was a tactical mistake. Etienne got his second wind and his legs back. In round 9, he was getting the best of Clay-Bey now in the middle of the ring and started beating the crap of out of him. Step around and hitting Clay-Bey with left hooks. It was beautiful stuff to watch. Clay-Bey looked tired at this point and seemingly had enough. In the 10th and final round, both men went all out. Unbelievable ebb and flow. First it was Clay-Bey who came out swinging and landing right hands. Then Etienne managed to get him into the ropes and proceeded to land hooks and uppercuts flush. Some of those punches Clay-Bey took flush on the chin with his hands down. It was an extremely brutal stuff to watch. In the waning moments of the fight, Clay Bey again managed to rock and badly hurt Etienne with a left hook. Etienne managed to weather the storm to the bell. What a fight this was!!!Clifford Etienne would win by unanimous decision with scores of 98-92, 99-91, 97-93. The scores don’t accurately tell the story of the fight in which the action and punishment dealt out was two way. Unfortunately, neither fighter would go on to higher heights from this.
Lawrence Clay-Bey even after losing his zero earned a lot of kudos for his performance. For a man who had many issues plaguing him from the beginning of his career, it provided a brief window into his true potential. However old habits crept back up. He started coming into the ring out of shape again on top of advancing age, he would lose to the likes of Elieser Castillo (by KO) and the late Sinan Samil Sam (by decision). He would retire in 2005 after a draw with Derek Bryant. In his retirement from boxing, he has been working as a corrections officer. For all intents and purposes, he has seemingly adjusted well to life after boxing. The same thing cannot be said for Clifford Etienne. It was a slow decline for the “Black Rhino”. After that fight, he got a very lucrative contract from Showtime. The bad was he would lose his zero to Fres Oquendo who knocked him down 7 times. Etienne would have some fights to rebuild his stature. His fight with Francois Botha yielded a draw which saw him go down twice in a wild affair. This would lead to his most well-known fight, a fight against “Iron” Mike Tyson. A fight that lasted only 49 seconds where a short right hand ended his night. From there his career would go into a tailspin downward losing his final 2 fights to Calvin Brock and Nikolay Valuev. Shortly after that fight, he would be sent back to prison on carjacking, kidnapping and attempted murder charges. A very unfortunate fate for someone who originally found redemption through boxing. However, nothing can take away from Clifford Etienne and Lawrence Clay-Bey’s wonderful fight. Full recommendation to watch.
Written by Patscorpio