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Jimmy Thunder dies - remembering a classic TV fighter

Derek Bonnett documents the career of powerful and entertaining heavyweight Jimmy Thunder, who has sadly passed away

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Boxing flags should be held at half-mast after the passing of former heavyweight contender, and Tuesday Night Fights regular, Jimmy Thunder of New Zealand. Thunder passed on February 13, following a surgical procedure to his brain. Thunder was just 54 years of age.

 

Thunder was active during a very competitive era of heavyweights during the 1990s. His bouts were regularly televised on the USA network with commentary by Al Bert and Sean O’Grady. His debut, in fact, was underneath Jeff Fenech vs Marcos Villasana in 1989 in Australia. Thunder built up an 18-5 record, posting early victories over Bernardo Mercado and JB Williamson. However, some rough patches against Mike Hunter and Derek Williams set him back. Thunder split a pair of fights with Craig Peterson for the Australian heavyweight belt. Capable Brits Henry Akinwande and Johnny Nelson both defeated Thunder before he hit his stride. Thunder finished the preponderance of his career in the United States.

 

The heavy-handed Thunder surpassed expectations during the second half of his career. Between 1994 and 1995, Thunder posted strong victories over Richard Mason, Tony Tubbs, Trevor Berbick and Dan Dancuta. His résumé was not without blemish as he rose through the ranks, but he pressed on to add victories over Ray Anis, Melvin Foster and Quinn Navarre by late 1996. In 1997, Thunder was defeated by future champions John Ruiz and Chris Byrd along with a soon-to-be-streaking Maurice Harris. Yet, amid all that turmoil, Thunder scored a first-round KO over Crawford Grimsley. Although not his biggest victory in terms of opposition, it rates as his most salient because he blitzed Grimsley in just 13 seconds. In his previous contest, Grimsley had gone 12 rounds with George Foreman.

 

Thunder’s career as a fringe contender was mostly over by 1998, but he still was able to outpoint former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon comfortably over 10 rounds. The muscular heavyweight, who was actually a cousin to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, fought on until 2002, but it was mostly as an opponent.

 

Thunder’s birth name is James Senio Peau. He will be remembered as an active heavyweight contender with a big right hand.

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