Evander Holyfield – Hall of Fame on Hold!
By Ken Hissner at ringside (Sept 3, 2010) Doghouse Boxing  
This is my final member of the 1984 team I am writing about. I got good input from Mark Breland, Tyrell Biggs, Henry Tillman, Paul Gonzales, Jerry Page, Frank Tate, Robert Shannon and even a bit from Virgil Hill. Steve McCrory’s (deceased) trainer Manny Steward and his brother Milt helped with his. Meldrick Taylor’s memory was shot. Whitaker was a connection that quickly got disconnected. This brings me to Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield who after trying several sources I went to his website which doesn’t answer anything. He had quite an amateur background. He was the National Golden Gloves champion, Pan American Games Silver medalist in Caracus, VZ, and Olympic Bronze medalist in 1984 in Los Angeles at 178 pounds. In the Olympics he was disqualified which was very controversial. His final record was 160-14 with 76 knockouts. In 1996 he helped carry the torch through his hometown of Atlanta.

Holyfield made his professional debut in November of 1984 defeating Lionel Byarm 9-1-2, over six rounds. This was at Madison Square Garden along with five of his Olympic teammates all winning. A year after debuting he had won all his seven fights and was stepping up to 10 round bouts. He defeated Anthony Davis, 17-3, stopping him in four rounds. In his next bout he stopped Chisanda Mutti, 21-5-2, in three rounds, Jesse Shelby, 12-2-1, in three rounds and Terry Mims, 12-11, in five rounds at his highest weight of 190 in May of 1986. He was now fighting at cruiserweight starting with his eighth fight.

Dwight Muhammad Qawi won the cruiser title back in 1981 and lost it to Michael Spinks in 1983. He regained the title in 1986 and had defeated Leon Spinks in his last defense. He was taking on Holyfield who only had eleven fights. Holyfield took a split decision win to win his first world title as WBA Cruiserweight champion in July of 1986 in Atlanta.

In Holyfield’s first defense he is matched with his Olympic teammate Henry Tillman, 14-1, in Reno, NV, in February of 1987. Holyfield has him down once in the second round and three times in the seventh round for an automatic stoppage. “I’m not saying I would have beaten him but I lost too much weight,” said Tillman. In May he stops IBF champion Ricky Parkey, 20-4, in three rounds earning two titles. In August he stops Ossie Ocasio, 21-4-1, the former WBA champion who had just defeated Muhammad Qawi, in France. In a rematch with Qawi he stops him in the fourth.

In April of 1988 Holyfield gains unification of the four major organizations by stopping Carlos DeLeon, 43-4, the WBC Champion in the eighth round, in Las Vegas. His management decides to move him up to heavyweight with no more titles in the cruiserweight division to conquer. He steps right up with the big boys stopping James “Quick” Tillis, 38-13-1, former champion’s Pinklon Thomas, 29-2-1, and Michael Dokes, 37-1-2, along with South American champion Adilson Rodrigues, 35-2.

In a fight this writer attended Holyfield had some rough early going with Alex Stewart, 24-0, in Atlantic City, before stopping him in the eighth round. Having won twenty-four straight he takes on James “Buster” Douglas, 30-4-1, who was making his first defense since stopping previously unbeaten Mike Tyson. With the WBC, WBA and IBF titles on the line Douglas leads with a right uppercut and lights went out as Holyfield captured all three titles stopping Douglas in the third round in October of 1990.

In Holyfield’s first defense he takes on former champion “Big” George Foreman, 69-2, in Atlantic City. Giving away almost fifty pounds he’s unable to extend his thirteen fight knockout streak started almost five years previously. Foreman put’s up a creditable fight in losing over twelve rounds. Back to Atlanta for the first time since winning the cruiserweight title Holyfield stops “Smokin” Bert Cooper, 26-7, in the seventh round. Up next is another former champion in Larry Holmes, 54-3, who manages to go the distance and win four rounds over twelve rounds and coming up short.

In November of 1992, Holyfield defends against Riddick Bowe, 31-0, in the first of three meetings losing over twelve rounds in Las Vegas. After a rematch decision win over Stewart, Holyfield regains the title defeating Bowe, 34-0, by majority decision almost a year to the day. His first defense in April of 1994 was against Michael Moorer, 34-0, and lost a disputed majority decision though having Moorer down in the second round. I talked to Teddy Atlas some time after that at a fight ringside and said “even you stood there with your mouth open shocked Moorer got the decision”. No comment from him. There would be a rematch in 1997, some three years later. Moorer lost the title in his first defense to 45 year old George Foreman. Moorer fought like he wanted to give the title up he didn’t earn.

It would be over a year before Holyfield fought again and he won a close decision over former WBO champ Ray Mercer, 23-2-1, in Atlantic City. The only other fight in 1995 was a rematch with Bowe. This was the fight Holyfield couldn’t pull the trigger when he hurt Bowe. Foreman was at ringside saying “he looks like he is having a heart attack in there”. He went to the Mayo Clinic and even a Benny Hinn “healing” crusade in Philadelphia. He got the approval to fight again. He stopped former light heavyweight champ Bobby Czyz.

Next would be Holyfield’s WBA challenge to Mike Tyson, 45-1, in November of 1996. He told Tyson God would give him the victory. When Tyson came back with “his” God (Allah) comment Holyfield just smiled. Tyson was never in the fight. Holyfield had him beat right up to the stoppage in the eleventh round. Mitch Halpern, the best referee in the business officiated. It’s a shame he didn’t officiate the rematch in June of 1997. Referee Mills Lane lost control of the bout early. Tyson was cut from an accidental clash of heads. He panicked and bit Holyfield’s ear. The fight was temporarily stopped. Tyson’s people jumped into the ring threatening Lane not to stop the fight. You will not read this elsewhere. Lane runs over to the Nevada commissioner who tells him “you cannot stop a fight of this magnitude like this”. That is why that commissioner is now in MMA.

In the third round knowing he is cut and behind Tyson again bites Holyfield’s ear and rips it like a dog would. Even Lane had no recourse but to stop the fight by disqualification. Holyfield would regain the WBA title for the second time. In just five months he got his rematch with Moorer, the IBF champion. He had him down five times before Mitch Halpern put a stop to it in the eighth round. Holyfield would only fight once in 1998 defeating Vaughn Bean.

In March of 1999 Holyfield would meet Lennox Lewis in Madison Square Garden. He claimed to have a vision from God he would stop Lewis in the third round. Bad move on his part. When the three rounds were up and Lewis was coming out for the fourth round it was a different Holyfield. Lewis won the fight in the eyes of the people but ended with a draw. In the ring Lewis said “there won’t be a need for judges the next time around, I’ll knock him out”. For the critics who came down on Holyfield’s prediction they should have done the same after the rematch when Lewis was given a gift decision over Holyfield in Las Vegas. Holyfield got ripped in the gambling town. There was no way there would be a third fight from the camp of Lewis.

In 2000-2001 Holyfield engaged in three fights with John Ruiz. He won the first, lost the second with his title and only got a draw in the third meeting. Julie Lederman had it right giving the decision to Holyfield. Ruiz is jab and grab, making him one of the most difficult boxers to watch. Inspite of winning a WBA eliminator match In June of 2002 over Hasim Rahman in his next fight Holyfield would not get a title bout with Ruiz. A month after Holyfield’s win, Ruiz won by disqualification over Kirk Johnson. As hard as that is to believe, Joe Cortez disqualified Johnson in the tenth round. Out foul Ruiz? So just when you would think Holyfield-Ruiz IV was coming Ruiz signs to meet Roy Jones, Jr. and Holyfield gets a vacant title bout for the IBF title against Chris Byrd in December of 2002. This would be a low point in Holyfield’s career as he would not only lose to Byrd but James Toney (1993) and Larry Donald (1994). In the mean time Jones defeated Ruiz thanks to the officiating of Jay Nady who wouldn’t allow Ruiz to tie-up Jones. After a poor performance in the Toney bout, Holyfield took off for a year.

After the Donald fight Holyfield took off for twenty-one months until August of 2006 when he started a four bout winning streak including the USBA title until June of 2007. Four months later he traveled to Russia for the WBO title held by Sultan Ibragimov, 21-0-1, losing by decision. Fourteen months later in his next fight he is in Switzerland against the 7’0” giant Nikolay Valuev, 49-1, for the WBA title losing a controversial majority decision. With no rematch in site he comes back fourteen months later in April of 2010 winning the vacant World Boxing Federation title by stopping Frans Botha, 47-4-3, in the eighth round in Las Vegas.

Holyfield will fight in November against Sherman Williams 34-11-2, in Detroit, in a WBF title defense. It will be several weeks after celebrating his 48th birthday! The man is a physical marvel! His record stands at 43-10-2, with 28 knockouts. I did not intend to ask him why he is still fighting but he has stated, “someone has done this before. George Foreman did it.” This is a big reason the heavyweights still fight over the age of 40. Holyfield is supposed to be broke. His last fight lost a bundle for the promoter.
After doing stories on a good portion of his Olympic teammates the following are some of their comments on Holyfield. Jerry Page: I think he was an underachiever. He matured as a pro. Everyone thought Rick Womack would be on the team. Mark Breland: “He was strong, relentless, and would never give up. Paul Gonzales: He spanked Mike Tyson in camp. He’s a great guy and very humble. He always has that serious look. Robert Shannon: “Nice”. Tyrell Biggs: Blue collar and the hardest worker.

Holyfield may or may not go down as one of the ten best heavyweights of all time but he has accomplished quite a bit since the time he was 12 when he first put on the gloves. He will be 48 in October. He’s had to overcome obstacles like a bad shoulder that in the recent years has improved. He’s been in 25 title fights and has 5 defenses as a cruiser and 7 as a heavyweight. Since he has been a professional for 26 years it seems he’s been around forever. Will the “Real Deal” be fighting at 50?

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