Titans of the Heavyweight Division: Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield 11/09/96

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By: Steve Gallegos

In 1995, the heavyweight divsion and all of boxing got a shot in the arm when former Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson was released from prison. After a 3 1/2 year stint in prison for rape, the once regarded “Baddest Man On The Planet” emerged back on the scene with a series of KO’s over “B” and “F” class opponents while winning both the WBC and WBA Heavyweight Championships. Shortly after winning the WBC title, talks began for a megafight between Tyson and former champion Lennox Lewis, however Tyson opted to vacate the title and give up $3 million dollars not to fight Lewis. He instead opted to fight former two-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

Holyfield appeared to be an easier task as many believed that Evander was no longer the “Real Deal“. Evander Holyfield appeared to be at the end of his road. After beating Ray Mercer in his 1995 comeback, Holyfield was KO’d in his rubber match with Riddick Bowe and he struggled against the much smaller Bobby Czyz, who was making his debut as a heavyweight. After Tyson’s first round TKO over WBA Heavyweight Champion Bruce Seldon on 09/07/96, the stage was set for the long awaited showdown between Tyson and Holyfield.

They were originally scheduled to meet in 1992 when Holyfield was the Undisputed Champion, however the bout was scrapped due to Tyson being found guilty in the rape of Desiree Washington. Their 1996 bout was billed as “Finally” and they finally met on 11/09/96 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, NV.

Tyson came out in the first round and immediately went after Holyfield, landing a hard right hand on the top of Evander’s head. Holyfield shook it off well and seconds later landing his own combination, which brought cheers from the crowd. Tyson was trying to land the “home run” shot and when he landed, it didn’t back Holyfield up.
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Holyfield began to employ his strategy of keeping the fight on the inside and rough Tyson up, not allowing him any space to throw his hard punches. When Evander would land a combination, he would immediately tie Tyson up. After the bell sounded to end the first, Tyson threw a right hand and Holyfield retaliated with a shot of his own, letting Tyson know he wasn’t going to tolerate any cheap shots.

Holyfield’s game plan was working effectively as he dominated rounds two-four as he smothered Tyson on the inside and began landing good shots to the body and head. Tyson was being taking into unchartered territory as he hadn’t gone past three rounds in all four of his previous bouts since being released from prison. Also, Tyson was facing a man who wasn’t intimidated whatsoever and didn’t freeze up as his past four opponents had.

In round five, Tyson finally rallied as he unleashed lethal combinations to both the body and head of Holyfield. It was Tyson’s biggest round and many other fighters would have goned down, however Holyfield took the shots well. The fight would take a dramatic turn in the sixth. Early in the round referee Mitch Halpern called time so the ringside doctor could inspect a small cut over Tyson’s left eye caused by headbutt. When the fight resumed, both men began exchanging hard shots, however Holyfield was getting the better of the exchanges and began gaining confidence as the crowd began chanting “Holyfield!!, Holyfield!!” With less than a minute to go in the sixth, Tyson threw a right hand and Holyfield ducked and came back with a left uppercut to the body that put Tyson down for only the second time in his career.

Evander would capitalize on the knockdown by unloading hard shots on Tyson against the ropes just as the bell sounded. Holyfield would dominate the seventh and towards the end of the round, the two fighters collided heads, causing another cut over Tysons left eye and it buckled Mike. Mitch Halpern once again called time to have ringside physician Flip Homansky inspect the cut and he let the fight continue.

Rounds eight and nine were fought at a much slower pace, however Holyfield still dominated. In round 10, Holyfield looked tired and appeared to be wearing out, however with 21 seconds left, Evander landed a hard right hand that hurt Tyson. Holyfield began to land hard shots to the body and head. Holyfield then landed a hard right hand that buckled Tyson and sent him reeling backwards. Holyfield then jumped on Tyson landing hard lefts and rights and Mitch Halpern was very close to stopping the fight.

In the 11th, Holyfield wasted no time going after Tyson and began to land hard combinations and after 37 seconds, Mitch Halpern stepped in and stopped the fight. It was pandemonium as the crowd cheered loudly as Holyfield’s corner lifted their man up in the air. It was the second biggest upset of the decade behind Buster Douglas’ upset of Tyson in 1990 and Holyfield would join Muhammad Ali as the only other fighter to win the Heavyweight Championship three times.

During the post fight interview with Ferdie Pacheco, Holyfield thanked God and said he lived by the strength of the “Almighty”. Tyson, who was still in a daze, did not protest or offer any bad feelings. He was even more humble at the post fight press conference as he gave credit to Holyfield at the post fight press conference and thanked him, saying he just wanted to shake his hand and hopefully they could fight again.

They would fight again seven months later and Tyson would be disqualified in the third round after biting Holyfield twice on his ears. 11/09/96 will always be a historic night for both boxing and sports in general. Holyfield showed tremendous heart and will to defy the odds and make history as he pulled off one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

Titans of the Heavyweight Division: Evander Holyfield vs Michael Moorer II – 11/08/97

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By: Steve Gallegos

1997 was a rough year for the heavyweight division in boxing. Three heavyweight championship bouts all with ugly endings. The year started out with former heavyweight champs, Lennox Lewis and Oliver McCall fighting a rematch of their 1994 bout in which McCall won via second round KO. They met each other again in what was a stinker of a bout. McCall was acting strangely and was refusing to fight and he even broke down crying. After five rounds of this nonsense, referee Mills Lane finally stopped the bout, awarding Lewis the WBC Heavyweight Championship.

The second heavyweight championship to end disappointingly was the rematch between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. The fight billed as “The Sound And The Fury” was the most anticipated matchup of the year and after Holyfield dominated the first two rounds, Tyson lost his cool and bit Holyfield twice on both ears. These flagrant fouls caused referee Mills Lane to disqualify Tyson, causing an outrage and a near riot.

The third bout to end bizzarly was the Heavyweight Championship fight between Lennox Lewis and unbeaten, questionable number one contender Henry Akinwande. Akinwande like McCall refused to engage with Lewis and instead resulted to excessive holding. After five pathetic rounds, referee Mills Lane once again had stop the bout, disqualifying Akinwande.

Larry Merchant who called the fight for HBO that night, began to blame promoter Don King for these incidents as all three of the fighters disqualified were promoted by King. The heavyweight division was on life support and it was badly in need of a revival. They would get it that November when WBA Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield took on IBF Heavyweight Champion Michael Moorer in a rematch of their 1994 meeting won by Moorer.

Evander Holyfield was at the top of his game in late 1997. Having being written off just a year earlier, “Commander Vander” defied all odds by defeating the dangerous Mike Tyson twice and becoming the second man to regain the Heavyweight Championship three times. Although the second bout ended in disqualification, Holyfield looked spectacular.

Michael Moorer’s second reign as heavyweight champion wasn’t an easy one. After winning the IBF Heavyweight Championship by decisioning Axel Shultz in Germany, he had two tough defenses against Frans Botha and Vaughn Bean in which Moorer’s trainer Teddy Atlas once again scolded Moorer in between rounds. In the Botha fight, Atlas called referee Mills Lane over to the corner and threatened to have Lane stop the fight if he didn’t pick up the pace. It was worse in the Bean fight as Teddy Atlas brought a cell phone into the corner and told Moorer, “Your son is on the freaking phone right now and he’s crying. You know why? Because the announcers are saying his father doesn’t wanna be heavyweight champ.”
After the fight with Vaughn Bean, Michael Moorer and Teddy Atlas split, with Moorer hiring Freddie Roach as his new trainer. With the heavyweight landscape in shambles, boxing was looking to Holyfield and Moorer to revive the heavyweight division. Holyfield and Moorer met on 11/08/97 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV for the unification of the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles.

Holyfield was determined to avenge his loss to Moorer as well as have the peace of mind in knowing that he beat every man he faced. Moorer was determined to get the respect he felt he deserved and show the critics he was a legitimate heavyweight champion. Holyfield controlled much of the first round as he outjabbed Moorer and threw his right hand counterpunch to good effect. Towards the end of the round, Moorer landed a good right hook to side of Holyfield’s head which staggered him and pushed him back to the ropes. Moorer then jumped on Evander landing a good combination; however Holyfield came back landing a combination to the body and head just before the bell.

In the second round, Moorer was able to jab effectively setting up combinations and beat Holyfield to the punch. Holyfield was able to come back in the third and dominate the round by landing hard shots to both the body and head. In the middle of the round, the two fighters collided heads, causing a cut over Holyfield’s right eye. In between rounds, Holyfield’s cutman Jim Strickland told Evander that the cut wasn’t serious.

In round four, Moorer jabbed effectively and was starting to frustrate Holyfield, however Evander responded towards the end of the round by landing hard combinations and Moorer would respond with a combination of his own. The crowd was on it’s feet as the bell sounded to end round four. Commentator Steve Albert said at the end of the round, “This is the fight you wanted America”.

In round five, the fight was fought at close quarters as both men landed shots. Holyfield appeared to be tired. Moorer was in control of the round until the last 30 seconds, when Holyfield landed a combination to the body and head. He then landed a hard straight right hand that buckled Moorer and put him down. Moorer took the count and rose to his feet to make it out of the round.

Moorer responded in the sixth, boxing well and once again beating Holyfield to the punch. In the seventh, Holyfield rocked Moorer with a combination and pressured Moorer, putting him down with a right uppercut. Holyfield continued the onslaught, landing hard shots and put Moorer down again. Moorer rose to his feet and signaled to Holyfield to come on. Holyfield continued to land hard shots, however Moorer took them and fought back to survive the round.

Much of round eight was fought at a slow pace, neither man dominating. Holyfield then landed another combination to Moorer’s head that put him down again. Moorer once again rose to his feet, however Holyfield continued to pressure Moorer and landed to uppercuts followed by a left-right combination that put Moorer down again. Moorer laid flat on his back and appeared to be done, however he showed tremendous heart as he rose to his feet once again to make it out of the round.

In between rounds, Freddie Roach determined he had seen enough and stopped the fight making Holyfield the winner by eighth round TKO. Evander Holyfield was now the WBA/IBF Heavyweight Champion and he was closer to his goal of becoming “Undisputed” Heavyweight Champion. So the year 1997 ended with a bang. It was a fight that had drama, ebb and flow and it produced one of the last great Heavyweight Championship fights of the 20th Century.

Titans of the Heavyweight Division: 11/05/94- Michael Moorer vs George Foreman

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By: Steve Gallegos

In 1987, 38 year old former heavyweight champion George Foreman decided to return to boxing after being away from the sport for 10 years. The 1987 version of George Foreman was a much different man than the person who walked out of the ring on 03/17/77.

After losing a decision to Jimmy Young, Foreman had an awaking, a rebirth. He retired from boxing and became an evangelist minister in his hometown of Houston, TX. He also ran a youth center and he was in need of money to keep the center going, therefore he returned to boxing.

He was a new man in the ring, a much, heavier, jollier fellow. In his first career, Foreman was considered a bully, a brute. In his comeback he was the hero, a fighter that the fans quickly got behind. He would go 24-0 with 23 KO’s from 1987-1991. George controlled his own career, hand picking his opponents. Many of his opponents were overmatched against “BigGeorge and many experts didn’t take George seriously, thinking he was more of a sideshow with a big name. He would prove most of the experts wrong when he fought Evander Holyfield on 04/19/91 in Atlantic City, NJ for the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the world.

Foreman fought well in his fight with Holyfield. A lot of fans in the crowd were cheering Foreman on and he rocked Holyfield on a few occasions as well as taking everything Evander was throwing at him. In the championship rounds, Holyfield began to wear down and hold on until the final bell. The end result was a unanimous decision for Holyfield. Although Foreman lost, he proved he wasn’t just a sideshow, that he was a serious contender and threat for anyone in the heavyweight division.

Double MMichael Moorer began his boxing journey in 1988 under the tuteledge of Emmanuel Steward and the famed Kronk gym in Detroit, MI. Moorer began his career as a light heavyweight and went on a rampage knocking out his first 11 opponents on his way to capturing the WBO Light Heavyweight championship. He would defend his title 9 times, all by KO before deciding it was time to move up to Heavyweight.

As a heavyweight, Moorer continued to show his power against much bigger men. In May of 1992 after scoring a 5th round TKO over Bert Cooper to win the WBO Heavyweight Championship, Emmanuel Steward decided to part ways with Michael Moorer. Steward claims that Moorer no longer wanted to listen and he wanted to do things more his way. In 1993, Moorer began working with Teddy Atlas, whose approach was that of a tough loving, hard-nosed, disciplinarian. In just his second fight under Teddy Atlas, Moorer took on Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield. They met on 04/22/94 at the outdoor arena at Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

In the second round, Moorer went down on a 1-2 combination from Holyfield and Atlas began to scold him in between rounds. Atlas was telling Moorer, “You’re lying to yourself and your gonna cry tomorrow. You’re lying to yourself and I’d lie to you if I’d let you get away with it.” After one of the rounds, Moorer went to his corner to find Atlas sitting on the stool, asking him if he wanted to trade places with him. Moorer eventually picked up the pace and went after Holyfield and took control of the second half of the fight.

The end result would be a majority decision win for Michael Moorer and he was now the Lineal Heavyweight Champion of the world and he was also the first southpaw heavyweight champion. His victory; however was tainted. After the fight, Holyfield was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and many also credited Teddy Atlas for willing Michael Moorer to victory.

In 1994, the heavyweight division was somewhat in disaray. Mike Tyson was in prison and Evander Holyfield had retired after the loss to Moorer. Lennox Lewis’ stock had dropped after being knocked out by Oliver McCall and Riddick Bowe was starting to fall off the map. The landscape was open and George Foreman seized the opportunity. Foreman hadn’t fought for nearly a year and a half since losing to Tommy Morrison; however Foreman was a star. Larry Merchant said “There are many fighters and very few stars, that’s why he’s here”.

The stage was set for 25 year old Michael Moorer to defend his heavyweight crown against 45 year old George Foreman. Foreman was determined to cement his legacy and become the oldest champion in boxing history. Moorer was determined to get respect and disprove the critics who gave his trainer the credit for winning the heavyweight title. Foreman and Moorer met on 11/05/94 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV for the Lineal Heavyweight Championship of the World.

It was a packed house at the Grand Garden arena and the majority of the crowd were there to root for Foreman. Many experts didn’t give Foreman much of a chance including expert commentator and former Foreman trainer Gil Clancy, who said he didn’t believe George had any chance other than the puncher’s chance to win.

The first round was a battle of jabs. Moorer used his right jab effectively and Foreman’s left eye began to swell. Foreman threw his left jab for most of the round and when it did land flush, the crowd cheered loudly. Teddy Atlas was calm in between rounds, telling Moorer that the hardest part was over. He also said that Foreman was just another guy and their sparring partners were better. Moorer used his right jab effectively in round two and began to throw his left as well; however he was fighting at a distance which gave Foreman an opportunity to land shots and he did so, to good effect.

Moorer began to step up the attack in the third, throwing a right hook off of his right jab and he began to put together combinations that staggered Foreman. The fight was still being fought at a distance that gave Foreman opportunities to land punches; however Moorer was taking them very well. The middle rounds were much of the same. Moorer continued to land his right jab and hook very well and was piling up points, however he still continued to fight at close quarters in the center of the ring which still gave Foreman opportunites to land shots. Teddy Atlas was pleading with Moorer not to stand in front of George, because he was looking to set Moorer up for a big shot. Michael didn’t follow instructions and decided to fight like a heavyweight champion.

Going into the 10th round, Teddy Atlas instructed Moorer to fight at a much faster pace and step to the side after landing a combination. Foreman had been throwing 50-60 punches per round, however his punch output had dropped significantly to around 35 punches going into the 10th.

Foreman began to Tee off on Moorer in the 10th, using his best weapon, his left jab and he began to land his right hand. Moorer continued to jab, however it lacked the sting that it had in previous rounds. With a 1:10 to go in the round, Foreman threw a 1-2 combination, then he threw it again, this time putting Moorer on the canvas. Moorer was in a daze and wasn’t able to beat the count and referee Joe Cortez reached the count of 10, making George Foreman the oldest Heavyweight Champion in History.

Jim Lampley cried out the now famous words, “It happened!!, It happened!!” Yes it did happen. George Foreman defied the odds and came from behind to knock out Michael Moorer and cement his legacy as one of the all time greats. After the KO, Foreman went to a neutral corner and kneeled down, giving thanks to God for this incredible victory.

Michael Moorer was still dazed and later on stated that he was out before the last 1-2 combination that put him down. Once Moorer regained his composure, he went over and kissed George on the head, showing his sportsmanship. One reporter told Foreman that some people thought the fight was fixed. George’s reply was “Yeah, I fixed it with my fist.” George would defend his title only once, winning a close, controversial majority decision over Axel Shultz five months later. After failing to defend his title in a rematch with Shultz as well as fighting mandatory challenger Tony Tucker, the WBA and IBF stripped Foreman of his heavyweight titles. He would then focus more on his endorsement deals, such as Meineke and he would make a fortune off of his now legendary George Foreman Fat Free Grilling Machine.

Michael Moorer would regain of piece of the heavyweight championship in 1996, when he outpointed Axel Shultz in Germany. 11/05/94 was a legendary night for boxing and history was made. George Foreman vs Michael Moorer will forever be one of the great events in the last great era of the heavyweight division.