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.