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.

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