Following the recent ruling out of Oscar De La Hoya’s return to the ring against Vitor Belfort, the former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield will take his place.
On September 11, Triller Fight Club will play host to yet another show of returning boxing kings and mixed martial arts legends. Topping the bill, we see the return of one of boxing’s most loved giant slayers in the form of Evander ‘Real Deal’ Holyfield.
As does with every announcement of these types of fights, much criticism has followed. Especially after the recent announcement of former United States president Donald Trump taking the microphone to provide alternative special commentary.
No matter what takes place on fight night, we shouldn’t forget the immense and legendary history Holyfield left on the sport of boxing. Here are some of the most memorable moments of his career.
23 Years Young a Champion
An Olympic Bronze medallist in 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, the 21 year-old Holyfield turned to the professional game and made his debut at Madison Square Garden, outpointing Lionel Byarm over six scheduled rounds in the light heavyweight division.
It didn’t take long for Holyfield to make his mark in the pro scene, after only 11 fights Holyfield would face Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1986 for the WBA cruiserweight title after moving up divisions in his previous outings.
At 23 years-old Holyfield would feature in what The Ring would proclaim as the ‘The best cruiserweight bout of the 1980s”. Boxing a close fight over 15 gruelling rounds, Holyfield would win his first world title of his long career via split decision and begin his journey to becoming one of the most famous boxers ever.
Holyfield would retain his title on his first defense against his former Olympic teammate Henry Tillman in 1987 via a seventh round stoppage. The victory against Tillman would transform Holyfield as one of the best in the division and promise him the opportunity to win all the belts on offer.
By the time Holyfield turned 25, he was the current WBA and IBF cruiserweight champion of the world after unifying the division with a third-round stoppage over Ricky Parkey in 1987.
Boxing in the 1980s was known for being the ‘three belt era’ in which the recognized world titles were; the WBA, WBC and IBF Holyfield’s chance at becoming undisputed presented itself in 1988 as he would face Carlos de Leon in Las Vegas.
Scheduled for twelve rounds, the heavy hitting Holyfield would only need eight rounds to defeat the Puerto Rican and stamp his name in boxing history.
After achieving everything possible during that era in the cruiserweight game, Holyfield announced that he would pursue the heavyweight ranks, which at the time was bossed by the baddest man on the planet, Mike Tyson.
Heavyweight History Maker
In his first couple years as a heavyweight, Holyfield began his journey to the top with comfortable KO victories in his first five fights with the big boys.
Holyfield wanted Tyson, it was his burning desire, but after Tyson lost his WBA, WBC and IBF titles in a shock defeat to Buster Douglas, Holyfield’s opportunity to become heavyweight champion stood in the form of a champion that no one expected.
Towards the end of 1990, Holyfield and Buster would meet in what proved to be a short lived world title reign from the defending champion. In the third round, Holyfield landed a counter right hand that would drop and stop Buster and land Holyfield as the heavyweight champion of the world at 28 years-old.
The win meant that Holyfield became the first and only two-weight division undisputed champion in the three belt era. Holyfield’s reign in the heavyweight division is what certified him as one of the true greats of the sport.
In his first defense of his assortment of titles, Holyfield would face the former and future heavyweight champion George Foreman. The fight labelled as the “Battle for the Ages” went the distance and over 12 rounds Holyfield saw his hand raised in victory.
Holyfield defended his heavyweight titles successfully in his next two fights, including a points victory over Larry Holmes in 1992 at Caesars Palace. He suffered his first professional defeat shortly after when he fell short over twelve rounds to Riddick Bowe.
Boxing’s Greatest Rivalry
Holyfield would go on to fight Bowe a total of three times between 1992 and 1995, winning one of the three bouts and winning back the heavyweight titles in the process.
But one thing remained unticked for Holyfield in his career as a 34 year old. He still didn’t get his hands on Mike Tyson to stamp his name as the main man amongst the heavyweights.
In 1990, Holyfield reportedly was promised his shot against Tyson and then in 1991 a deal was signed between the two before Tyson was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.
Finally, in 1996 Holyfield and Tyson would meet in one of the most anticipated matchups in boxing history. Tyson, the current WBA and WBC champion saw his WBC title stripped after he failed to defend his title against Lennox Lewis.
With the WBA title on the line, Holyfield had the opportunity to become a three-time heavyweight champion in arguably his toughest test of his career.
Tyson unleashed from his corner in his trademark style at the opening bell which pushed Holyfield onto the back foot temporarily, however, it was Holyfield’s tactics that would see Tyson on the back foot after Holyfield would prevail in the clinch time and time again.
Multiple clashes of the head saw Tyson draw a cut from the left eye, the cut worsened after Holyfield’s superior boxing skills prevailed round after round.
By the tenth round, Tyson began to swing wildly and suffer counter blows from Holyfield. After getting his man on the ropes and sending in continuous powerful punches the referee had seen enough and called a stop to the fight during the 11th round in what was one of the biggest upsets in boxing.
The pair would meet again in what would be known as “The Bite Fight”. This meeting takes little description to know what happened in the ring that night. The infamous incident took place in the third round when Tyson bit one of Holyfield’s ear’s, after two points being deducted he would proceed to do it again and disqualify himself from the bout. An eruption would follow in the ring.
Holyfield’s two fights against Tyson would be the start of great rivalry’s he encountered in the heavyweight division. Holyfield would draw in his first meeting with Lennox Lewis in 1999 and then suffer defeat later in the year in the rematch.
Holyfield’s next fight was John Ruiz and he reclaimed his heavyweight title. But would again suffer defeat six months later when he lost on points in the rematch. The third fight ended in a draw.
Holyfield would fight three more times for the heavyweight crown well into his 40’s. Unfortunately, he would fall short every time. It brings us to the ultimate question of; should we be seeing a 58 year-old boxing legend in the ring?
In August 2005, the New York State Athletic Commission had banned Holyfield from boxing in New York due to “diminishing skills”. If that is a clue to the fact that Holyfield shouldn’t be anywhere near a ring then I don’t know what else is.
Holyfield is way past his best and his appearance against Vitor Belfort will no doubt damage his legacy in boxing.
10 years on after his final appearance in the ring, the hopes of flashes of Holyfield’s excellence in the 90s will be hard to come by. Will boxing prevail yet again over MMA?
However, no matter what happens come September 11, we will have to put our opinions behind us on this type of boxing and understand the greatness that Evander Holyfield had on the sport in his prime.